I have fond memories playing soccer at sleepaway camp. The ball would come near me, I would get up from the grass, move over a few feet, and sit back down with the tickle of the blades on the back of my legs. In middle school, I couldn’t even make first cut for the basketball team. As a high school freshman field hockey goalie, I would score goals for the other team. I had no eye/hand coordination and couldn’t throw, catch, or kick. How could I possibly be an athlete?
Yet somehow, I became one. A serious mediocre athlete.
Running is different from other sports. It’s something you can do solo at any moment, doesn’t require an expensive membership or equipment, and encourages you to get outside. It is easily accessible to anyone. And the best part, you don’t even have to be good to consider yourself a runner!
More than 1/2 million Americans have run a marathon, and with that, the average marathon time has become slower. According to Running USA, the 2015 average finish time for men was 4:20:13 (9:55 pace) and 4:45:30 (10:53 pace) for women. Check out any course and you’ll see toned and taut, overweight with some jiggle, blind runners, wheelchair athletes, someone in a tux, another bouncing a basketball all the way. Essentially, anyone and everyone can run. No matter your shape, size, disability, or eccentricity. Not into marathons? That’s fine too. Whether you struggle through a jog around your block or take walk breaks during your local 5k, you still qualify as a runner. That is, if you want to be one.
Not everyone does. I have met some marathon one-and-doners, who may continue to run to keep off the pounds, and they do not consider themselves runners. I’ve dated some guys who are faster than me and do not consider themselves runners. Maybe they don’t love it or just see it as a means to an end. As for me, my times haven’t improved in years and I long for those winter months where I can hibernate without guilt. Does that make me any less of a runner?
In the end, all that matters is if you consider yourself a runner. Fast, slow, competitive or not. If you want to be a runner, you’re a runner. Period.