It took me a long time to feel like a “real” runner. A long time.
In my final year of high school, I decided to join the track team. I was not good. I tried to do triple jump, but I was not coordinated enough, so I did the longest distance race possible: 1,500 meters. The field was small, maybe four girls, but I always ran. I was never lapped (which was my only goal), and I always improved my time. This is when I began my love-hate relationship with running, but I was still not a “real” runner in my head.
Throughout my twenties, I ran sporadically. I ran a few 10Ks. I trained for a full marathon, but dropped out at the halfway mark. I took a long hiatus after that. I was not a runner; I just ran occasionally.
In 2011, at 32 years old, I decided I wanted to try a longer distance. My friend and I decided on a half marathon. Training sucked—I cried almost every Sunday trying to figure out how to fit in a long run while still being a mom and getting housework done. On the big day I ran the whole 21.1K—no walk breaks. I had met my goal, but I was still not a “real” runner.
The end of that year I decided to try to run every single day, all in a row, for a month. I ran 41 days in a row, at least 1 mile a day. I was feeling great, so I registered for the half marathon again.
Training was almost as bad as the first time, but this time I knew I could do it. My long runs hurt, my short runs dragged, no run felt good. It was awful, but I did it. This time my goal was to beat my previous time. Then 6K into the race, I got a severe pain in my calf. I was sure it was a cramped muscle, so I lengthened my stride to stretch it as I ran. After about 3K more, the pain was gone and I finished strong. I immediately set to stretching it out, but I limped back to the car and could hardly walk the rest of the day. The next day I discovered I had actually torn my muscle. I ran 15K with a torn muscle.
Obviously, I don’t recommend anyone do this; in fact, now whenever I feel pain I take it easy (recovery was the worst!), but this was the moment that I realized I am a “real” runner. In fact, it’s when I realized I have always been a real runner. I am not fast, and I never will be. I don’t want to be. I run because I can, and as much as I hate it, I also love it. I run to clear my head and to make myself stronger. I run to eat chocolate, and to look better in my clothes. I run because I am a runner. A real runner.