The Real Deal

If Family Feud were to survey 100 runners making their way ’round Central Park tomorrow morning, I’d wager at least 20 percent would not characterize themselves as a “real runner.”

Central Park from the Met. Or maybe Central Park from my photographer bird friends. I'll never tell.
Central Park from the Met. Or maybe Central Park from my photographer bird friends. I’ll never tell.

One in five in-the-moment runners not self-identifying with the sport? It may seem outlandish, but just try to tell me you haven’t heard a friend or co-worker recite some variation of the following phrases since the weather turned warm:

  • “I’m not a real runner. I only get out a couple of miles a week.”
  • “I’m not a real runner. I race at a 12-minute pace.”
  • “I’m not a real runner. I’ve never done a marathon.”

Everywhere I go, it seems runners are telling themselves they aren’t “real runners.” Whether it’s because they don’t think they’re running fast enough or don’t think they’re running far enough, runners all over are denying their statuses as members of the running community simply because they don’t believe their level of achievement has earned them acceptance. And it’s never other runners telling them they don’t count as a “real runner.” This kind of exclusion can only come from within.

Well, enough already. If you run, you are a runner. End of story.

If you don’t believe me, just ask my favorite running columnist Marc Parent, who summed up my thoughts exactly in his recent Runner’s World piece, “You’re a Real Runner If…” According to Parent, it doesn’t matter how far or fast you run:

You can call yourself a runner when it’s easier to jog short distances than to walk them. When your shoes wear out before they get dirty. When sweating becomes so familiar it’s a nonissue. When quenching your thirst takes two glasses of water. When socks become a point of discussion. When you get the bright yellow shirt so cars can see you. When people stop asking you about running.

Or my favorite line:

Only a runner lies awake in bed and randomly thinks, My God, I just ran ___ miles! Assume you’re a runner if you’ve ever thought this. The number of miles is not important. What’s important is that the thought has replaced My God, I just ate ___ Oreos!

(I identify as both a “real runner” and a “real snack food enthusiast,” so sometimes I think both. Don’t judge.)

So there we have it. Here on out, I don’t want to hear anyone in my circle of acquaintances who runs to some degree tell me they aren’t a “real runner.” In fact, I don’t even want to hear the words “real” and “runner” in the same sentence ever again, unless it’s along the lines of: “That runner looks like she could use some ice cream real bad.”

Cones are, in fact, bigger in Texas.
Cones are, in fact, bigger in Texas.

Bad grammar and all, that’s an oft recited phrase I can get behind.

When did you start calling yourself a “real” runner?



One thought on “The Real Deal

  1. I’ve ran a marathon and a half marathon before. I’m currently training for my second full marathon. Still not sure if I consider myself a runner. Getting there though!

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