When I was 16 one of my best friends ran the London Marathon, it was my first contact with endurance running. That medal he brought back was like an emulate, giving him legendary status around school. In that instant I knew I wanted to be a runner, even though I was to do nothing about it for the next eleven years.
But how do you define a runner?
When I first started running I always thought to myself; I’ll be a runner when I finish a marathon.
I believed that simple act of enduring for 26.2 miles would make me a runner but when I finished the London Marathon in 2016, I didn’t feel like one. It was because I hadn’t run the whole way, I had to walk large parts. I felt like a fraud. Using others to measure your success, especially in running, is always going to shade your glory. Finishing a marathon or any race is a huge achievement but by comparing myself to others I felt like failure.
After that race my definition shifted; I’ll be a runner when I run a sub two hour half marathon.
My first ever half marathon was October 2015 and I finished just shy of three hours, I thought if I could run a half marathon without stopping and with strength I’d be a runner in my own right. Ten months, eight half marathons and three marathons later I clocked that sub two hour time (1:59:30 to be exact) at the Cheltenham Half Marathon and it was then I started to feel confident calling myself a runner to strangers.
And yet I still carried fear of judgement.
I’m not built like a runner, I’m not going to win any trophies or break any records. I’ll always finish in the middle or near the back of the pack, never lead it and when I do events with my friends I’m usually last of them. When you think of a runner you picture Forest Gump, Mo Farah or Roger Bannister not someone like me. So when I’m struggling with my training or when my depression slips it’s harrowing claws through my self confidence I think; I’ll be a runner when I look like a runner.
I’ve lost six stone since I laced up my shoes late one night and trampled out for that kilometre run/walk. I simply got up from the vegetive state I was in and pushed my ideological idea of self-limitation and it’s what still makes me get out the door today. Hearing the sound of my own footprints behind me as I surpass myself is the greatest feeling, however, when I look back to that day I see more strength in that running because every step was a struggle. Every run since I know I surpass what that version of me was capable of and yet looking back I was a runner even from that very first day because I went out and tried.
So am I a runner? Hell yes. Are you?
Well, whenever I’m asked ‘am I a runner?’ by someone I’ll always answer if you run, you’re a runner. You’re part of our gang, let me teach you the secret handshake. The running community has cult level welcoming skills and is awe-inspiringly supportive so every other runner will agree that if you want to be a runner you already are one. If you ever doubt that just look around next time you’re at a Parkrun, 10k or Marathon, every person there, whether they be leading or last, will have questioned their running credentials at one time or another. What makes us runners is that we go out there and try.
Next Race: 33.3km Hill Race in INDIA!