Friday, August 12, 2011

What's the difference between a real runner and a fake runner?

I’ve been thinking a lot about a quote someone shared with me a while back. It’s really pushed me in my running and resurfaced in my mind when I started to doubt myself. It’s about being a “real” runner.

I often hear someone say I'm not a real runner. We are all runners, some just run faster than others. I never met a fake runner. - Bart Yasso

So according to that, I’m a runner. Not one of the faster ones, obviously, but I’m a runner. Why? Because I run in spurts between large amounts of walking? Obviously I’m making progress since I started out and was only walking for 20 minutes at a time for my workouts. But how much progress does it take to convince myself that I'm a "real runner"?

Yes, that's really me. Running.
Here’s the thing: today and 2 days ago I ran for 8 minutes straight. Then I walked 5, then I ran another 8 minutes straight. Does that make me a real runner now? Who knows?

I don't run 10-minute miles and I can't keep up with a group of runners. Therefore, I have to run by myself. And I'm okay with that. Well, that’s kind of a lie. I'd like to have someone to run with, but I don't know of anyone who is at my level right now. I'm sure I could find MANY people out there who are in the process of completing C25K week 5 right now, but I'm sure our paces are very different. And I wouldn't want to hold anyone up in their training. So I’ve been known to say, “Once I'm a real runner, I'll find a running group to run with”. Well, shoot, I could complete the C25K program and still not be the same pace as a running group. It's frustrating. Which is why it's hard for me to say I'm a runner. I still don't really consider myself a runner, because I'm still learning. 

Even after 8 months of learning to run and trying, I'm still a beginner.

But I don’t know where to draw that line in the sand. I'm out there running, but I'm not running the whole thing. I'm walking most of it and running in spurts.

Maybe, I’m getting closer to believing that I’m a runner because lately I’ve caught myself saying “I’m going to go run”, instead of “I’m going to go work out”.

Maybe, once I run for one mile straight without stopping, I’ll consider myself a “real runner”.

Maybe, once I run an entire 5K with no walk breaks, I’ll consider myself a “real runner”.

Maybe, when I do a half marathon.

Maybe, when pigs fly.

I mean, honestly, it’s all mental! And I know this! But it’s still hard to believe in myself.

Sure I feel good about myself when I realize I ran for longer than I ever could before, or when I ran faster than I did last time. Or when I completely punched my mental block in the face and ran a half mile without stopping on the same track I could barely run 100 meters on. (That was today in case you were wondering).

But feeling good about myself while watching my progress doesn’t get me where I want to be like, NOW. Which is being a runner.

A friend once told me to stop looking at what I can’t do and focus on what I have done, how far I’ve come and what I can do now. She’s right. And I try to focus on that and Bart Yasso’s quote when I start the downward spiral.

I’m such a walking contradiction. I hate running. But I wish I were a runner. I wish I could run. I wish it weren’t so hard. I subscribe to 2 running magazines and I read them cover to cover like I have an addiction. Yet I can't do what those in the magazine can do. (Hey, Runner's World, wanna do an article on slow-maybe-not-real-runners-trying-to-run?? Or a better sounding article title??) 

The only reason I’m still running is because of my triathlon and it’s 1/3 of the race, so I have to. But it sure doesn’t explain why I signed myself up for a half marathon in February. Deep down, I want to be a runner. I want to be good at it. I think that’s my motivation. I want to be good at it and I’m too competitive to quit so I keep trying, even though I dislike it.

Is anyone else as crazy as I am? I mean honestly, where else can you find someone who hates doing something, but willingly does it? I’m nuts!

Speaking of my triathlon. It is in 4 weeks. One month. 30 days. Either way you look at it, the next thing I know I’ll be waking up on race day. Am I scared? Hell yes! But I feel like I’ve been doing all that I can to prepare. I’m not going out there to win. I’m going out there to finish and I know 100% that I will finish. And I will have no problem whatsoever calling myself a triathlete when I’m done!


  1. I can identify with everything you wrote, including the 5/8/5 intervals (want to meet me at a track in Kingston or Plaistow, NH? I'll run with you!), and your feelings about the upcoming triathlon (except you're a better swimmer than I am), including the stuff about wanting to be a runner. I feel EXACTLY the same about that!!

  2. Hi Sara! I don't know how I stumbled across your blog...but I am glad I did. :) It is so inspirational! One year ago I started running too and I wondered for so long when was I going to be part of the "real runners". One day soon you will realize...that you are.:) Hope you don;t mind if I follow along on your journey. You are going to do great. FYI...I have a BIG race Sunday and I still get super nervous.

  3. I love Bart's quote (do you know that I met him? :) ) - and yes, you ARE are real runner.

  4. Hi Sara! I enjoyed reading your blog:-) One thing I wanted to tell you- I have belonged to several running groups over the years and there were people of ALL levels. In fact, one of the most die-hard runners was an 83 year old man who had recently had a stroke and dilligently walked the course every Weds. night. In every group there have been plenty of people who do as much walking as running; you should really look into it:-)

  5. erinrockrun - That's good to know. Maybe I'll look a few up and see what I can find. I live in the boonies, so I might not be able to find anything close to me, but I'll look! Thanks for the info!

  6. Hi Sara,
    I've been there. I'm coaching my hubby through week 5 of the C25K right now. Yesterday he did the 8min run with 5 min walk interval. He isn't fast 17:00 min/mile pace. But that doesn't matter. Being fast doesn't make you a runner. In my mind, the thing that really makes you a runner is just running, making a plan and running it, whatever pace. I told my hubby that sometimes you have to bring the pace down so slow that it feels like, walking with style. Being a runner means dropping the fear and worry, the idea of not being good enough and running because... it's who you want to be and you don't care who knows it. You're a runner babe...get used to it! :o)


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