When Do You Call Yourself a Runner?

by Stephanie Y

When do you call yourself a runner? This is a question I asked myself all the time. For a long time I thought a runner was someone who ran under a 10-minute mile or placed fairly high at races. When I first started running, I never wanted to call myself a runner because I would run/walk and sometimes I had to walk a lot. I felt like I had not earned the title of “runner” yet. When I would talk about running I would always tell people, “I don’t know if I’m a runner because I run and walk.”

Internally I thought I’d be a runner when I completed my first 5k race. Once I did that, I still didn’t “feel like a runner.” So I said to myself, you’ll be a runner when you complete your first 10k. That came and went, still no change. Ok you will definitely feel like a runner when you complete your first half marathon! I mean come on that’s 13.1 miles, that’s no small potatoes.

At this point, I had been training and completing races for 2 years. The morning of the 2014 TinkerBell Half Marathon arrived and as I walked to the start line I felt like, what am I doing here? I’m not a runner. As I stood in the corral with a few thousand friends I started thinking about the task ahead, well overthinking to be exact. Then that famous Rudy voice broke my thoughts with “Runners, Sseeeettt Goooo!!!!” At that moment I was like holy crap that’s me, I’m a runner!!! When I finished I never felt so exhilarated in my whole life. I knew in that moment no matter what, I was a runner and no could ever take that away from me. As I continued to run races and train I finally felt like a full-blown runner.

Then as it does, life happened and drastically interrupted my running schedule. I thought to myself, what does this mean? Am I no longer a runner? All those jitters from years ago came flooding back as I started over. Just like before there was a lot of walking and my heart sank disappointed in myself. Again I did not want to call myself a runner. Because I was starting over, I was slower than before, and I felt like I had lost that title. But it was different this time. I was not alone. I have a team of runners by my side; always supporting one another no matter where you are in the pack, a leader who constantly reminds us no matter how fast you go you are lapping everyone on the couch, and friends and family who not so subtly reminded me to get out of my own head. Without all of them, I would have never become a runner who completed a full marathon. So when do you become a runner? It’s the moment you start running. No matter your pace, you are a runner. No matter what distance you race, you are a runner. No matter what anyone says, if you feel like a runner you are a runner!

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