August 8 2018
When the going got tough, these women kept running.
Who are you as a runner? Are you someone that aims to run at a certain pace, or are you someone whose goal is to simply run longer? Maybe you’re the type who runs just for fun at whatever pace your body feels is right. Maybe you strive to PR at every race.
Are you a ‘serious’ runner? Probably.
Have you ever heard anyone mention that they are a serious runner and had your head conjure certain images as a result? Do those images feature a chiseled middle, prancing about on her mid-foot in a form most conducive to fast foot turnover, winning local 5Ks and 10Ks? Are they wearing athletic clothing that signals they are a Runner—capital R? Do they talk excitedly about races, times, distances and vert whenever you’re around them? (Do you even know what vert is?)
In my running life after high school and college, I was hesitant to call myself a serious runner because I didn’t think I had that serious runner look. I didn’t wear cute singlets and short shorts, and I definitely didn’t prance around the crushed cinder loop in Van Cortlandt Park or the Bridle Path in Central Park and hold conversations with equally chipper runners. I didn’t have the right clothes, and I definitely wasn’t wearing appropriate sneakers for running.
The funny thing? I did run nearly every day. I was pretty serious about that. I didn’t run many miles, but it was a necessary habit, one that allowed me to move my body up and down long city blocks, the way it was meant to.
The summer before I went to college in 1994, I apprenticed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and stared longingly at the runners gliding by in Central Park during my lunch breaks. I wanted to be one of them. They looked so cool and athletic. I already had the running piece down—now all I had to do was get out there and be part of the crowd. I decided to buy a pair of sneakers with my first paycheck—a whole $200.
I walked into a nearby shoe store one day after work and asked to see the running shoes. A young man came over to help and asked what kind of shoe I was looking for and for what kind of mileage.
“Oh, I don’t know, like a mile or two per day?” I said, a hint of pride in my voice. I was a runner and I knew it. I just needed some good shoes to complete the look.
“A mile or two? Hmmpph…” he half laughed and half snickered, turning on his heels to walk to the storage room, shaking his head.
“Can you just get me my shoes please?” I asked indignantly—and a bit sadly.
Maybe this dude was used to the svelte runners who ran more miles and bounced up and down perkily, but I was so determined to get my feet into some real running shoes that I was willing to let this little judgmental jab slide. He came back with the shoes in my size: big, size 11 green Adidas. My first real pair of running shoes for my once-a-day, 1- to 2-mile serious runs as a serious runner.
If you answered “yes” to one or more of the questions above, bingo! You’re a serious runner. When you think of yourself as a serious runner, all it means is that you take running seriously. Easy, right?
Even if you’re not familiar with terms like vert, PR, or VO2 max, that doesn’t mean you’re not serious about your chosen sport. Does knowing what those things are help in any way? Maybe—but not knowing all the cool terms and not having all the cool gear doesn’t take away from the fact that you are actually doing the thing: engaging your body in forward movement, both feet momentarily suspended in the air…running.
I’ve heard people say that they aren’t serious runners even though they put in significant mileage and spend more than a few hours a week running with a variety of goals in mind. In my book, if anyone is setting aside time each week to move their body in a runner-ly way, they are a serious runner. Of course, it really doesn’t matter what I think, but give yourself some credit for the running that you do.
It’s okay to be modest about what you accomplish, but it’s also okay to celebrate what you have achieved, particularly when life throws curveballs at you (in the form of work, illness, injury, family needs and other things) and you manage to still get your run on. Too many folks downplay their achievements, not wanting to seem boastful. But I say that, if you run and it is an important part of your life or fitness regime, be proud and share your success with others. You never know who is watching. Your child, your relatives, your coworkers…they might be the ones that need to witness that strength, focus and energy emanating from you so that, maybe one day, they can try running themselves. Spread the love, ye serious runners!