Running an ultra-marathon? Running a marathon?
Running 10ks? Running 5ks?
Being part of a running club?
Setting PRs? Winning races?
Running every day? Running just to run?
What makes someone a runner?
There’s no single answer to this question; there shouldn’t be one. Runners come in many varieties … and many shades of neon.
A runner doesn’t have to race often or ever. A runner doesn’t have to run fast miles or hundreds of miles.
Really, a runner just has to run — plain and simple.
Maybe that’s not enough. Maybe you need more of a concrete definition. Maybe you think you’re a runner, but you’re too scared to call yourself one. Maybe you still need some validation.
So what makes someone a runner?
The drive to have a goal — whether it be run one mile every day or follow a training plan for a race, a runner decides to set and meet some type of goal. That goal could be as simple as running three times a week or as complex as running a three-hour marathon.
The dedication to work toward meeting a goal — whether it be skipping a favorite TV show to run or rising before the sun every day to train, a runner puts in the time required to meet his or her goal. Meeting a goal could require intense discipline — a healthy diet, hours of training, hours of maintenance work — or it could be less intense — carving out a few hours a week to run.
The determination to stick with the hard work that meeting a goal requires — whether it be giving up Saturday mornings for long runs or giving up the comfort of wearing workout clothes without actually working out in them. Setting a goal is easy, but continually putting in the work — day after day and week after week — to meet that goal is not so easy. Determination toward a goal — big or small — is still determination.
Deciding to label yourself a runner is a personal choice, and there’s not some checklist of races you must run and times you must beat in order to earn that label.
All you have to do to earn that label is run. Even if you never cross a start or finish line, you can still be a runner.
So often I log onto Facebook and see my runner friends with shiny new medals around their necks. “Why didn’t I run that race?” I think. “Should I be racing more often?” The answer is no, not unless I want to. Racing more often won’t make me more of a runner.
I run five days a week. I spend an hour stretching and strength training each night. I lift weights for two hours a week to help my running form improve. I fret over what type of cross training will help me achieve my running goals for the week. So more races or not, I’m a runner.
Even when I used to only run three days a week and for much shorter distances, I was a runner. And when running those shorter distances landed me a nagging IT Band injury is when I found that out for myself. I had to take time off of running, and I realized then how much I missed it, and I realized that missing it so much made me a runner.
After going through a recovery process and learning to train with more precision, I may now be a faster, smarter, more prepared runner, but even then, I was a runner.
Why? Because running was part of a routine that I had. Running was something I often had to push myself out of bed to do but still did because it was something I genuinely loved. I was letting my feet hit the ground; I was moving faster than a walk; I was running.
I was a runner.
You’ll know when it’s time to call yourself a runner.
When you’re running, and it’s really freaking hard, but you don’t quit, you’ll know. When sweating becomes second nature OR when your closet consists of more running shoes than regular shoes OR when you’re forced to do laundry three times a week OR when you actually look forward to a run, you’ll know.
But remember, it’s you that will know; it’s you that will decide.
And when it’s time, don’t be scared about calling yourself one. Instead, lace up those shoes with bravery and take to the road because you’re a runner. You are.
What makes you a runner? When did you realize that you were a runner?