As I was running around Doho Park in my city of Tsukuba today, I saw a man, moving along barely faster than walking pace. I went straight by him despite the fact that I was pushing a running stroller at the time and was out for a slow jog with my daughter. If I had started to walk I think we still would have passed him, but he was still technically running even at that pace. It made me wonder what makes a runner?
Surely we can not define a runner by his or her pace? There are an infinite number of running times ranging from world record breakers to speeds that are better measured in geological time scales. Each of these speeds truly fit into the category of running.
I also find it hard to define a runner by how he or she looks. I watched the Japanese Lake Biwa Marathon today and I was stuck by the different shapes of the runners that I saw. I was also surprised by the gear they were wearing. Even among the top 10 elite, there were tall and short, and there were boney and slightly more muscular. They mostly wore conventional running gear, but one of the top 5 guys was wearing what I would call tennis shorts. Does that mean he is not a runner? Hardly!
There is only one reliable guide to weather a person is a runner or not. Unfortunately it is not a very helpful guide for people looking from the outside. I believe that the only thing that defines that a person is a runner is how they feel about their running. The only difference between someone running for the train because they are late and someone who is running down the same road because they are out for a run is in their attitude. There are plenty of people who specialize in various team sports but use running to sharpen up their game. Some of these are runners, some are not, and it all depends on how they see their running.
These days even when I am not training (personally horrible times like injuries) I am still a runner. The intervening gap of not running does not change the fact that I am a runner. It is just a another part of the life of being a runner.
This is the important part … If I am a runner, that does not change if I get faster or slower. It holds the same if I am training or out of training. It does not matter if I look the part or even if I do not like to race. I am still a runner, because I am one inside.
This is one of the best things about the running community. It is a massive and highly inclusive family. It is easy to become a part of and you can find a place that you can keep for the rest of your life. I hope one day to be a happy old runner, in the same way that I am now a happy younger runner.
If you are a runner, then I'm sure you know the feeling. If you're not a runner, why do not you find out what you're missing out on?