Real runners don’t care if they wear matchy-matchy outfits when they run.
Real runners run in the rain. Or wind. Or heat. Or snow. They just gotta run.
Real runners run in the street, despite the sidewalk on their route. Real runners run even if it means the run begins and ends in the darkness and cold of the early morning.
Real runners have a love affair with their running shoe label and become fiercely loyal to their chosen brand and type. Real runners don’t care if they have that funny ankle-sock-tan-line all year round, not even in summer sandal season.
Real runners focus on their own PR (personal record), not anyone else’s.
Real runners know the incredible exhilaration and elation of finishing a big race, and not necessarily winning the race.
I am a real runner today, but I did not start out that way. I did not start out in childhood doing “fun runs” and community 5ks. I hated running as a kid. You could not have paid me to run.
In college I was forced to run. I was forced to run by my very conservative college’s 3-mile running proficiency requirement. Every student, in pursuit of “the whole man concept” (or woman, ahem) was required to take a physical activity class each semester AND pass a 3-mile proficiency test. We were actually graded on our time.
I didn’t know diddly-do about running except you move forward around a track, round and round. In fact, my bright white, high-top, 80’s aerobics-class shoes doubled as my running shoes. (I am mortified at this admission.)
I used to run on my toes without any knowledge of it. UNTIL one day Snotty Blond Athletic Girl behind me whispered to her Girl Jock friend, “Look, she runs on her toes.” From then on, I stared at others’ form and tried to imitate them. No more bouncing. No more toe running. Still the same shoes.
I preferred running indoors instead of fighting the Oklahoma elements of humidity, cold and rain. This California-born-and-bred girl did not know what to do with real weather. Each lap on the university indoor track gave me the false sense that I was putting in so many miles. I learned later that each lap was 1/6 of a mile, but by that point it didn’t matter. By that point I was hooked and determined to keep at it.
There was something about running that made me feel alive and strong. I was not fast, but still felt athletic. To feel athletic was a new and empowering feeling for me, the one who was always the last one picked for every team as a girl in grade school. I was reborn.
I “crashed” my first post-college road race in order to forgo paying the entry fee. (I didn’t know that real runners never crash a race. Major party foul!) My very first 10k I ran in my fashionable aerobics-class shoes. Why hadn’t anyone informed me that I needed good shoes, the real deal, the ugly-striped athletic sneakers that soon I would fall in love with? One day it all finally clicked. Maybe it took that long for the endorphins to kick in.
What did it for me?
What turned me from a reluctant, ignorant toe-bouncing runner to a self-motivated, outdoor distance runner with REAL RUNNING SHOES, my beloved ASICS? I attribute my transformation to the passage of time, two people (a best-friend-runner-girl, and a boyfriend who would become my husband), and an inborn sense of tenacity.
I discovered a new sense of “I Can-Do-It-ness” in me as I took on a physical challenge that I thought was IMPOSSIBLE for ME to do, the non-athletic, non-sports-playing girl. And if God could enable me to take on this incredible challenge and accomplish it, WHAT ELSE could I do? It became my new mantra.
Fast forward 20 years and I’ve run one full marathon (pre-kids), 8 half marathons, and one overnight 200-mile relay. I have led running groups and passed the addiction on to other women.
If I can run, anybody can.
I am not fast, but I run. I am not competitive, but I run. I start, and I finish. For the girl who was always picked LAST, it feels quite amazing to complete a long training run or cross that finish line. If I can run, you can too.