How I learned to call myself a Runner

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When I first started running, I definitely did not classify myself as a runner. In my narrow mind, the only narrow thing about me, a runner was lean and mean and somewhat obsessive. My friend Kathy fit that image, and she felt that I should reap the benefits of running too, so she asked me to come with her on her morning run. She was careful not to call it “jogging” as that was for those less serious than she was; her mind was a little squeezed for space too.

That first run emphasized exactly what I had presupposed. I sweated and gasped for air, and basically lumbered along until she felt we’d gone far enough. At the end, she said, “Three kilometers! That’s great. Tomorrow we’ll go again.”

My mind rebelled instantly. I had proven to myself that I wasn’t a runner. What did it take for her to get it? Some part of me somewhere, however, perhaps the part that longed to be lean if not mean and understood the value of accepting new possibilities, took up the challenge and I continued to run from that day on.

I started racing and was astonished by the shapes of those around me, and by their running styles. My mind opened a little to accept the different body types, yet another part of my mind remained closed and told me that those other people likely had running genes hidden within, whereas I didn’t.

Quite when it was that I made the transition from participant to runner, I’m not sure, but somehow I grew into the idea.

I grew in so many ways. I learned the power of an encouraging word from a bystander who yelled, “They let movie stars in this run?!!”

I learned that just by putting one foot in front of the other I would finish the race. I discovered I could motivate others and almost pull them up hills, just by running a steady pace in front of them. I found out that I could be led. I realized how hard it was for me to accept help from others. I learned to love the feeling of flying that would flood through my body once I warmed up. I recognized that saying one word, “persist” was more likely to keep me going than saying another word, “endure.”

During my training runs I carved out a whole part of the morning that felt like my time alone as no one else was really out yet. One morning I saw a ghost (the halo caused by light refracting off the fog surrounding me) and as that image moved beside me, my mind expanded enough for me to understand how I might choose to call the ghost a ghost, or simply say I saw a strange phenomenon.

I still smile when I tell people I run, for I recognize that their minds may not have grown to include me in their definition of “runner.” All I can hope is that they listen with an open mind when I tell them of the joys and discoveries of running.

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