I find myself asking this question all the time. When people ask me my hobbies, I don’t typically answer with running. When people ask if I’m a runner, I hedge and say “yeah, I run sometimes.” But for some reason, I don’t feel like I can actually call myself a runner.
Last summer, when I started running in earnest, I thought of myself as just someone who ran sometimes. I wasn’t a runner – runners did half-marathons. In January, when I did my first half-marathon, I still didn’t think of myself as a runner – it would take a marathon to qualify me for that.
Then I did my first marathon, and to be honest, it was a bit of a letdown. I expected the marathon to change me; to make me into a “real runner.” I was disappointed that while it felt good to finish the marathon, there wasn’t any “aha” moment. I got my runner’s high at the start of the marathon, when I thought to myself “I can’t believe I’m finally doing this.” But when I did it? I didn’t feel very much, and I still didn’t feel like a “real runner.”
Yesterday, I did a 27.5 mile training run (finally clocked it – yay!). I ran the second half of the Boston Marathon course, because I wanted to do some hill training and I knew there were supposed to be some tough hills in there. I didn’t bother to really check out the course in advance, and I didn’t know where the hills would hit, but I figured since I was running it backwards, I’d see them on a downhill before I actually had to do them uphill. As I traversed the course, I found that there were several hills that seemed pretty long and steep. There were three that I thought could be the infamous Heartbreak Hill, but they all seemed pretty bad, so I didn’t know which one it was. I hit my turnaround point and headed back, bracing myself for the hills. I ran the exact same course, but the hills were totally not bad at all. I noticed some uphills, but none of them really seemed tough. As for the run itself, I expected to finish it out in pain and doing the survivor shuffle that I had done in Burlington. However, I actually sprinted the last bit, and I felt fantastic! A little sore yesterday, and still a little sore today – but my gait isn’t even noticeably impaired. Compare that to Vermont, where I was basically crippled for two days – I think I’m making progress! (Though I ran faster at Vermont, so maybe it was just that I ran slow enough to be okay).
However, back to the original theme of the post – am I now a “real runner”? I mean geez, I ran more than a marathon distance as a training run. (Training for what, I don’t know – maybe an ultra is in my future?) I’m sure most of you would agree that I’m a “real runner” now, but I’m curious – when did you start defining yourself as such? Or do you feel the same way I do? I’m inexplicably “afraid” to call myself a runner, but let’s face it, 99% of the population would probably consider me such.
Side note speaking of 99%: yesterday whenever anyone passed me (including this really old man of about 70 and his really old and graying dog), I got to think to myself, “whatever… there is a 99% chance they’re not going as far as I am.” (If you are an ultrarunner in Boston and were out there yesterday, please don’t tell me).