Are You a “Real” Runner?

When it comes to talking about running, there is one, five-word phrase I have never been able to come to terms with. For the past 12 years I have been running, and during that time I have had countless conversations on the topic. I sometimes pity those who have to deal with me, but hey, no one said they had to stick around or even listen for that matter. Luckily for me, most of my friends either understand my obsession or are runners themselves. During these conversations, I have noticed that many themes and common phrases arise. However, there is one phrase, of five words, I hear far too often: “I’m not a “real” runner.” I’ve often pondered what this means. What classifies one as a “real” runner? What is it about someone’s running that could possibly make it “fake”? Most importantly, who had the nerve to set this unspoken qualification?

It seems to me that this qualification exists only in the minds of those who use the phrase. I believe this harsh judgment is self-imposed and always undeservedly so. I personally refuse to believe the statement and make a point to question those who use it. I tend to believe that the phrase is a result of runners attempting to validate their own goals by comparing against the goals of others. Is a “real” runner defined by the prestige of their goals or achievements? To be a “real” runner does one have to win an event in the Olympics, a marathon, or a race in general? While all of these are great goals and achievements, I do not believe that they define what it means to be a runner. Goals are personal and not up for deliberation by others.

To me, a runner is very simply defined as someone who runs with some form of a goal in mind. When it comes to the act of running, I believe it is black and white. You are either running or not. However, the goals of runners are black and white only in the sense that one has a goal or not. Goals are limited only by one’s imagination. Kara Goucher, for example, has the goal of winning the Gold Medal at the Olympics this year in London. I have the goal of becoming a professional runner/triathlete. The man in our video of the week has the goal of eliminating his “man-boobs”. All of these are great goals and hold meaning to those who create them. The act of self-deprecation by stating that one is not a “real” runner certainly does not help one to achieve his or her goals.

Jesse Owens sums up the definition of running quite well: “I always loved running. It was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs.” This week on your runs, my challenge to you is to let your mind drift to your goals. Define for yourself what your running means and what it is that you are chasing after. After all, the chase is half the fun and you ought to know which direction to go.

Always in Stride,

Jack

Quote of the Week – “I always loved running. It was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs.” – Jesse Owens

Song of the Week – Where the Streets Have No Name – U2

Video of the Week – Nike “I’m Not a Runner” Commercial

8 replies
  1. Meg
    Meg says:

    I LOVE that Jesse Owens quote!

    Fantastic blog post, and you are absolutely right. One of my intentions for 2012 is to stop thinking I’m not a “real” runner and to just enjoy the running, and enjoy watching myself improve at it.

    I might be slow, but I am out there running.

    Reply
  2. sdansmith@gmail.com
    sdansmith@gmail.com says:

    I’ve struggled lately about running because I stopped doing it when the weather started getting bad in the Chicago area. Now I’m playing catch up and it’s been a struggle. But I’ve had goals before…I’ve run and finished great races. Thanks for the motivation. I’ll get back out there!

    Reply
    • calijackmc
      calijackmc says:

      So happy to hear that you are getting back out there! That is the most important thing. Don’t worry about dwelling on the runs that you missed, focus on the great runs you have ahead of you. Hopefully Chi-town starts warming up for you soon!

      Reply
  3. Nate Smith
    Nate Smith says:

    There are definitely some days when I feel like a runner, and then there are days when I think to myself that I’m just a pawn in the great game of short distance races. I like the quote (not sure of whom it’s by) that says basically, if you run, you’re a runner. I can meet that standard! :) I think part of the reason I initially wanted to run a half marathon is to prove to someone (not sure who) that I am indeed a runner. But now I just want to do it to say I’ve done it.

    Reply
    • calijackmc
      calijackmc says:

      Nate my good friend, you are absolutely a runner. You have great goals and amazing enthusiasm. I really enjoy our weekly chats and hearing about your excitement around your training and runs. You have definitely proved to me that you are a runner and most importantly yourself!

      Reply

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