One of the phrases people often say when they are being fit for a good pair of running shoes is that they are not “real runners.” It happens enough that I want to take the time to address this common misconception and talk about who fits the mold of a “real runner.”
I know what people mean when they say that about themselves. It usually means they aren’t training to qualify for the Olympic Trials or even to win the local 5k or half marathon. But here’s the deal, what qualifies you as a “real runner” is not being faster than everyone else. What qualifies you as a “real runner” is the simple fact that you run.
Last year, one of the biggest storylines in Runner’s World Magazine was that of a man who had committed to run a 5k every month in 2015. What’s the big deal? He weighed 625 pounds at the start of the year. His first 5k took him 1 hour and 27 minutes. But he was out there, and he completed 20 5k’s and two 10k’s in 2015. He lost 100 pounds and improved his time to 1 hour and 10 minutes.
The real runner is the mother of three who is juggling a full time job as well as her kid’s schooling and extracurricular activities. The real runner is the man who decides he doesn’t want to spend his life working 50 hours a week just to come home and sit on the couch watching television. The real runner is the person who wakes up an hour earlier than they have to just to put a couple miles in each morning.
You see, the purpose of running is not to be better than everybody else. Sure, there are the elites who are paid to train and be better than everyone else, and they are real runners too. And it is not wrong to admire what they are capable of. But the true purpose of running is to be better than yourself.
What makes a person a runner is as, John L. Parker Jr. said, “that most unprofound and sometimes heart-rending process of removing, molecule by molecule, the very tough rubber that comprised the bottoms of his (or her) training shoes.” It does not matter if you can barely squeeze two runs a week in or if you religiously run twice a day, you are a real runner.
All of us have our own goals and levels of ability. But what unites all of us as real runners is a desire to participate in this process of bettering ourselves; this journey of being better today than we were yesterday. Whether you run a half mile at a time or 10 miles at a time, what matters is that you are out there.