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What Does “Being a Runner” Mean to You?

Nine women share their perspective.

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When it comes to the “why” of running, everyone has a different answer. People run for weight loss, for fitness, for alone time—the reasons, and what running gives to us, are infinite. And the only requirement of being a runner is to, well, run. Your speed, your distance, your history; none of that matters, so long as you’re lacing up.

In our latest book club discussion, ultrarunner Hillary Allen shared that she takes her “why” very seriously. “It’s something I ask myself everyday: ‘Why am I doing this? Why do I want to?'” she said. “If I can’t answer that question—’Oh, I don’t know, I feel like I have to’—then I know I need to reevaluate.”

Discovering your “why” can help you connect with running and spark motivation. So what does is really mean to be a runner? Jonathan Levitt, host of “For the Long Run” podcast, asked his 15,000 Twitter followers, and he got some great answers. We’ll be turning to these whenever we need a little more inspiration behind the “why.”

“Even when it’s hard, it’s joyful,” might become our new mantra. New York Times opinion writer Lindsay Crouse defines running succinctly (Crouse wrote a great piece on trans rights and really “saving” women’s sports.)

Sasha Wolff, founder of Still I Run, highlighted the importance of running on mental health.

Mental health is a common draw; Tara Morgan finds it helps her mentally in more ways than one. (Read more about how to boost running’s calming effects here).

Esther Atkins, a sub 3 marathoner and running coach out of South Carolina, went more concrete, highlighting the knowledge running can give us.

Several people used the words “joy” and “alive” to describe how being a runner makes them feel.

This experience, from @runyogadoughnut (yes, please), encapsulates how running can start as one thing and shift your mind and body, becoming something else entirely.

And Kristin Jenny, triathlete and author of this handy guide to fitting in a workout no matter the time of day, is on our same wavelength. You’re a runner if you run!

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