Real Runners are Just That

I told myself I would contemplate the “I’m not a real runner” quote as I ran my half-marathon this past weekend (I’m Not a Real Runner). So I let the question roll around in my mind for a couple of days–while camping, during the 13 mile run, and at the post-race party and awards.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I don’t run many races, but when I do, I invariably encounter and interact with many members of my local running club. I started running about five years ago and joined the running club about a year after that. I was nervous, for sure. I didn’t know much about running in general and I knew nothing of running clubs. What did they do? Did they all go out and run together? It was going to be impossible for me to run with a group, to move along at their speed and stay with them. At the time, I didn’t realize that there are several different paces within any group of runners. I thought it would be their pace–the pace of the group–and my pace. But I heard about it and I wanted to meet some other runners and I wanted to stay motivated, so I showed up, out of the blue one evening, to a weekly trail run.

I think it may be the bravest thing I’ve ever done.

Suffice it to say I was welcomed with open arms and am still doing group runs and events with these people. A group run, for me, looks like this: I arrive a bit early, like the others, to hang out and chat for a while; we all run, with me going at my own pace and usually running alone or sometimes with one other person in the group; and, then we all meet up again, have a beer, and continue on with the socializing. It works.

As I finished my half-marathon in record slow time for me–but smiling and happy and having enjoyed it the entire way–I was funneled through the beer garden to get my free beer in my commemorative pint glass and then entered into the post-race area. It didn’t take me long to find my people, the runners from my community and local running club who were also at this race. They were all gathered together on a grassy hillside waiting for the awards to begin.

What you need to know about these people is that they are exceptionally good runners. At least half of these individuals would soon be on the podium and nearly all of them had taken off significant time or set a new personal record. They trained hard and ran hard. And then there’s me. I always finish a race much later than they do and I’m rarely trying to beat a previous time. It can’t be the focus for me or I would have quit running long ago.

I plop down on the grass next to them, happy to take a load off. A few of them notice me and ask how my run went. Most runners will respond to this question–How was your run?–by sharing their time and whether they were able to shave any minutes off their personal best. My response is much more general in nature. “I had a great run! I felt good and was happy the whole time.” The group respects this about me; they don’t pry for details.

I’m never all that interested in the awards. It’s not important to me who won, who edged past whom this time, where the winners are from, and all that jazz. So while the awards were going on, I, instead, looked at each of my running club friends and thought of them each as individuals and not, collectively, as “all the real runners.”

Each of them is a real person with a real life and real hopes and dreams and real problems. There have been divorces, heartbreaking moments with children, the loss of jobs, the uncertainty of unemployment, health issues, rehab, losing homes, relocations, unhappy marriages, setbacks, regrets.

Yet they are all here, gathered together in this beautiful place on this beautiful day, making the most of life in a positive, healthy way. They run for themselves but, in the process, run for each other.

And that includes me.

These people have always made me feel welcome and part of the group. The fact that I’m a slower runner and not as committed to it as they are has always been more of an issue for me than for them.

They ask me to run with them.

“Hey, do you want to run Serpents Trail any morning this week?”

“Really? Because I’m going to be slow.”

“Everyone’s slow running uphill on a rocky trail in the dark. It’s the perfect time to run together.”

They invite me to train with them and urge me to give certain races or runs a try.

“Randee, you should do the Imogene Run with us this year!”

“I can’t. There’s a cut off time. I don’t think I can make it. They’d make me turn back.”

“No, no, you’re fine. We know plenty of people who just hike it. We’ll do fun training runs and have a great time. You should join us.”

Some insist on running with me at least every few weeks.

“We should try to do a long run this weekend. I haven’t talked to you in a few weeks and I miss you. We need to 082catch up.”

They work me into their weekly speed trainings, when I get up enough nerve to go. They invite me to their “run and then feast” birthday parties, apparently not concerned that the run will be much slower, much shorter with me in the group. We’ve trained for triathlons together, come together as a team 038for an adventure race, and kayaked and paddleboarded together. We travel together to runs, meet up for dinner or margaritas, camp, come together for a campfire the night before a race.

We take group photos before and after races. And sometimes during.

These people were there when I went through my divorce and the terrible fallout from that. There for me, as runners, as friends.

They’re my friends. Real friends.

I’m the only one, in this whole bunch, who’s ever thought about excluding me.

These people, these fast, fast runners, the ones I consider to be “real” runners, they’re nothing but real people. Real people with real lives and real problems. Like me. Real people with a desire to deal with stuff by running and trying to stay healthy. Like me. Real people who want to belong, who want to form relationships and friendships. Like me.

These real runners are just that. Real.

I love these people and I’m grateful for all that they are and all that they’ve done for me. They are the reason that running can be a reality for me, something that I can stick with.

And I’m starting to get it now. I am probably all that for them, too. A real person, with a real life, with real issues. A running friend, a real friend.

I’m real. I run.

And, therefore, that makes me a real runner.

14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. bayrunnerjamie
    Oct 28, 2013 @ 15:38:48

    Sounds like a great group of people! Great post 🙂

    Reply

  2. Rochee
    Oct 28, 2013 @ 19:10:00

    I really loved this post. To me, running has been a great way to meet new people that enjoy the journey…of life and of running…

    Reply

  3. farfetchedfriends
    Oct 28, 2013 @ 22:30:34

    Congrats!

    Reply

  4. lynamstories101
    Oct 29, 2013 @ 07:42:41

    i would like to just get around the block 🙂 this was inspiring.
    well done!

    Reply

    • Randee
      Oct 29, 2013 @ 08:45:01

      It’s fun to start out running, to do a walk/run combination, slowly, over a period of several months, replacing most of your walking with running.

      Reply

  5. theclocktowersunset
    Oct 29, 2013 @ 12:17:36

    What a great and insightful post. You’re like the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi of running. I am not lost because I do not seek the way….. 😉

    Reply

    • Randee
      Oct 29, 2013 @ 13:19:43

      Oh, man, I love it! I haven’t heard this before — I am not lost because I do not seek the way — but it applies in a few areas of my life, and yes, definitely, to running. You always have the most brilliant of comments. I appreciate you reading and responding. Thanks!

      Reply

  6. gapark
    Nov 25, 2013 @ 17:43:18

    I love your attitude. I just can’t get into all the “stats”, PRs, negative splits, etc. I’m just enjoying seeing what my body can do and the feeling of exhilaration at accomplishing a “good” run. I guess I am a “real” runner too! Gail
    p.s. thanks for stopping by my blog!

    Reply

    • randee
      Nov 25, 2013 @ 19:06:14

      Likewise – thanks for stopping by mine. Yes, to me running is about moving the body and being outside and making friends. Maybe if I was fast I would care about that other stuff. 🙂

      Reply

  7. betunada
    May 27, 2014 @ 15:29:28

    and (months later) this very post “added pizzazz” (and philosophy) to the MMS NL edition you submitted it to! sometimes i’d like to think “I look pretty good” ’cause of good articles and such OTHER PEOPLE send in …

    Reply

    • randee
      May 28, 2014 @ 09:32:19

      You do look pretty good. It’s obvious what an amazing job you do culling through the hundreds of articles you get and choosing the just-right mix for the newsletter. No one could do a finer job.

      Reply

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