I see this question thrown around a lot online to start the conversation amongst athletes: When did you officially become a runner?
Most of us didn’t consider ourselves part of the club after our first run, or first race. It takes training, knowledge, ups, downs and some battle wounds before most runners will confidently award themselves the title. Maybe it’s a PR, following a race-oriented training plan, or simply realizing one day that you actually enjoy taking stride after stride and look forward to your daily run more than your morning cup of coffee (or something).
I’ve been thinking a lot about when I started considering myself a runner. My entry to the sport was unusual and I never looked back. My sister-in-law encouraged me to join her for the RnR 1/2 marathon in 2009, so I found a bib, built my mileage from 7mi 3x/week upward over 8 weeks and ran it. Being half-way to marathonland I kept training and ran the Portland full. After crossing the finish I found I had missed a BQ by 5 minutes, and the rest is history. A 10k, another 1/2 marathon, and the Skagit Flats full and I was on my way to Boston. Don’t get me wrong, I trained hard, REALLY hard, too hard in fact, for all of the races listed above. But in a handful of races and with glaring inexperience I had accomplished my running goals. After that race I felt able to chatter with confidence alongside the running community, but in my mind I just felt lucky to have been there, sort of like a youngest sibling tagging along.
In my own mind, I didn’t become a runner until much more recently. The moment in particular that stands out is after a Saturday morning brick over the 4th of July weekend. That day, something just happened, and when I started to run I actually started to RUN. My legs were cement, and I know it’s not just me, everyone is always thrilled to get on with the last leg. But despite the difficulty, despite the tiredness, despite the fact I hadn’t been training the run in months, that run was IT. That run was what running really is all about. I have no idea how fast or slow it was, but I felt strong and with purpose. I was fatigued, but distinctly remember feeling myself push-off against the pavement with each stride, in slow motion and fast forward all at the same time. When I finished that run I knew two things:
- I am a runner.
- I want to be a triathlete.
Maybe my awesome runner-defining run was so awesome because I was back in my comfort zone after a bike that was less so, but as I’ve continued to train my swim and bike I’ve built up confidence to more accurately assess what I know and what I can do. That confidence has made it more clear that I do know about running and myself in the sport, and with so much more to focus on I have to be more confident in my knowledge and decisions and swiftly move on to areas that need to be brought up to par (see: Open Water Swimming).
So, when did I become a runner? When I became a triathlete. That’s when.