You run marathons?” my physical therapist said. “I never would have guessed that. I thought you were a soccer player. You don’t have a runner’s body. Your legs are too big.” I felt my cheeks get hot with embarrassment. Unintentionally, she had just hit on one of my biggest insecurities— my “thunder thighs.” I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. Instead, I figured that the only thing to do was state the obvious. “Well, I’ve run 30 marathons,” I said, “so I guess I do have a runner’s body.”
Those comments have had me thinking for years. Just what is a “runner’s body” anyway? The definition has certainly changed over the decades. While runners in the first running boom of the 1970s were typically thin, muscular and extremely fast, the second boom of the late 1990s welcomed all kinds. Diversity at race start lines has increased, and today people of all ages, shapes and sizes are completing 26.2 miles.
The nice thing about running is that in many ways, it’s the great equalizer. Looking at a person’s training log or race times doesn’t necessarily tell you anything about what they look like, and I think that’s very freeing. For example, I’m married to someone who has that stereotypical “runner’s body” and yet prefers to run as little and as slowly as possible.
My husband is a full 10 inches taller than me but weighs just 30 pounds more, and his legs are almost as long as my entire body. His ideal running distance is exactly one loop around our neighborhood—2.4 miles, no more, no less—and he thinks marathons are for the clinically insane.
By contrast, I’ve met runners in every single one of my marathons whom a doctor could classify as overweight or even obese; there are runners who are short, who have powerful legs and broad shoulders and who are miles ahead of me midway through the race.
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The point is that I’ve met lots of runners, and all of them look different. There are people who look like they’re “built for it” but absolutely hate the sport and run slower than you’d expect. There are those who look more suited for professional wrestling who blow past everyone else.
Although it took me many years to realize it, I have a runner’s body, right down to my thunder thighs. If you’re reading this column, you almost certainly have a runner’s body too. As John Bingham once said, “If you run, you are a runner.”
Do you have a runner’s body? The answer is “yes” if any of these apply…
1) You run any distance in any amount of time.
2) You have a body.
3) You take care of your body the best way you know how in order to further your running goals, whatever they may be.
4) You’ve developed a keen awareness of muscles you didn’t know existed. Thanks, post-run soreness!
5) You love running.