When I was asked to have a think about this topic, my first thought was “I’m not qualified to write this, I’m not a real runner!” But this made me think – what is a “real runner” and why are we so self-deprecating about taking part in the sport, and hobby, we love?
I have actively told people “Oh, I’m not really a runner, I just do it for fun”, or “yeah, but I’m really average at it” when discussing times or certain distances.
So what makes a real runner – qualifying for the Olympics? Running with a club? Being fast enough to get your name on the TV coverage of your chosen event?
Or is it less quantifiable than that? Could it be as simple someone in work asking your advice on starting to run, noticing your washing basket that is 90% lycra and 10% real clothes or even just getting the latest edition of Runner’s World (and a packet of chocolate orange segments) as a birthday present from your friend that’s still a student.
This lack of belief that we are not “real runners”, or even just a lack of willingness to own up to it, seems to be a trait only found in running. My other half is an engineer by day, but in his spare time he plays an instrument. He spends his lunchtimes and weekends practicing, and lists it on his CV in his “Other Interests” section – in the way that I do these things with running. The only thing that is different between the two hobbies is that he competes against others whereas in running you compete against yourself, for your own gain and the people around you are fighting the same battle. He would never deny that he was a real musician, just because it’s not his main income or in his job title and I can’t help but wonder if I should treat my competitions in the same way.
When I think about it in these terms, I start to feel like yes I am a runner. I have a drawer (ok, more than one) full of clothing related to my “hobby”. When I tell people about my weekend, running features heavily and when I meet people I haven’t seen for a while it’s the first thing they enquire about – “still doing all that running?” If that’s not competition (albeit with myself) then I don’t know what is.
There is a lot of truth in the old adage that “a 6 minute mile is just as far as a 16minute mile”, and as long as you enjoy it and want to keep competing (and this competition can just be the battle of wills to go out the house vs the couch), you are a runner. So embrace your badge (or medal if you will), it’s time to step out of the shadows, clad in lycra and ready to run and ready to be proud to say “Yes. I have more than 1 pair of running shoes, I wake up at silly o’clock on a Sunday to fit in a long run, I have gone out in the rain after work, I have made it round a parkrun, I am a Runner!”