How to tell when you’re a real runner.

It’s quite interesting, I’ve often felt that I’m a runner, but not a real runner.  I’ve always felt that my running was a conditioning thing that I did, and that the real runners were the guys ahead of me.  Attending the yoga for runners class that I do, I find a lot of my class-mates are longer-distance milers than I am, but they also feel that the real runners are somebody else.  There are a couple of fellows that race and win all the time in our class – they were at the Boston Marathon this year and our class was on the race day, giving us a bit of heart failure until we learned they were ok.  Aside from them, however, most of us look at ourselves as plodders, guys and gals that get out and make the runs happen.

I’ve designed a sort of hierarchy of running-ness to this – a way that runners (and non-runners) classify themselves.  It goes like this (with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek):

  1. Non-runners look at anyone that runs at all as a runner.  They sometimes use the term “jogger” which is anathema to us all.
  2. 0.5-5k runners look to those running up to 10k as “real runners”.
  3. 10k runners look to those running half-marathons as real runners.
  4. Half-marathoners look at those running marathons as real runners.  Many think they qualify, just.
  5. Marathoners consider themselves runners, but they also look at ultra-marathoners as the real runners.
  6. We all look at triathletes as crazy.

(Which part of me joking didn’t you get…. It’s all in jest!)

I was coming back from a business trip to two different prairie cities, where I ran every morning – short, 6km runs. On the plane, I was leafing through my most recent copy of Runners World, and there was this fantastic article – “You Know You’re a Runner When…”The logic here?  Stop judging by miles.  Stop judging by how fast you go through shoes. Stop judging by what distance you race, or if you race at all. The only benchmark that matters is this:

If you’ve got [a little mound of sweaty clothes] in the corner of the bedroom… then call yourself a runner.

– Marc Parent, Runners World

I’ve got one of those mounds.  I’ve had to move to different laundry detergent to make sure that those mounds don’t come out of the dryer smelling like they just got pulled off of me after I ran 5k.  (Interestingly, Runner’s World can come to the rescue there too, but I’m having good success with a new Tide product, of all things). 

Stinky laundry as a yardstick – absolutely perfect.  Anyone qualifies at that point, as long as you raise a sweat.   And truly, that’s what should determine someone as a runner!

On a side note, one of those runs  while I was away was fantastic – it was the same route where about one year before, I had to pull up lame with killer plantar fasciitis.  That was the run that I decided I had to go and seek treatment – it was extremely annoying, and almost completely debilitating.  May it never happen to you, but I’ve learned from it so hopefully you won’t have to.


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