I have seen the debates on social media and running websites: what minimum level of fitness must be achieved in order to formally consider yourself a runner? Some believe that you have to race or maintain a certain pace to be considered a runner. Some believe it depends on the length of time you have been running. Others agree with Merriam-Webster and maintain that if you “go steadily by springing steps so that both feet leave the ground for an instant in each step“, you are a runner.
I humbly present my own test. If you answer “yes” to the items listed below, you may officially consider yourself “a runner“.
- Have you ever bragged to your friends about your healthy diet? You espouse a low-fat, vegan, gluten-free wellness plan, but during a race, do you put all kinds of chemical crap in your pie hole? You call it “calorie replacement” when you ingest substances with names like “gu”, “gel”, and “chews”, concoctions of dubious textures and brilliant artificial colors, many of which contain caffeine, and are not actually even food.
- Would you never be caught dead wearing the race shirt for the race you are currently running? (True story: I once motivated my son to run faster at the end of the race by telling him “Come on, we are not letting a man with the race shirt from this race beat us!”)
- Do you know what the acronyms ITBS, LSD, DNS, DNF, BQ, PR (or PB for Brits) mean? (Look them up if you don’t.)
- At social events, do acquaintances who have run out of things to say make small talk with you by asking about your training and/or race schedule? This has the potential to keep the conversation going for hours.
- Do you obsessively check the weather to see how it will affect your upcoming run? Have you run even though it is raining/sleeting/hailing/gale force winds? A former student who was on the track and cross country teams once asked me suspiciously, “you are not a fair weather runner, are you?”
- If you are a man, have you ever put Band Aids on your nipples? A real runner understands why.
- Have you ever peed, um, outside? Maybe behind a tree, bush, or even a really large dandelion? After mile five in a long race, all societal norms break down. I have seen lots of men (and some women) who have pulled over to the side of the road for a potty break without the potty.
- Do you have more running shoes than regular shoes? And do you want to buy more running shoes? This is a picture of part of my husband’s running shoe collection.
- Have you planned a vacation destination based on the availability of good running venues? I get Pittsburgh, PA and Denver, CO mixed up sometimes, even though they have completely different geography, because they both boast awesome paved paths to run on next to a river that flows through downtown. Both of these destinations are therefore acceptable for vacations.
- Did you ever discuss “fartleking” with another runner without giggling?
Only a true runner would answer “yes“!