June 26, 2008

Am I a Runner? Part 2 of 2

Today’s Runners’ Lounge Take It And Run Thursday topic is particularly interesting to me, as it was actually partially inspired by one of my posts. You would think that meant that I could just link to that post and be done, but that one was a question: at what point do you define yourself as a runner? Today, find my eagerly awaited answer.

You are a runner when… running is (part of) your life. You love to run and can’t imagine not doing so.

Okay, that’s 16 words, so I’m taking some liberties with the 13 word requirement, but I’m going to take further liberties with the rules by explaining myself.

I never thought being a runner was about being fast or going far. I know 5Kers who run at a 13 minute pace that I consider “real runners,” so it’s not a matter of being elitist and thinking that you can’t be a real runner unless you’ve qualified for Boston or something. However, I’ve expressed that I still don’t feel like a runner, but I couldn’t put my finger on why.

Betsy made a comment that started to put me on the path to figuring out the answer when she asked, “Why are you afraid to go ahead and label yourself as a runner?” Meg went a step further to say, “I think it’s common to be scared of labeling yourself, since you don’t feel much different, it’s hard to project what you see as an image of “a runner” (or anything) onto yourself.” I think Meg was definitely right – but what do I see as the image of a runner? And why don’t I want to project that onto myself?

Nyflygirl put up a post in response to mine, called Does marathoning a runner make? She explains why it doesn’t take a marathon to qualify someone as a runner, and while I agree with most of what she says, one key point she made about the marathon is that it requires you to train for it and it requires you to “respect the distance.” However, I didn’t really do either of those things. I trained – sort of – but I didn’t follow a schedule, and I only ran once a week or once every two weeks. I signed up for the marathon on a whim, because they had free ice cream at the finish – some respect I showed! I didn’t ever hit a “wall,” and I finished the marathon still expectant, wondering “what’s next?” When is a distance going to be really tough so it kicks my butt and forces me to become a runner, training a few times a week or every day?

Two weeks after my first marathon, I went out on a 27.5 mile training run that I was hoping would kick my butt and do that for me. I headed out for the infamous hills of Newton (part of the Boston Marathon), and I wanted to hit the wall. I wanted to cry and grit my teeth and push through it and feel like I had accomplished something. And while I certainly felt like I had accomplished something (it’s my longest distance to date), I felt great throughout the run, and didn’t get very sore after. Seriously, what is wrong with me? It’s not that running so easy and I’m an amazing athlete or something, and I know I really ought to step up the pace, but… I kind of just want to fail. I want to reach my breaking point, so that I can later push past it and feel a true sense of accomplishment.

Right now, running is an activity I do only sometimes. I do races as an excuse to take weekend trips across the country, but in truth I do the bare minimum to prepare for them. There are many days when I’m lazy and I just don’t feel like running, so I don’t go. If I look at my training log, I can see just how pathetic I am: my entries are all at least a week or two apart. I’ve gone months without running, and while I would miss exercising if I didn’t do it, it’s rare for me to really miss running specifically.

I can definitely picture not running ever again – I could replace it with dancing, or aerobics, or the elliptical, or skating, or a zillion other cardiovascular activities. Races are fun – I like to do various “collect them all” things (e.g. the NYRR Half-Marathon Grand Prix, the 50 State Marathon Club) to make them more of a challenge, and I like to compare my best times against each other as a personal challenge. But the running itself isn’t my favorite part of the whole thing.

I feel like I just uttered blasphemy on a running blog.

This weekend I’m doing the Seafair Marathon. I’ve been really blase about it, in part because this week has been crazy at work (as of last night, I had already put 52 hours of work in this week) and hasn’t given me time to think about it or get ready. Like Vermont, I’m doing all the wrong things. I’ve been working long hours, eating very little, and sleeping very little. Plus, I haven’t been getting any really good cardio workouts in, which is frustrating b/c that was one thing I really wanted to do differently from Vermont (I felt like I was out of shape cardiovascularly, which I know is illogical since I didn’t take that long off, but I wished I had kept up the cardio the week before).

I want to try to push myself in the marathon, but they only have a 4:00 pace group (too fast) and a 4:45 pace group (too slow); I wanted to aim for 4:15 (~11 mins off my first marathon). So I think I may start with the 4:00 pace group and then drop off at some point (or stay with them if I feel great and want to really challenge myself). It’s supposed to be pretty hilly and a rough course, which I’m excited about. Maybe it is just pushing myself more that will make me feel like a runner? But that goes against the definition I wrote at the beginning of this entry.

I think I’m more confused than when I started this rambling entry. This question seems to be my impossible question, like asking someone to write an essay on the meaning of life. But aha! If asking me to define the meaning of running is like asking me to define the meaning of life, then running = life, which means my original description was accurate, and I fit the definition. I guess I am a runner.

This post was written as a part of Runners’ Lounge’s Take It And Run Thursday, in which runners from all across the running blogging community come together to post about a single topic. This week’s theme was You Are a Runner.


18 thoughts on “Am I a Runner? Part 2 of 2”

  1. Whether you say you’re a runner or not, I admire your tenacity. I too look for those moments of pushing beyond. That’s what I was searching for in the Summer Solstice Challenge, but I stopped short. Keep searching for that edge, whether it’s with running or not. I think we define ourselves with actions, not labels. Good luck with your race this weekend.

  2. why are the really good posts about how awesome it is to run always on the weeks where I’m injured!!

    Great post, I love the 16 word statement, it rings true to me.

  3. never, never, purposely try to hit the wall. i’ve been there. it ain’t fun 🙂

    I guess also with regards to the marathon…everyone’s goals are different. Some are ok with just finishing. Me-finishing wasn’t enough for me, I didn’t want to do a 26.2 mile training run, I wanted to run it to the best of my ability, I wanted to say I gave it all I had, I wanted the sub-4-hence training my a$$ off 🙂

    But-I can’t assume that everyone is a competitive biatch like myself 🙂

  4. nyflygirl – my first goal was just to finish, because I thought that would be enough. Now, I want to do better… but I’ve still been too busy/lazy to train! Gotta fix that…

  5. here’s a quote from one of my teammates…”The Marathon is the race in which your seasoned self has the best chance of outperforming your rookie self. The Marathon requires less raw speed than shorter races. Experience and training strategy play a greater role.”

    you have plenty of time to improve your time 🙂

  6. If you’re not feeling like you are pushing your limits, I have to say the distance isn’t your issue, so much as that you need to run faster. Have you thought about adding more speed workouts? Maybe running over 27 miles isn’t hard for you, but that running 400 meters at a 6:00 mile pace or less would be.

  7. One of my work acquaintances is a 4:00 pacer in the Seafair Marathon. Good luck with it! The weather is supposed to be quite hot this weekend (80’s, which we haven’t seen much of this year), but we have very little humidity here, and it starts early, so it shouldn’t be too bad. HAVE FUN! (It seems so strange to me that it’s Seafair, but the marathon’s all on the east side, except for the very beginning in Seattle.)

  8. You’ve got the running covered. I think what you need to start asking is, “Am I an ultrarunner?”

    Labels are for soup cans. Just run.

  9. Hey Laura,

    I think your last point is the most accurate. In my opinion, I think the key is knowing what do you consider a runner versus a person who runs. Are you using runner as a label or as a lifestyle.

    For me,when I think about a runner, I think more about a general approach to life, then just strictly pushing on shoes and putting one feet in front of the other…A runner always want to better him/herself. He/she is not satisfied just to be running, but trains, eats, talks, and drinks in a way that will impact performance.

    Otherwise, if you’re just putting shoes on occasionally to hit the roads with no specific goals in mind, then you’re just someone who runs and not really a runner.

    I tried to imagined if i took off for a year, and on a whim, ran a marathon at a slow pace…would I call myself a runner…no, in that case, i’m just someone who ran a marathon…but not necessarily a runner.

    Sorry for the long comment…just thought of this as i was finishing your post.

  10. You’ve got more running behind you, more running success ahead of you, and more running wisdom in your head than most people have in a lifetime.

    Good look on your marathon. Find a way to enjoy it despite the circumstances.

  11. i cant believe you are running another marathon this weekend! well yes actually i can, if anyone were going to do it, it would be you! i would definitely say that qualifies you as a runner 🙂 maybe you will even lose a toenail after this one 🙂

    GOOD LUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. This post is really interesting. It seems like you just really like to experience everything you can..locations, races, people you meet, etc, and right now running is a great venue/excuse for that. You’re lucky to be able to recover from your challenges so quickly, so you can utilize running to take on these challenges in great locations and enjoy them. So, maybe your motivation to being a runner is different from other people’s, but you are definitely a runner.

    I like Lam’s comment above, but it made me think a little bit. I don’t think every runner is very good at eating/drinking and always training like a runner, and basically making running your lifestyle. But you have to remember that you are not just “a runner.” You are also “a fun person,” “a consultant,” “a friend,” “a traveler,” or whatever you want to define yourself as. Then when you put those all together, it makes sense why maybe not all of your actions make you feel like a runner, but it really is one aspect of you.

    Anyway, that’s long enough! Thanks for the shout-out too!

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