In the past few months I haven’t been actively running (due to some major health issues) but I have been active within the running community. I work in one of my local run shops and I spend a lot of time on local and non-local run groups reading and celebrating the achievements of my fellow runners. However, just recently, I came across a comment that really resonated with me. It referred to “those people who walk in races” as “runners.” Now, I had seen this before on various pages and I had let it slide, but with my most recent “non-running status,” I had already been questioning where I fit in the community and those little quotation marks set me off.
You see, even when I was actively running, I wasn’t the fastest. I wasn’t even one who could run an entire mile without stopping. I was a back of the packer, smiling face, encouraging those around me. I took A LOT of walk breaks, sometimes walking more than running but I was out there doing it. It took a long time for me to see myself as a runner and not a “runner”. Those quotation marks mean so much to someone who always questioned whether they were adequate, whether they could be part of a community that was so positive to “real” runners.
Being called a “runner” leads us to believe we aren’t good enough, posers, if you will. For me, it took almost 6 months and 10 races to call myself a runner without quotations. I had to hear it from everyone around me before I could set my own limitations aside and believe them. It isn’t easy to convince yourself to get out on a race course with people running 6 minute miles and not compare your lack of speed to theirs. It makes it even worse when you get onto running pages and find that in their eyes you aren’t part of their vision of the community. I think the biggest thing to understand is that even though we have fought the good fight to get out there and participate, we still need to feel like we are part of the total package. If you see me on an out and back, I may be at the back of the race but I am cheering for you, offering high fives and clapping, all the while knowing that my slow time is delaying the awards ceremony for your age group win and keeping you from your post race celebratory pancake breakfast. It is a lot to take on, but for me, it is a huge piece of the journey just to finish.
I ask this, I ask that when referring to back of the packers, you consider us are part of the community. I ask that you grant us the courtesy to see that how your calling us “runners” isn’t very welcoming. If you see someone struggling or blocking your way, that you find them after the race and politely congratulate them on finishing and offer a suggestion on race etiquette. But please, please, do not demean our effort, our completion of the same course, our enthusiasm as being just a “runner”. We are already battling that demon on our own. Just see us as the slower part of a great, big, happy family.
Run, Walk, Crawl, just keep moving forward,