I'm a runner but ... I am slower than molasses rolling uphill in the winter.
I'm a runner but ... I am still kind of new at it and can't go very far.
I'm a runner but ... a lot of people can walk faster than me.
I'm a runner but ... I use run/walk/run intervals.
I'm a runner but ... I don't have a runner's "body" and am overweight.
And the list can go on and on.
I hear people saying these things all the time (Crap, we all know that I SAY THESE THING ALL THE TIME). But why? Why do we feel the need to quantify our self descriptors based on our speed, or our distance, or our weight? Why do we negate our own self perceptions when talking to others?
In my brain, I am a runner. I'm not like Hussein Bolt. I'm definitely not a Kenyan. But I am a runner. I am a STRONG runner. I am a STEADY runner. I run.
The past few months I have been making a concerted effort to not validate myself as a runner. I am just a runner. Period. End of sentence. End of paragraph.
I am a runner because I need to run to maintain my normal daily life. I am a runner because if I go a number of days without running, I get irritable and desperate for the opportunity to log some miles. I am a runner because I run.
The other day, a female runner that I know wrote a status update on facebook that really hurt me. Although it wasn't exactly what she said, the metamessage was that the title of Runner should be reserved only for those who run at a certain pace. She wanted to know at what pace is someone no longer a runner and when they are just a walker using the wrong title. I don't know how else to explain what she wrote, and she has long since taken the update down... but you get the gist.
And I tried a dozen times to just chalk my hurt up to being overly sensitive about my own slower than molasses pace, but I couldn't. I reminded myself that it wasn't personal, but that didn't make it hurt any less. I know she didn't say this to personally attack me... which is why I protect her identity. And I'm hoping she wasn't talking about me in general, but that doesn't make it hurt any less.
I run slow. In my first half marathon, I was passed in mile 12 by an octogenarian with a tri-wheel walker. In my shamrock 10-miler in march, I was passed by a 30-something who was on arm crutches. I'M SLOW. But I am still a runner. I bust my ass, and I run.
And I am angry that someone I know would try to take that away from me or cut me down.
It reminds me of the mean girls in high school who had to cut themselves down to build themselves up. Under normal circumstances, the running community isn't like that. Normally it is people building one another up and helping one another along with encouragement. Not cutting one another down because so-and-so is a faster runner and therefore is more entitled to use the term Runner to describe themselves.
Before judging others, we need to remember that we all started somewhere. For most runners it was when they were in their childhood years. The kids ran around on the playground... and most adult runners just never stopped. But what about the people like me who learned to run at the age of 31? When you see me now, you just see a fat girl running. You don't immediately see all of the health and medical issues that I have had to overcome to get to where I am. So lets try not to judge.
And if you are like those creepy guys in cars who holler as they drive by me while I'm running... it ain't nuttin buta thang. You don't bother me. You just look dumb. Because we all know that you are just trying to make yourself look better by cutting others down... and we know you are secretly jealous. I'd like to see you get out of the car and run 10 miles with me.