Today, like you, I tied my shoes.
I headed out into the still sleeping day, off the chase the sun, one step closer to greatness.
I am a real runner.
Some days a great pace leads to a sprint, the need for speed oozing through my pores like the perspiration that falls down my face.
Today I am flying. I am unstoppable and feel glorious. I run effortlessly and swiftly like a caged animal just released. I am after my prey, the finish line, and won’t stop until I get what I am after. My legs feel strong and hold a steady pace. My body is only slightly holding back, waiting to the green light to kick it into high gear and go full steam ahead. I have drive, determination in my eyes, focused not blinded. I set a PR or run a faster mile. I crush goals, becoming better, faster. I see progress. I see greatness. I am a runner.
Run. Sprint. Race. Win.
Some days it starts with a shuffle that stops at a jog.
Today my feet are dragging, legs becoming heavier with each step as if gliding throughout quicksand. My body is drained, tank running on empty. The voices in my head telling me to stop moving my feet. It starts as a whisper and gets louder as the minutes pass. They then start to scream that it’s okay to quit, to just hang up those shoes for today. I have no music to tune them out and instead face these demons head-on. I stomp over those voices until I hear them no more. Because I know the end is near and how to preserve. It was a bad run, but a finished run. It was slow and sloppy. It was hard and at times hurt a broken spirit that knew it wasn’t the best—that I wasn’t the best runner I could be. But I rose to the challenge, rising through the dark cloud of self-doubt, and was able to take flight and land the distance.
Run. Stop. Drink water. Walk. Jog. Pick the pace. Repeat. This is a real runner, too.
We come in all shapes and sizes. Worlds apart in differences and location.
But we all the same. We all place one foot in front of the other, the motion as same as the way our hearts beat with the passion for the art of a run. Our limbs the paintbrushes, creating movement and shadows against the canvas of nature.
We all have good runs and bad runs.
In a sport where we are defined by our paces, we are not defined by our paces. We are all real runners. A 12: 30-minute mile runner is a runner. I have been this runner. An 8: 30-minute mile runner is a runner. I have been this runner.
And you’re a runner, too.
Dear, runners. It doesn’t matter how perfect your form is. It doesn’t matter if you can’t keep up with the faster paces. It doesn’t matter if you can only run a mile, or can 10. It doesn’t matter if you have to stop to walk every so often or if you can go for hours. It doesn’t matter if you own every piece of running gear or if you go out with just your favorite sneakers. Or if you run with no shoes at all. What defines us as bring a runner is having the shared love for an activity that makes us feel good. That pushes us beyond what we think we can handle and then makes us push a little more. It is the act of constantly getting ready for battle before the sun rises or when the sun sets to work hard and be dedicated to bettering ourselves. We fight the constant argument between our brain and body just to show up, let only kill it on the track, trail or pavement. But we do because we are warriors. We are runners.
The only runner we should compare ourselves to is the one in the mirror. Aim to be better than yourself each run. Don’t throw in the towel when there is an off day. Don’t say you can’t do that distance because you aren’t really a runner. Train and do it. Sign up for that race, or take that leap of faith and join that running group. You are a runner.
There were many times at the start of my running journey a few years ago where I felt less than as a runner. Not fast enough, not athletic enough, lacking in endurance. No matter how many 5ks I ran, I still didn’t feel like a runner. It took lots of runs, experience, and progress to get to the place where I can proudly say I am a runner. There were set back, injuries, and breaks when just not wanting to run. There were half marathon finishes and 5k age group wins. There were times I loved every second of a run, feeling free. And there were times I hated every step, feeling like a prisoner to a training plan.
What I wish I knew back when I started that what made me a runner from the beginning wasn’t how good or how bad a run was. But rather that I had the determination to keep going at it regardless if it was a good or bad run. Just in case you don’t feel it, you are a runner. Every day is a new chance to improve and to have your best run. Don’t let a bad one get you down. Chances are in weeks, months, or even years, you will look back on the time now and be proud of all you achieved. Of all the doors running opened, on how running towards goals changed you for the better. And continues to do with each step. Always move forward because we are runners.