“In running, it doesn’t matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or last. You can say, ‘I have finished.’ There is a lot of satisfaction in that.” —Fred Lebow, founder of the New York City Marathon
Repeat after me: I am a runner.
Again, but louder: I am a Runner!
Once more, with gusto: I AM A RUNNER!
And one last time so everyone can hear you: YES, I AM A RUNNER!
In one of the oddities of American culture, there are millions of people who run on a semi-regular basis and even run races a few times a year but yet don’t seem to consider themselves runners. It’s strange because running is by far the simplest and most accessible recreational and fitness activity known to mankind.
If you own running shoes and put them on to run a few miles at a time a couple of times a week for any reason at all, then, yes, you are most certainly a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast you run or how long you run. It doesn’t matter if you have ever run a race and, even if you have, it doesn’t matter how fast you have run those races.
The simple definition of running is that you put one foot in front of the other and move your body faster than your walking pace. It’s an exclusive club but it’s open to anybody and everybody. If you haven’t been a runner before, today is the ideal day to begin!
In celebration of Global Running Day on June 1, all you have to do is admit to yourself that you’re a runner and go out for a run!
YES, I AM A RUNNER!
You don’t have to tell anyone else, but you can share it with friends or on social media, if that’s your thing. But you don’t need to explain yourself to anyone about how, why, when or where you run. Every single day of the year can be Global Running Day, a celebration of your own personal health, happiness and holistic balance.
For some, the sole point of running is to move as fast as possible from Point A to Point B. But there are dozens of reasons to go running regularly.
You can run to improve your fitness! Yes, that might mean you can run faster for a 10K race or half marathon, but it also might mean that you can walk a flight of stairs easier, sleep better and live a healthier lifestyle.
You can run to reduce stress! No one has to remind us that we live in stressful times. It’s a crazy world we live in. But, as anyone who has ever run will attest, running can help reduce the tension from work, school, family, relationship or various other life situations. Even without putting much effort into it, running can help you be a more grounded and well-balanced individual.
You can run to lose weight! We’ve all heard about the obesity epidemic in the U.S., but running doesn’t have to be boiled down to that. The societal changes of the past 50 years—namely processed food, more corn syrup in everything, longer working hours, more digital distractions (from TV to texts)—probably mean we all could use more exercise and better daily habits in our lives. And it can all start with the simple act of an easy run that is repeatedly consistently several times every week.
You can run to be social! It used to be that you’d go to a coffee shop, a bar, the water cooler or break room in your office or a friend’s house to socialize with your friends, family and co-workers. Now you can join or create a running group and chat the miles away. From running shop runs to happy hour runs to training groups to races, running can be as much of a social outlet as it is a physical outlet if you want it to be.
You can run to be free! Nothing helps rejuvenate the mind, body and soul quite like going for a run and feeling the breeze against your face, the pulsing muscles in your legs and the calmness in your brain. It’s not that you’re running away or trying to escape your challenges, it’s that you’re able to find solutions to them while you’re out running and clearing your mind.
You can run to change your life! Sometimes in life, we get stuck in a rut we can’t seem to escape. That’s life, right? Yes, but I guarantee that if you were to make the commitment to run as few as 3 to 5 miles several times a week for a month you’ll find you’ll be capable of (and experience) amazing life-altering changes. Whatever challenges puzzles, riddles or dilemmas life throws at you can start to be solved by consistent running.
You can run for no reason at all! Sometimes it’s good just to get out and run with no agenda at all. I’ve never once come back from a run and wished I hadn’t gone. Just run, baby!
Back in the dark ages of the great American running boom (yes, way back in the 1970s), there used to be a distinction between runners and joggers.
The runners were the super-fit, rail-thin nerdy types wearing nylon split shorts, T-shirts and cheap plastic stopwatches who were always bantering on about workouts and race times. Oh, and also running very fast most of the time.
Back then, anyone not fitting that description was considered a jogger. The terms weren’t derogatory, they were just how people identified themselves. Early on, the people who wanted to join the fitness craze of recreational running and imbibe the numerous benefits often self-identified as joggers just because they knew they somehow didn’t fit into that subset of super-fit, rail-thin nerd subset of people.
Nowadays, we’re all runners and we’re all doing the same thing, even if we’re doing it in our own way.
It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you run. It doesn’t matter what you wear to run—skimpy shorts, brightly colored compression socks or a frilly tutu!
It doesn’t matter where you run or what surface you run on—roads or trails or a track or a treadmill.
And it doesn’t matter where you came from—as a runner or as a human being. It’s all about where you’re going!
We can all feel the benefits, joys and excitement in different ways, and that’s the point. Running is there for all of us to enjoy, each in our own way.
If you run in any way at all, then, YES, YOU ARE A RUNNER!
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Brian Metzler is the editor-in-chief of Competitor.com and Competitor magazine.