I’ve always found it odd that so many of us shy away from calling ourselves “real runners”- personally I subscribe to the mentality of “if you run, you’re a runner”. Nonetheless, there are several milestones, good and bad, that lie on the route to feeling like you’re part of the club, and so I thought I’d share mine with you!
The first time you ever go for a run
That nervous, stepping out the front door in your running shoes, feeling like a complete and utter impostor as you attempt to remind yourself how to put one foot in front of the other in a way that resembles running. You feel very far away from the Paula Radcliffe-like gazelle you had envisioned.
The first time you go running in real running shoes
So many runners head out in shoes that don’t fit, or aren’t even designed specifically for the sport- I was one of them. I eventually upgraded from my two-sizes-too-small gym shoes for a pair of actual running shoes, and my formerly numb toes thanked me for it.
The first time you run the whole way round your park without stopping
This is a milestone that should never be underestimated. The first time I managed a whole lap of the common without any walk or “stretch” breaks was a complete breakthrough for myself in how I felt both physically and mentally. It was like my world had shifted in some small way.
The first time you enter a race
The tentative internet searches, the panicked can-I-can’t-I, and the final fuck it as you click enter, surrender your payment details and proceed to prepare yourself for failure, humiliation or death.
The first time you finish a race
But when you finish your first race- because you always will, no matter how hopeless it seems- you feel an overwhelming sense of achievement and validation. I can do this! I ran! I am a runner! Medal please, swag bag thank you- now I know how Paula feels.
The first time you almost poop your pants
Worst run of my life, but it happens to all of us. Every once in a while, fuelling, drinking, hangovers and timing conspire to have you panicking and rushing to find the nearest loo. This is it. This is how it happens. Oh Christ. If you’re lucky, you avoid disaster, and you either tell no-one or absolutely everyone.
The first time you hit a wall
You go through your running career thinking the wall is just a figment of the imagination; all in the head and therefore completely avoidable. Until it happens to you. Then you know what all those articles in Runner’s World were talking about, and you consume them avidly lest it ever happen again.
The first time you get injured
When all your hard work starts to give you an odd niggle in your hip, knee, ankle, foot, and you just decide to ignore it because you’re a runner, and you won’t be sabotaged by your own body. Fast forward a few weeks and you’re up on the sofa, almost completely unable to walk, and calling round making enquiries about a phsyio who can see you right away. (Not talking from experience, obviously).
The first time you make a return after injury
Those cautious steps out the front door, which gradually turn into a gentle jog- always paying attention to every minute detail in your body, and always searching for any hint of pain. It can be easy to forget why it is you liked this whole running thing, especially when it feels so awkward and difficult at first. But hold on, it gets better.
The first time you hold your own in the running store
The first time you’re able to go into a running store and actually ask for what you want; hold your own about your price range, and stick true to your preferences. Running stores are great places, and we all know the staff are there to help you get the best out of your sport. But having the confidence to stick to your guns when asked whether you’d consider a horrific I’ll never wear that colour or a brand new, £170 shoe you’re sure you probably don’t actually need; well that’s a feeling that lasts a lifetime!
I know we shouldn’t define ourselves as “runners” or not, but honestly it took me ages to be able to own that title, and these were just some of the steps along the way! Honestly though, I subscribe to the view that we’re all runners here- no ifs, no buts. Even if it took me a while to get my head around it!
When was the first time you felt like a “real” runner?
Lots of love,