People keep asking themselves this question: “Am I a runner?” Or better yet a series of questions.
- Am I a runner if I only run two (or X) times a week?
- Am I a runer if I’ve never participated in a race?
- Am I a runner if I’ve never ran a (half) marathon?
I’ve never asked myself any of these questions. As soon as I started running regularly I started identifying as a runner even though I still had many things to learn, many challenges to tackle and many things to try. So for the record I think the answers to the above questions are yes, yes and yes.
But going back to question number two…even though I felt I was a runner the thought of participating in a race hadn’t even crossed my mind until just a couple of years ago. At that point I had been running for more than five years and I only went because a friend of mine, totally new to running by the way, made me.
So let me tell you a little bit about this experience of mine.
It was a 10k, end of May, sunny warm weather. I went to collect both our numbers a couple of days before and instead got served with two giant bags full of goodies. Instead of paper numbers there were actual t-shirts with numbers printed on them, an infinity of beauty products, protein bars, laundry detergent samples, discount coupons and so on. Did I mention it was a women’s only race?
Then finally it came. Race day. Fantastic weather. A sea of women in yellow tees, music resounding everywhere, the start and finish line in the middle of a park. The atmosphere was light and jolly, no nerves, just smiles all around and lots and lots of energy. There was quite a crowd on the starting line so the start was a little bit slow. Soon I passed a woman that must have been in her 70s. Such an inspiration. I probably started too fast once the path got cleared but once I saw that lady she inspired me to keep the tempo going. After that I passed a blind woman. She had a chaperone and a label on her back so people would watch out for her. But still it must have taken such courage to run on a race with so many people and where half the length is basically trail. Again such an inspiration. And then the hill came. It was quite steep and it really discouraged me since I had to walk most of the path uphill. To be honest I didn’t expect it to go differently, I never ran a course with such difference in altitude before but it still discouraged me. But then I reached the top and after an even steeper descent I had just about 1km to go and I basically sprinted through the finish line. It was such a glorious feeling! My boys were waiting for me there and the little one kept waving behind the stands and I felt so proud of myself. I can’t even remember my exact time, something around 1:12 and it wasn’t so important to me. It also wasn’t my first distance of this kind. But somehow it being a race changed everything.
That season I finished another 10K and shaved 10 minutes of my time. This season my plans consists of 1 6K race, 3 10Ks and 1 half marathon. I may not manage all of these in the end but that is fine as well.
So no, racing does not make you a runner. You can be a runner without competing. But please, just try one anyway. It is soooo worth it and it will have you seeing this wonderful sport in a totally different light.