…that is the question. The question that periodically haunts this runner’s brain and so makes a fine topic for this week’s Two Cents Tuesday.
TCT#6: Does one have to race to be a runner?
There’s no doubt in my mind that I am a runner. When someone asks me to describe myself, it’s one of the first words that comes to mind. As I write about in the “Run with me…” section of this blog, running is so much a part of who I am and what I do that it almost doesn’t bear mentioning at all. It’s sorta like breathing – everyone breaths all the time but do we ever really talk about it? No, cause it’s just what we, as living beings, do.
That’s like me with running.
However, as much of a runner as I consider myself, I rarely enter races. The one exception is the Manchester Road Race. I’ve run that race every single year of my running career (except for 2007 when I was living in England), but that has more to do with family tradition that anything else – my dad ran it for years before I started running; I picked up where he left off.
I’ve run a couple of half marathons in addition to Manchester but that’s really it. I also don’t keep close track of my mileage or times. Sure, I know my ballpark figures but I don’t put much stock in them – looking at distances covered and average mile times is more just a way for me to see where I stand year to year. I may improve or I may even decline. Regardless, I keep on running.
In fact, running is such a way of life for me that it’s almost stopped being exercise. My body is so used to hoofing it that I rarely look at my every day runs as “working out.” Oh, I know I could push myself harder – go longer, go faster – and occasionally I do, but “going for a run” is much more mental for me than anything else. Moving my legs, sensing my muscles propel me down the road, hearing my breathing in my ears, feeling the sweat trickle down my neck – all of that combines into a meditative state in which I think about everything and nothing at the same time. My mind roams free as instinct takes over and my body just runs. There’s nothing else like it in the world.
However, despite my passion and my belief that I truly embody what it means to be a runner, I feel a weird guilt every time anyone asks me the last race I ran and/or what next race I’m training for. I also feel guilty when people assume that I’ll be running a particular race (because I live nearby the route or I’ve run it before) and I have to tell them that I’m not. I feel like they must think I’m not a true runner if I’m not entering races. Cause that’s what runners do, right? They race?
Not me. I don’t care for racing. I don’t like the pressure. I don’t like the restrictions. When I run I want to run on my own terms. I want to run for however long I feel like at whatever pace I feel like. Races take that freedom away. Still, I can’t help but feel sorta guilty for thinking that way. Must I run races to be a runner? I think not. But then why do I sometimes feel judged for not signing up for every road race that comes my way. Where does this guilt come from? Is there some great public perception – that I am inadvertently buying into – that to “run” means to “race?”
What do you think? Must a runner race to be a true runner?
What are your two cents?