Square Life Round World

I'm navigating through this round world while living a square life, and it fits exactly as it should.

Blog Rewind Wednesday–Feeling Like A Runner

on April 10, 2013

I often get asked at what point I began to feel like a runner.  For me, getting there was a process.  I can’t say there was any one moment when I realized I was a runner.  Rather, there was a series of events that cumulatively contributed to my identifying myself as a runner.

When I first began, I wanted to be invisible.  I didn’t want people to look at me and think I just needed to give it up like there was no hope.  I suppose I had a case of something like I’ll-go-to-the-gym-when-I-lose-weight syndrome.  So I would run a lot at night when it was dark.  When I started building my distances I’d find trails and times that weren’t very busy.  Eventually I got more comfortable around other runners and realized that no one was paying any attention to me.  They were all too busy focusing on their own activity, and I was perfectly happy with this.  I began to relax a lot more.  After a few months, I started noticing the same people on my favorite paths.  There was super-intense-girl who was always running no matter what day or time it was.  There was the old man who always nodded his head as our paths crossed.  There was super cool guy on the elliptical bike.  There were dog owners walking their dogs, kids riding bikes, moms with their jogging strollers.  I could go on and on.  I began to love the familiarity of it.  It didn’t occur to me that if I was noticing them, they were probably noticing me a little, too.  If that had occurred to me, I probably would have stopped going, sadly.  Fortunately, I didn’t realize this until I reached the point when I no longer cared what others thought.  For me, this was the first step in feeling like a runner.

A few months into my training, I signed up for a local 5k that also had a half marathon as an option.  I went to packet pick up and gave my name to the volunteer.  I figured he would assume I was doing the 5k and start looking for my packet in that file.  No, he asked which race I was doing.  Um, the 5k of course, but thank you for thinking I could be doing the half marathon.  His response was that I could do it as long as I train for it.  I shared with him my plans to complete the St. Jude half later on in the year and that it would be my first half.  He congratulated me on picking a great race to start with and wished me the best of luck with my training.  That was the first time I admitted to anyone other than friends and family what I was trying to do.  Having the confidence to tell complete strangers what I was doing was the next step in feeling like a runner.

One morning in August 2012, I met the St. Jude Heroes running group at my local park in training for the St. Jude Half Marathon and Marathon.  As I was stretching before the run, a guy began stretching next to me and asked me which running group I was with.  I looked around, thinking there was no way he could be talking to me.  Surely he cannot possibly think I was a runner.  Sure enough, it was me he was talking to so I answered him.  He was there with a different group and we chatted for a moment before it was time for our runs to begin.  It was a great feeling to be recognized as a fellow runner and was another step in feeling like a runner.

One of the great things about training as a St. Jude Hero is that it gives you access to the national St. Jude Heroes running coach, Kevin Leathers.  So a few weeks after that group run encounter, I asked Coach Leathers about how to warm up before the race.  He asked me if I was doing the half or the full.  Um, the half of course!  As if there was any way possible I could ever do a full!  I was shocked that was a question he would even ask but flattered at the same time.  A national running coach with 20-something years experience had just asked if I was doing a full marathon!  Being acknowledged by such a respected industry professional definitely was a major step in my feeling like a runner.  By the way, his answer was to not bother with warming up the morning of the race.  Using only the walk to the start as a warm up would help prevent me from starting out too fast.

Then several weeks after that, I was again out at the park for a long run.  A woman came up to me as I was filling up my water bottle and asked me how far I was running that day.  After I answered her she said, “you’ve been doing this for a while.  Do you mind if I ask you some questions?  I haven’t been doing this as long as you have.”  And she proceeded to pick my brain on pacing, hydration, fuel, and several other subjects that I confidently could offer help with.  At that moment, with this encounter, I had finally come full circle.  Gone was the girl who wanted to be invisible.  Gone was the girl who assumed no one took her seriously.  There I was, a runner, from whom knowledge was being solicited, and I was thrilled to share.

If you are a runner, when did you begin to feel like one?

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