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So you’ve started training, but you’re not a runner

Words: Lara Tamsett

Plenty of people who run, marathoners even, will tell you they’re not really runners. There’s no shortage of posts from running bloggers claiming they don’t deserve the title, despite running multiple times a week. This is perfectly exemplified by a close friend of mine, whose thoughts reflect the mentality of many who don’t consider themselves runners:

“I think the reason I don’t see myself as a runner has a lot to do with self-image. I have always been physically quite big and for a long time not fit at all. So when I turned up to a running group, all I saw was these super-fit gazelle-like creatures that bounded around the drills in an effortless manner that I couldn’t possibly emulate. “I am a hacker”, I told myself, “keep plodding around and record your efforts and one day you might complete an event”. Even when I had pushed myself so hard to the point of damaging my achilles to run eight half marathons in a year, I still didn’t see myself as a peer of the folks who really run.”

Unlike my friend, I have always called myself a runner, confidently giving myself this label without much thought at the age of eight when commencing Little Athletics. As my running career and athletic credentials progressed, it wasn’t long before I became known as “Lara, the runner.” You may argue that it’s easier for me to adopt this label as an elite and semi-professional, but I believe being a runner has absolutely nothing to do with achievement.

Plenty of people who run, marathoners even, will tell you they’re not really runners

I believe classifying oneself as a runner is a mindset, a sense of connection with other runners … something that you just feel. You feel it when you pass the same runner, day in and day out on your little neighbourhood loop, and exchange that almost imperceptible nod that says, I understand. You feel it when you’re in the car and you drive by a runner labouring to get their day’s run in, and you wish that your little tap on the horn and thumbs-up could somehow express to them, I know exactly what you’re feeling, I’ve been there; come on, you can get through it.

I think you become a runner when you recognise, in your own running, the essential kernel that motivates you and every other runner to get out there and log in the kilometres at the expense of so much else. Some runners do it for the medals and the t-shirts. Some run just to stay in shape. And others do it because, as they say, running is cheaper than therapy. But I think that at the most basic level, every one of us who runs does so because, deep down, we crave that little daily battle — against busyness, distraction, adversity, self-doubt — that every time we lace up our shoes, push ourselves out the door and run, we win.

I believe classifying oneself as a runner is a mindset, a sense of connection with other runners

And when you reach the point when you look at another runner and sense that they understand the ins and outs of the very same struggle you do — and that, whatever their method, they manage to win it, over and over, just like you — you feel the connection. To me, that’s what it means to be a runner. Even now, as I face a slow-healing injury that has restricted me to (very) slow jogging a few times a week, I still call and think of myself as a runner. I’m no longer engaged in a structured training regime comprising of huge mileage, my coach has now become more of a coffee-drinking buddy, and races no longer shape my calendar. But I am still jogging and I can still empathise with other runners. Therefore, I’m still a runner.

Many people differentiate between jogging and running. “I’m just a jogger!” people will argue when I ask them to justify their self-imposed label as a non-runner. But to me, when you’re jogging, you’re running. Therefore (according to my simple logic) you’re a runner! It doesn’t matter what pace you’re going at, or how far or long you jog/run for. Both these aerobic exercises – running and jogging – help the body to lose weight and make general improvements in one’s physical and mental health. Both jogging and running will undoubtedly include feelings of soreness, satisfaction, dread, hitting-the-wall and post-run euphoria. To me, jogging and running are the same. There is no such thing as being fast enough, racing enough or being serious enough when it comes to be being a runner. If you have entered and are training for the Gold Coast Marathon, you are definitely a runner! I encourage you to wear the label proudly.

About Lara Tamsett

Lara is a former World Junior Mountain Running champion and a two-time Australian 10,000 champion. She is also a four-time World Country Championships representative and has represented Australia at the World Athletics Championships and World Half Marathon Championships. Lara won the 2011 ASICS Half Marathon (1:12:19) and 2013 Southern Cross University 10km Run (33:05). She is the online editor for Run For Your Life magazine, a bi-monthly, full-colour magazine containing interesting and valuable information for runners at all levels.

Visit r4yl.com.au for more information.

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