“I’m not a runner because I run slow.”
“I’m not a runner because I don’t run races.”
“I’m not a runner because I only run a few miles per week.”
“I’m not a runner because I’ve never run a marathon.”
Do any of these phrases sound familiar to you? Maybe you’ve said them yourself before.
As a running coach, over the years I’ve noticed a lot of people are hesitant to call themselves runners—based on arbitrary standards that they set for themselves. I would never tell someone they weren’t a runner just because they run a certain pace or don’t race, but runners tell me this too often. Whenever a runner claims that they are not a “real runner,” I just want to throw my arms up and scream “yes you are! If you run, you are a runner.” And if you still don’t believe me, I’ve listed out seven signs to remind you that you are indeed a runner.
1. You Put in the Effort
Being a runner doesn’t depend on how many miles your run or what your pace is. You can race or never pin a bib to your shirt—either way, you are still a runner. There’s no qualifying standard for being a runner. What matters is that you want to run, you make the consistent effort to run, and that you perceive yourself as a runner.
2. You Work Through Challenges
I’ve been a runner for nine years now and defined myself as a runner since the start. But throughout my years of running, my running has changed with the ebbs and flow of life. No matter what—whether I’m running only a few miles a week or qualifying for the Boston Marathon—I AM A RUNNER.
3. Gaining Clarity is Just as Important to You as Improving
I started running for fitness and stress relief in college. For the first few years as a runner, I both outside and on the treadmill, three to five miles at a time for three to four days per week. Running was part of my identity and I defined myself as a runner, even if others were running faster or farther than me. Why? Because the times and mileage that other people are running do not define you as a runner. It’s each time that you go run that lets you say I AM A RUNNER.
4. Running Helps You Grow as a Person
During my senior year of college, running became more of a passion. I increased my mileage and starting doing more speed training (in retrospect, too much speed training and not enough easy running). I began to pursue improvement in endurance and pace and did my first double-digit run. The desire for improvement shaped me as a runner, as I’m sure it has for many of you who say I AM A RUNNER as well.
5. You Learn to Embrace Adversity
I ran throughout graduate school, although I experienced plateaus in my running at this point. I saw my pace drop about a minute per mile, but I kept running. You won’t always be in your peak shape or constantly improving— that’s simply unrealistic—but it’s the determination to keep running no matter what life brings that lets you say I AM A RUNNER.
6. You Can’t Stop Wanting More
I ran my first race during my final semester of graduate school, a local 10K. I then ran my first half marathon within a few months. I was quickly smitten with long distance running, and the following year I ran another half marathon and my first marathon. While racing isn’t required for being a runner, races show you your full potential as a runner. Few things provide such a sense of accomplishment and make you want to shout I AM A RUNNER as crossing the finish line of a race.
7. There’s Nothing Like the Feeling of Accomplishment After a Great Run
This past year, I ran the marathon which years ago I believed to be beyond my abilities. I qualified for my first Boston Marathon at the 2016 California International Marathon. I was a runner well before this race—a BQ does not define a runner. But through the practice of believing that I AM A RUNNER, I cultivated the physical and mental strength to achieve my biggest goal so far.