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Identity Crisis: What Makes a "Real" Runner

Who else has struggled with this?

I know it can't just be me....

The mental chaos that comes with identifying as "real" runner, is real.

It feels MOMUMENTAL but kinda dumb and insecure at the same time. How do these two opposite paradigms exist in our brains at the same time?

Or maybe it is just mine...anxiety does weird stuff, man.

(Yup, just a little personal side note thrown into a blog. I've got some mean anxiety. And I've used running to help self-treat it for the longest time...but that's another blog for another day).

But being a "real" runner.

When do you start calling yourself a runner? Verses a jogger? Versus "someone who just does cardio"?

I tend to be an all-or-nothing person, so when I can see that I'm NOT running marathons and crushing 4min miles, which are *obviously* the ideal standards of a "real runner", it's easy to see how you can get bogged down.

But these standards are horse hockey. Bull cookies. Malarkey.

What I'm trying to say is I want to save you the hassle of the mental gymnastics determining if you count, if you're real enough, if you're good enough...

The short answer: if you're going fast enough where both feet leave the ground and you enter this really cool part of running called the "flight phase", and then essentially experience a controlled fall back to earth on a single leg, and then continue this crazy pattern!!...

Yes, you're a runner.

(Yup, the physical therapy nerd came out to play. It happens. Just imagine what it's like being my patient haha.)

You're a runner simply by trying.

By lacing up running shoes and heading out that door, you're a runner.

If you engage in this crazy, but basic and almost primal form of exercise and other people including your family think you're a little crazy, you're a runner.

If you struggle and procrastinate on your morning run (like I am right now as I write this), but you still really want to go, then you're a runner.

Your pace does NOT determine it.

How many races you've have or haven't done, does not determine it.

You're best PR does not determine it.

The number of times a week, does not determine it.

You're ability to run a sub 4min mile, does not determine it.

Runners run with heart. And community. And a whole lotta soul...otherwise, we would all be crazy. But a lot of times, our runs serve a greater purpose.

They center our day.

Help us battle our demons.

Create calm in a chaotic storm of life.

Grant release and relief in a way that nothing else can.

Our runs also challenge us beyond our wildest dreams.

Force us to grow into better people.

Make us consider the importance of "me-time" in the form of solo runs but remind us we still need each other with group runs and races.

In the end, being a "real runner" can only be determined by you. Real runners are at ALL skill levels, which then can fluctuate! And that's ok, because we're human. And the run is always waiting with another lesson to teach us, regardless of our fitness level, pace, race status, etc.

I've struggled, even recently, with calling myself a runner. Until 2020. I took a year off from running in 2019 and did other things, but I felt lost at sea. Was I still a runner then? You betcha. The runner in me was just resting. And that's ok. Because now, I'm back with exuberance. But exuberance doesn't mean fast! I'm back to running with purpose and new understanding and appreciation for my body and what it can and cannot do. I'm back to running with a new respect for the sport and how my body responds to it.

I'm not speedy or covering crazy distances, but I've never felt more like a runner than now. And it brings me joy in the clinic to tell my runner-patients, "I'm a runner too!"

They respond "You get me then!"

I tell them, "Oh, I totally do."




Have you EVER felt this way or had a running identity crises? It's pretty crazy right? Let me know in the comments below how you worked through yours, or how you ARE working through it right now!

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