When I started running, I wanted to look like a runner.
If I looked like a runner, then in my head, I was a runner.
I bought printed shorts and a handheld water bottle. I invested in moisture wicking socks and a digital watch.
I’ve often thought about when I would become a runner or when others would look at me and think, “Hey, that girl is a runner.”
Sometimes I wonder if I could have given myself that title when I started routinely jogging around my neighborhood in high school, carrying a large Walkman as I moved. I know that when I worked at a local running specialty store in college, I considered myself a new runner, but still a runner nonetheless. When was that moment when I became part of the running tribe?
Some would argue that you become a runner the moment you take your first running step. I would argue that you become a runner the moment you believe you are.
You can run and not be a runner. Hear me out…
I have friends who from time to time run. They have even run races, but they don’t call themselves a runner. In their eyes, they only occasionally run.
Could they consider themselves a runner now? Yes, but the distinction into this club is theirs to make.
If I go out tomorrow and play a game of basketball, I am not a basketball player. I am someone who once played basketball. If I go out tomorrow to play basketball because I want to become a basketball player, am I a basketball player the moment I decide to become one? Do I need to be good at basketball? No. Is there some bar that I have to reach to consider myself a basketball player? No. If I believe I am a basketball player, then I am one.
Does one need to be fast to be a runner? No. Does one even need to consider themselves relatively good at running to be a runner? No. Does one have to run races to consider themselves a runner. No.
I do know that I was probably what most would consider a runner long before I considered myself one. But that was a distinction for me to make.
I considered myself a marathoner the day I crossed the finish line of my first marathon. It didn’t matter that I had only ran 26.2 miles once. I had made the decision that I was a marathoner and not a girl who had run 26.2 miles.
Maybe this logic is flawed or maybe it’s not.
I believe we are what we want to be if we take the steps to be that or become that. The choice of the label “runner” is ours alone.
I am a runner. Are you?