At what point can you consider yourself a real runner? That is a question I have been pondering as of late. Is it the moment they drape the medal around your neck after you have finished your first long distance run? Is it the moment you run your first mile? Is it the moment you win your first race?
I suppose I have always assumed that a ‘real runner’ was someone who lived and breathed running. It was a part of them, much like a brush for a painter – an extension of themselves. A ‘real runner,’ I thought, probably ran in high school and possibly college. They were the symbol of health and strength, always focused on beating their PR and not watching time pass by, but rather, running alongside it. Basically, I believed a runner was someone other than me.
When I ran three miles for the first time I was ecstatic. I was almost thirty years old and worried that my best and healthiest years were behind me. Suddenly I was running further than I ever thought possible. Every step I took felt like an awakening, a rejuvenation of a life that sat dormant for years. However, I still didn’t feel like a runner. I always felt like an impersonator, someone desperately trying to be something he wasn’t. All I knew is that when I ran, I ran hard. I was never equipped with the best attire nor was I ever close to resembling a man comfortable enough to wear short shorts. Let’s be honest, some of those running shorts are downright explicit.
All I know is that I ran for nobody else but me. Soon I didn’t care if I looked like a ‘real runner.’ What I cared about was finishing each run with the same spirit and excitement that I began with, even if each run made me nervous as hell. Soon I was running without a shirt, disregarding the people that may have thought I was narcissistic, because in reality I was just really freakin’ dying from the heat and I didn’t care what people thought. I guess that’s when I knew running was slowly but surely becoming a part of me.
I really don’t know when you can consider yourself a ‘real runner.’ It depends on your own definition. I would like to believe that you become a runner the second you feel like a runner. For me, that was when I won my first 5k for my age group at 30 years old and they called my name to get my award. Nothing will ever compare to that feeling of accomplishment. I just remember thinking, “I won my race! I’m a real runner now!” Come to think of it, I think I was a ‘real runner’ long before that.