I am a runner.
You know how hard it is to say that out loud? But it’s the truth! I’m a runner. A runner who doesn’t go far, or very fast, who only runs short amounts of time before taking a walking break, a runner who looks like she’s having a really hard time when she runs, but a runner nonetheless. I’m a runner. A real runner.
It took me forever to consider myself a ‘real runner’, though. The first time I took up running was back in 2012, when it seemed like a good idea to strap on some shoes and race out the door for a run around the lake with my mother. A week later, I was at the physical therapist, getting my calves treated because I wanted too much, too fast, on bad shoes and with terrible form. Something most of my recent injuries have in common, actually. I dropped it for a while, until I was cleared to go again, and I bought good shoes and started to read up, but it didn’t stick. Somewhere along the way, my runner-self fell by the wayside. I wasn’t a runner. Not yet.
I picked it up again a year later, but my good intentions to run twice a week sizzled out within a month. It happened again, a few months later, and again, after the summer, when the temperatures dropped and I could bundle myself up against the cold and not worry about looking like a sweaty, gross mess of a person when I ran. I didn’t really feel like a runner yet, though. I felt like an impostor. An impostor who read running blogs and daydreamed about marathons, while sometimes not even making it out the door for a leisurely walk, let alone a run, for weeks on end. I thought blogging about it would help me get out the door so I started a blog. I think I wrote 4 posts. Slowly but surely, my weightlifter’s heart started beating louder again and before I knew it, my fledgling runner-self got benched and I spent all my workouts at the gym. I wasn’t a runner. Not yet.
Fast forward to 2015. In August, I threw my back out in the most spectacular way possible. (actually, I can’t even remember what I did. It may have even happened getting up out of a chair.) For months, I went back and forth between not being able to walk, let alone exercise, and working out even harder and more relentless to catch up in my training. Going lighter on the weights felt like giving up, and I wasn’t giving up. But it tripped me up again and again. I was a weightlifter, but I wasn’t lifting weights. I was barely lifting myself! And I started to feel worried about never being able to lift weights again. Hell, I was afraid of never being able to walk upright again! Finally, in an attempt to still get out there and exercise, I started walking. Then I started running again, when I could, in intervals that were barely more than a minute of running at a time. On January 6th of 2016, a friend challenged me to run the 5k here in town on March 6th. I had two months to train, that were still regularly interrupted by a relapse of my back injury, so I was thoroughly unprepared for a 5k race. But we ran the race, and something clicked. It felt right!
I finished in 40:08, with a smile on my face. I think the winner of the 10k finished in about the same time. So I was slow, and I probably looked like I was dying, and I dressed for far colder weather than we actually had so I was boiling, but I ran the race, and finished, and felt like a runner.
I threw my back out a couple of times after that before we finally got the right treatment in May, and running once again got placed on the backburner, but there was a difference this time. I bought new shoes, I subscribed to a magazine, I got books, watched documentaries about running. I was a runner, even if I wasn’t running.
I’m running regularly again. Before, it took a lot of willpower to go out there and run. I wasn’t a runner, even if I did run. But it feels different this time: it excites me. I’m not fast, I don’t go far, I still run intervals and still haven’t run a full 5k without walking breaks. But this time, I’m not worried whether I’ll ever make it that far. I’m a runner, and for a runner, the next step is only a matter of time.