I Will Call Myself A Runner

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He called me “runner” and I balked. No, no, no, no, noooo, I protested. I am not a “runner” – I just run. I’m a runperson. I’m a person who runs. He looked at me with all of the contempt of a person about to explain the definition of “runner” to me. I rejected it outright with all of my best evidence: my inconsistent running schedule, my slow pace, my disappointing race times, the absence of rungear, my lack of a runbody due to an almost religious devotion to cookies…I threw a patronizing laugh in his direction. He’s so cute. He doesn’t know what a runner is. Hahaha…

But what makes a runner? Just running? Couldn’t be. Too simple. I reject it. Cookie Inhaler – check. Parent – check. Professional Vacuumer – check. Mt. Laundry Summiteer – check. Able to smoosh my stomach into a talking tummy monster for my kids – check check. I wasn’t a runner. I just ran because it was cheaper than a gym membership. And I enjoyed having Me Time. And my own Brain Thoughts. And listening to Music with Bad Words. Runners had times and paces and training schedules and had cool stuff. Nope. I was not a runner.

To support my theory, I checked The Internet to gather data. For the Sake of Research, I cannonballed back into social media. I discovered an immensity of Garmin Pace and Mid-Stride Running pictures. Apparently, if you post them together, you get extra points. They were amazing runners with amazing goals and paces and stories. They supported all runners, regardless of setbacks or failures, times or distances. They inspired, motivated, and pushed. They lost weight or gained speed or distance or all of it. I felt inadequate. Maybe I would never match their pace, or distance, or time, or body weight, or physical strength – but so what? Are these the things that make a runner? Are we only runners in comparison?

Buried down beneath years of self-criticism, covered by ambition, overwhelmed by expectation, the truth sat there, ugly and emancipating. I am not good enough. It was a simple, vicious whisper. How long had I held on to that? Built my perspective on its foundations? Even the fact that I felt unworthy of a runner identity felt disappointing. I was Better Than This. At what point was I comfortable with this label? At what point am I comfortable with myself?

I don’t have all of the answers. I barely have any. I don’t know if we are already whole, or ever completed, or a beautiful, constant progression. I’m in the business of mental remodeling right now.  I try to keep it simple. Identities do not make me who I am. I am not molded by motherhood or running, my ambitions or failures. They are the clay. I am the potter. I shape my own self. And one day, I will call myself runner. Until then, you can find me, cookie in hand, brushing the crumbs off of clean laundry, checking the weather for a good time to squeeze in a run.