|Frank Shorter won the 1972 Olympic Marathon (image source:http://bit.ly/1pIAFd9|
In running, I happened upon an endeavor in which the amount of time and effort you put into it was nearly exactly matched by measurable improvements. With running - especially on the track - there is an actual, objective way to know if you've gotten better: elapsed time for a specific distance. Hmm.
I wasn't so good in the beginning. In my first race ever - I was a 7th grader - I finished dead last in an 880 yard race on a dry and dusty cinder track. I don't have any record of that event, but I think there were nearly 30 of us on that track that afternoon. I can still recall vividly several memories of that event - most involve seeing other boys just running away from me no matter how hard I pushed myself, and I can almost feel the dry-throated burn of breathing the dust they kicked up in front of me. I was pretty embarrassed, but somewhere down inside (and maybe this is just my innate character) I felt a kind of glowing ember of determination to get better. Each day that I strained a little harder, it paid off - slowly of course, these transitions don't take place overnight.
In fact, I think I can trace the actual transformation to Runner as happening during the spring of 1978, my sophomore year running track in High School. I had pushed myself long enough and hard enough to be able to be a factor in a race. I didn't win anything, mind you, but I was *in* the mix.
Over the next 10 years or so I would strive to reach higher and higher levels of running success. My race performances got faster, my race placing higher. I won my first race as a Senior in High School - what a feeling! I went on to run over 700 races, and spent better part of 3 decades as a self-identified Runner.
Regrettably, in my youthful arrogance I once proclaimed, "If I ever can't run a sub-6 minute mile, I'll quit the sport. I'll never be a JOGGER!"
Well, folks, I'm pretty certain that I'll never run a sub-6 minute mile again. In fact, I'll likely never run a sub-7 minute mile. These days, in my mid-50s with a variety of ailments and mechanical flaws, it's all I can do to get out a few times per week for a few miles each, usually around 8:15-8:30 per mile pace.
Am I still a runner?
|Image Source: http://izquotes.com/quotes-pictures/quote-the-difference-between-a-jogger-and-a-runner-is-an-entry-blank-george-sheehan-300124.jpg|
But I still LOVE the feeling of trotting along on my own two feet, in every kind of weather. A friend recently posted something on social media, referring to people who responded to his running day-after-day with "What do you do when it rains?". His response, "I get wet". Perfect.
Being a runner, or being anything really, as defined ONLY by external sources is a risk to one's own sense of identity. Don't ever let others decide who you really are.
Here's my bottom line: I'm old, I'm slow, I don't race, I don't run every day, and sometimes even a little bit of jogging really hurts ... but I still FEEL like a Runner. We are allowed to decide for ourselves what category we inhabit. From a few decades of experience, and plenty of eating crow, I now confidently feel that I am a Runner, and I am also a Jogger and a Walker and a Cyclist and sometimes even a really clumsy Swimmer.