Define "runner"

How do you define a runner?

Is it their gear? Their 10K time? Is it judged by the furthest distance run, or the number of races completed? Or, are only the ones who flirt with being addicted considered true runners? You know – those who love it, have a compiled list of personal records and talk about running 24/7? What about the folks who grudgingly do it because they “should”?

I’ve always “run.” I used to race my brothers down to the mailbox during the summers, because it was the only thing we had to do all day. I used to “run” away from home when my parents ticked me off as a kid. Then I’d “run” home when it got dark out. In more recent times, I’ve become very good at “running” away from making decisions and discussing politics.

In all seriousness, I bought a personal trainer in the form of a German Shepherd/ Rottweiler mix and decided to train for my first marathon. But even though the Fargo Marathon is less than a week away, I still don’t feel like a runner. As I rub my sore knees, pick at my blisters and evaluate my black toes from running over 380 miles in the last 16 weeks, it has been really hard to determine whether I’m getting stronger or just falling apart. And honestly, even though I have my eyes set on 26.2, the ultimate event for a runner, I feel like calling myself a runner is a bit of a scam .

I guess I view “runners” as smooth operating, well-lubricated machines with a fast pace and a stride to my three. I feel more like a rusty old tanker set at sea for no particular reason.

Case in point: My loving boyfriend witnessed a heart wrenching sob-fest following my first 20-mile run. I had hoped to finish 20 miles in 3 hours that day – a pace that would have been just short of a miracle for me. I pushed through the door to my home and pulled myself – with my arms – to the top of the stairs. Utterly exhausted and altogether disappointed with my performance, I collapsed, covered my face and started crying.

It wasn’t exactly a “shining moment.”

And there stood the guy who has helped motivate and encourage me in my trek. Dumbfounded, he listened as I shook my head tried to convince him I couldn’t do it.

It was a rough week. But looking back, that feeling of doubt was reoccurring. Week after week, starting at 14 miles, I’d complete the run, and honestly, whole-heartedly believe that if I had to run another mile I would not have been able. But the next week, I would.

Now almost all that doubt is behind me. Let me say, I never thought I could look at a route for a marathon and say, “eh, I can do that,” when in previous years just looking at it made me dizzy. Now, as I nervously wait for race day, I’m so excited it’s intoxicating.

I have a few thoughts on training for my first marathon, which I, God willing, will finish on May 18. Hopefully readers will either find them funny, inspirational or completely nuts.

1.) People have asked whether I’ll do more than one, to which, in the initial weeks of training, my response was “no way, doing it once, crossing it off the bucket list and that’ll be it.”

Truth be told, a lot of people have really good reasons for running a marathon. Like therapy, or a true love of the sport. Maybe weight loss or getting over some hump in their lives. I had no reason other than to prove to myself I could do it. But after I got going, it was a free pass to eat whatever I wanted. Then I realized that provided I finish, I will have one-up’d both of my brothers. In other words, I’ll be making history.

People say marathons are addicting, and I can definitely see why. Continually pushing yourself to the limit is an awesome feeling. That being said, I plan to cross “run a marathon” off my bucket list, add it to my repertoire and try to limit my bragging. Time will tell if I run another.

2.) I’ve tallied the miles I will have run by the time the marathon is completed. When/if I cross the finish line, I’ll have run 414.2 miles.  This means I’m currently 92% done with the whole fiasco and, interestingly enough, the actual marathon is a whopping 6.3% of the process. That’s kind of incredible, isn’t it? Also, I did this same calculation in week 10 and was not happy with the numbers at all, felt 95% hopeless and 100% wanted to quit.

3.) As you could imagine, Saturday mornings after the marathon will feel like Sunday afternoons after a Super Bowl. Elite runners wouldn’t understand, but the time put forth to this is incredible. In the 3rd hour of one of my runs, I imagined spending this much time on triathlon training. Or even to something like piano lessons, sewing, or photography. This much dedication to one thing would do a lot for anyone.

 4.) It’s really hard not to sound like you’re bragging. And, whether or not you try, talking about running is extremely hard to keep to a minimum. I’ll admit, when I’ve been out and about the hours following a long run, I want to tell complete strangers what I did that day. I’ve been tempted to share details of a long run with a server at a restaurant, a barista, a gas station attendant, even innocent bystanders on the sidewalk.

“Hey blue shirt guy! I RAN 18 MILES TODAY!!!! What have YOU done??”

Would that have been totally inappropriate?

This journey has been amazing. People aren’t wrong when they say a running a marathon is a fine line between a mental game and an athletic achievement. I’ll never forget the routes I’ve taken, the cold mornings I somehow got the strength to run the route, the things I’ve seen along the way and the way I amazed myself every week. I would encourage anyone to start running for whatever reason they can find.

Best of luck to runners this Saturday – whether or not you feel like one.

Shootin’ the Wit is a sporadic blog about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously.

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