I May Run but Am I a Runner?

WomensRunningShoeLanding_1Recently Sam asked me for an update on how things are going with my quest to become a runner.  I do run, but I don’t yet consider myself a runner. This may be the same sort of hesitance that keeps me from calling myself an athlete. I posted about that quite some time ago.

I laced up my running shoes in spring 2012 after a hiatus that lasted a couple of decades. It was at the urging of my trainer who, at that time, was trying to help me with my (then) stated goals of losing fat, gaining muscle, and “toning up.”  I hated running in my twenties and saw no reason to think I would like it in my forties.

But I stuck with it, doing various combinations of walk-run, gradually increasing my time and distance.  Last fall I hit a milestone when I ran for twenty minutes in a row without having to stop. I even liked it. Oh, and it rained that time but I ran anyway.

Bolstered by my success, I kept at it more or less regularly, running three times a week through late fall and early winter, even completing a 5K race.  I used the “Ease into 5K” then “Ease into 10K” apps to keep myself progressing in time and distance.

Then real winter hit with its wind chill factors and icy roads and sidewalks. At first I kept at it, but when the cold became too cold, I said “forget this,” despite having written a guest post for Spry about how to get yourself out the door when you don’t want to go.  Eventually I switched over to swimming at the indoor pool at the Y. I have to train for the triathlon anyway, so swimming is a good thing to include.

But I gave up on running between about February and mid-April. I only got out there a handful of times and when I did, the app informed me that my run pace was slower each time than the time before.  How do you spell D-E-M-O-R-A-L-I-Z-A-T-I-O-N?

I’m big on moderation, and I do believe that a little is better than nothing at all, especially when enthusiasm is waning. But I also have some goals where running is concerned.

And somewhere along the way, those goals stopped being about losing fat and toning up and started being about running further and faster.  Not being one to rest in disappointment and negativity for too long (see my post on setbacks here), I decided (at Sam’s urging) to try something new: the running clinic. 

I’ve been at it for almost a month now and it has injected new energy my running.  I chose level two of the “Learn to Run” program. Each week we do a five-minute warm-up walk, then run for an appointed time, followed by a five-minute cool-down walk.

The run time increases each week: ten minutes in week one, fourteen minutes in week two, sixteen minutes in week three, twenty minutes in week four, and this week, in week five, we’ll be doing twenty-three minutes.

Between weekly meetings we commit to getting out at least twice to do the same again. In other words, I’m in week four right now so I need to get in two additional twenty-minute runs before our next group run on Thursday.

So here is my report:

The only week I have felt totally easy with is week one because in my “ease into 10K” app I was at four sets of nine minutes of running/one minute of walking.

I’ve had no difficulty getting in my other runs in between. Now that the weather is better I’m pretty good about getting out the door and three times a week has always been my goal.

In each of the weeks following week one, the planned run exceeded what I have been doing lately (remember, my big day of running for twenty minutes without stopping was way back in September).  But here is where running with a group really kicked in to help me.  I found that keeping a conversational pace alongside others, with the timer set to a prescribed time, made it possible for me to complete the assigned time.

That made the two runs during the week between do-able because I had already done that time at least once. I’m up to twenty minutes and having no trouble completing the time.  My pace is even improving — on the weekend, I successfully managed to do a negative split, where the second half of my run was at a faster pace than the first half.

I’ve also discovered something amazing:  audio books!  I know lots of people are keen on music when they run. I listen to it sometimes but it’s not my favourite thing. It passes the time, but not much more than the sound of my own breath. And I get tired of the same old playlist and am not all that enthusiastic about updating my playlists all the time.

But audio books!  Now that’s something I can wrap my head around.  I don’t have tons of time to read for pleasure, so it’s nice to be able to double it up with my running.  This is my latest tool for getting myself out door.

What else?  Between running clinics last week I made a date to run with a friend. This was a first for me. Other than the clinic and the 5K race, I have not run with anyone.  We met up for an early morning, easy run. My friend just ran a half marathon, so I felt kind of nervous about running with her, worried I’d be slowing her down too much compared to her regular pace. I’m not sure if I did, but she did speed me up a little bit.  And I enjoyed catching up with her while also getting in a run.

I’ve been able to fulfill the commitment to the prescribed time each week without stopping. I feel pretty good about that.  I am still motivated to train for a 10K and eventually a half marathon.  The thing I feel best about is that fat loss and “toning” are no longer my goals. I just want to be able to run continuously for at least 30 minutes, sometimes longer, without needing to take a walk break.  Given how the clinic has been going, that strikes me as a totally realistic goal.

Then I’ll work on speeding it up a bit, increasing my pace with some hill work and sprint intervals.

So there’s the report of where things stand with my running.  I am running, that’s for sure, even if I’m multi-tasking while I do it, using it as a way to read novels.  I still don’t feel like “a runner.”  It’s interesting that I feel more like a swimmer than a runner, even though I run more often than I swim.

Maybe in time I’ll start to think of myself as a runner. I feel as if I’m well on my way. And I’m pretty comfortable with where I am right now.

About Tracy I

Writer, feminist, yoga enthusiast, vegan, knitter, runner.

13 thoughts on “I May Run but Am I a Runner?

  1. Love this. I just asked myself if I was a runner just after my run yesterday. My answer was no, but I’m okay with that. For now, running is means to an end– I just want to get cardio.

    Have you ever tried the Zombies, Run! app? A storyline plays mixed in with your playlist of choice (it could be an audiobook) and occasionally a zombie mob starts to chase you. You need to increase your speed by something like 20% for 2 minutes in order to evade the mob. It’s like a video game which is super helpful for me. The only thing is that I have to run without it sometimes because it’s good for increasing endurance, but kills me as far as pace.

    Thanks for writing this!

    • Tracy I says:

      Thank you! I love hearing about new techniques and apps to motivate me to aim higher. I’ll check out the zombies!!

  2. Caitlin says:

    I’ve heard this a lot from people – even people who have run marathons! – and it always confused me, because I am very much of the mindset that you are what you do.

    Of course, that was before I started spending a lot more time on my bicycle. I ride my bike quite a bit yet I have a hard time thinking of myself as a cyclist. (I don’t have the same block against thinking of myself as a swimmer or a runner or a triathlete, though.) I’m trying to figure out why this is, and I have no solid answers for myself, let alone why this happens with other people.

    • shebolt says:

      I’m a cyclist. I’ve done a triathlon, and I sometimes run. I don’t consider myself a runner, nor do I consider myself a triathlete. Same exact concept. In my case, I hadn’t played tennis in 15 years but in my head, I’m also a tennis player. I picked up the sport again last fall, and haven’t looked back. There are other sports in my history, but none of them define me.

      We don’t necessarily define ourselves by what we do. We define ourselves by what’s in our blood, and in our hearts. Tennis is part of me, despite a 15 year absence. Cycling is part of me.

    • Tracy I says:

      Yes, it’s pretty interesting and complicated how we feel entitled to claiming some identities and not others. I wonder how much has to do with a sense of gate-keeping within the sport and how much is just insecurity. For me I think it has to do with my sense of comfort and confidence in the activity. I’m a swimmer for sure — I’ve been swimming my whole life and feel really at home in the pool, have good strong flip turns, etc. Running not so much. I feel like I’m still learning. I’m sure there’s more to blog about on this topic.

  3. longviewhill says:

    Great post! I’ve been thinking about this very same thing – am I a runner? I’ve come to the conclusion that I am not, yet. But I am getting there. I love your report and ideas for inspiration. I think I am going to try podcasts. I love love love podcasts, and like you, get bored with music sometimes. This might really help me out!

    • Tracy I says:

      I think podcasts could be good too. What I love about novels is that I get caught up in the narrative of the plot, so I really WANT to get back into it. If you can find a podcast that is equally captivating, then it will probably have the same motivating affect. Good luck with it!

  4. karine says:

    Am I a runner? Am I an artist? Same kind of question….I once felt like a runner. At the time, running was more like an addication, a date I would not miss, a new craving I could not resist…I was a runner. Would go at any cost, any weather, any way… Running in the trails, fast, slow, for 20 minutes, for 2 hours. It was my daily date with myself, my “me” moment of the day. I still run. I am not a runner anymore. I have tried a few times to visit that place again…

    • Tracy I says:

      Interesting — are we only runners when we are addicted? Hmmmm. Or is it a quantity thing? I’m unsure myself, so your comment is real food for thought. Thanks.

  5. G says:

    One of the first bits of advice I received when I started running is, if you’re worried about if you’re a runner or a jogger, you call yourself a runner. It’s worked for me. I’m slow, but that’s okay.

    I’m glad your running clinic is going well! You’ve got me curious about them, too…

    • Tracy I says:

      I like that bit of advice.
      And I so recommend that you at least try a clinic. I’m enjoying this very basic one, and I plan to get into either a 10K or half marathon group at the end of August. It’s just enough group running to be helpful while still letting me do the solitary thing (which is one of the features of running i really like).

  6. I had to search out this vaguely remembered quote by John Bingham, also known as the Penguin, a long time writer for Runner’s World and other running publications. He writes about life at the back of the pack.

    “If you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far. It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run.”
    –John Bingham

    I love running (and driving) with audiobooks. Makes the time go by much more quickly.

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