Yeah, I'm a Runner
The last thing thing I felt like doing today was running. But I had to. I’d signed up for the Runner’s World 40 Days of Awesome Challenge, #rwrunstreak, committing myself to run 1 mile every day from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Why the hell do I set these goals? Are they just a good reason for me to have something to feel guilty about when I don’t meet them? I don’t even want to go there. Am I just trying to pretend like I’m something I’m not? What the heck am I playing at? Hell, I’m not a runner.
But I put on my running clothes, cranked up the music, and started running.
A few minutes later I was still grumbling at myself for making this commitment when the echoes of a man’s voice from 33 years ago popped into my thoughts.
In 1984 I signed up for the Sweet Pea Triathlon in Bozeman, Montana. I’d been swimming, biking, and running regularly and was ready for the 1-mile swim, 40 mile bike, and 10k run. When I entered the hotel lobby I asked a guy sitting on the floor eating spaghetti where I could pick up my registration bib. He looked up at me and asked a question that struck me so deeply I’ve never forgotten it.
“You’re a runner?”
At that moment, I could have told him how hard I’d worked to loose weight, to fight the sedentary lifestyle of my parents and the shame of childhood and off-and-on adult obesity. Instead I swallowed the embarrassment, mustered an incredulous look, said, “Yeah,” as convincingly as I could, and moved on.
33 years and I can still hear the sneer in his voice when he said, “You’re a runner?”
And so today I ran my mile, plus a little extra. Not as fast as I did yesterday, not as fast as I’ll do it tomorrow, but I ran a whole mile. I don’t pretend that I’ll ever be competitive. In the whole scheme of running I’m a runner with a little “r.” I can live with that.
By the way, in the Sweet Pea Triathlon I finished 2nd from last — 2nd from last, and not last, only because the nice guy I ran with through the final 10K leg insisted that I cross first. The cookies, bananas and Gatorade were all gone. The cheering crowds had gone home. Everyone was gone except my husband and sister, who where there with cheers and hugs when I finished, and who understood when I broke down sobbing, partly from exhaustion, but more from elation because I'd actually finished.
I finished the Sweetpea.
I finished my mile today.
I’ll finish my mile tomorrow.
On January 1, 2018 I’ll celebrate 40 days of continuous awesome and keep going. I’ll run for my health, for my emotional strength, for my confidence, for my pride. I'll keep running.
And that makes me a runner.