“Just because you have to walk during your run doesn’t mean you’re not a runner.”
Since reading this passage, I’ve started to give more attention and recognition to all the things I do that truly make me feel like a runner and has become what it takes (for me) to be a runner:
1. Running. This one is pretty obvious and straight-forward, but if you’re dedicating time to running on a regular basis, you are a runner.
2. Eating. Some people run because the calories you burn add up quickly, and they think “I can eat these fries because I ran today” or “I’m going to lose so much weight since I burned an extra 500 calories,” but I’ve learned this isn’t how you approach this at all. The calories you burn while running need to be replenished, and with food that helps fuel your body. Protein, fat and carbs in the right ratios.
3. Listening to your body. This can be applied in so many ways, but here are a couple of the key ones:
- Know when to stop, and know when to push yourself. The more you run, the more you’ll know the difference. I battled several injuries during my training that mostly all tied back to my horribly flat feet. I had hip, groin, knee, shin and foot pain that nearly put me in tears. Sharp pain is what signals me to stop pushing, but the dull pain is usually something I just have to push through. It could easily mean the difference between soreness and injury.
- Recovery is key after long runs. My 9-miler left me so much more sore than my 8, so I listened to my body telling me I needed more recovery and switched my Tues/Thurs runs to Wed/Fri to give my body the extra day it needed. Two weeks out is NOT the time to injure yourself, and I certainly hadn’t come this far for nothing.
- Pace vs. distance. When I started training, my goal was to run my half marathon in two hours (aka 1:59:59). The more I trained, the more pressure I put on myself and the more disappointed I was when I couldn’t maintain my pace of 9:13 for the duration of my run. I was reading articles about ways to increase my pace and meet the mark when I realized what I should be focused on is finishing the race. I vowed to listen to my body on race day so I don’t end up injuring myself, and being happy with finishing instead of the time. If I happen to meet the time, then that’s just an added bonus.
4. Running despite weather or time. Being a runner takes waking up at 5 a.m. to run during training, but it also takes knowing when to sleep in and hold yourself accountable to completing your run after work, even when that is 6, 7 or sometimes 11 p.m. I did almost 2/3 of my training on a treadmill, and boy, do I not recommend that. When I started, I was able to do my first week of training outside, but it became too hot and humid to continue so I started doing my runs on the treadmill. I liked having my water always within reach and knowing I’m maintaining a consistent pace, but once I went back to running outside around week 7/8, I couldn’t bare to go back to the treadmill. What I started doing instead was running outside despite rain, shine, heat and humidity. My 8-miler was run with 100% humidity (even at 6 a.m.), and mornings I woke up to rain, I held myself accountable to run after work.
5. Commitment. The first time I tried to train for a half marathon was August of last year for an October race. I decided that even though I missed the first couple weeks, I could still do this. Then I had two 90-hour work weeks between my two jobs and just did not have the time to dedicate to it (I didn’t make the time). This time, I didn’t let anything get between me and my training. I’ll admit I have slacked a bit on cross-training but have yet to skip a running day and I’m nine days from race day. When my car broke down at the gym, my boyfriend asked me, “What are you going to do?” and my response was, “Run my 3 miles and then figure it out.” When I went to cross my legs on a Thursday evening after a rough run week (with shin splints and knee pain) and a sharp pain went shooting through my entire leg, I got chiropractor recommendations from coworkers, found one that was open on Saturdays and made an appointment so I didn’t have to skip my long run that Sunday. When the last thing in the world I wanted to do was run, I made running dates with my training buddies to hold me accountable. They say the things in life that are truly important to you, you will always make time for.