What makes someone a runner? A “real runner”?

After Anna guest posted for me about being a non-runner, I was at dinner with some friends and one of the guys there said, “Can we talk about your friend’s guest post? How does this this girl not think she is a real runner? She’s run multiple 10Ks. I’ve never run a race, and never more than 4 miles or so, but I run every morning. Am I not a runner?”

Another person commented on the post and called out Anna’s comment about “plodding” along at a 9 minute pace and the readers said that she runs 10 minute miles, and still considers herself a runner.

The label “runner” is something I’ve often thought about over the years of my running life (17 years and running! heh, couldn’t resist). I’ve never struggled with the label “runner” even when I was running 2-3 minutes per mile slower than I do now.

However, I don’t consider myself a Yogi since I don’t practice consistently. And for a long time I didn’t consider myself CrossFitter since I didn’t Rx all the workouts. (Rx means doing the weight prescribed in the workout; I typically do less.) But I’ve always considered myself a Runner.

I think this raises two questions:

  1. Why haven’t I struggled with the label runner?
  2. Why do we need to label ourselves at all?

I think the answer to #1 is probably because it’s been a part of me for so long, and for so long, it’s all I knew. My mom has run for nearly 50 years and I started running when I was 14 or 15 because she ran. Being a runner is as ingrained in me as the other values she instilled in me. (Love you Mom!) I didn’t run on any teams in high school or college, but I still always considered myself a runner.

I’ve run to challenge myself. I’ve run to clear my head. I’ve run to heal heartbreak. I’ve run for the pure joy of running. I’ve run to manage stress. I’ve run to feel like myself. 

Yoga and CrossFit are things I do because I enjoy them and they’re good for my overall fitness and they make me a better runner. But they don’t necessarily fit the checkbox of “I do this to feel more like myself.” And maybe that’s where the labeling — or not — comes from. Does it make you feel more like yourself, regardless of how “good at it” you are? 

But why do we need a label at all? I think it’s a way we identify ourselves and how we organize ourselves into communities, and those can be great things.What I don’t like is when people withhold labels from others… “She’s not a real runner because X.” or “He’s not really a CrossFitter because X.” If you want to call yourself something, you should! You don’t need to meet anyone else’s standards but your own. (Unless you’re headed to the Olympics, but pretty sure we all missed the boat on that one. Unless you happen to be an Olympian reading this, and then HEYO!)

When friends or blog readers have told me over the years that they’re not a “real runner” for whatever reason, my response has always been the same:

“If you run, you’re a runner.”

If you run, you're a runner. (1)

What are your thoughts on this? What workout do you most identify with? Do you label yourself as anything? Is there something you struggle to label yourself as?

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  • Reply

    This is SUCH a great question!! I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, after a classmate asked if I was a runner. I said yes, without hesitation, and asked if she was also. She said something along the lines of well… sorta… not really… I just do what I need to do to keep my marathon times under the Boston qualifying threshold. WHAT??? I would absolutely kill to run just one BQ this fall, and I’m running more than I ever have!! I completely agree with the “if you run, you’re a runner” mindset. Right on 🙂

  • Reply
    Sarah @ BucketListTummy

    I wrote about something similar today and questioned why we return to running despite good and bad ones. I definitively agree that if you run, you’re a runner. The labeling needs to stop and segregates the sport as a whole. Running has so many awesome benefits and social aspects to it that I hate when people miss out because they don’t think they are “runners”. Rant over. 🙂

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