Let’s Get Real About Running

So in case you’re new here, I run. And I guess that makes me a runner.

But this is something I struggle with: calling myself a runner.

I officially started running for fun back in the fall of 2014 when I was a junior in college, and by the time I graduated, I thought running 1 mile was a lot.

After graduation, I fell off because I was working full-time and also in grad school part-time until December 2017. I wasn’t happy at my job at the time and going into 2018, I needed something to work on/look forward to, so I started researching 5K races because I thought running 3 miles doesn’t seem hard. (Spoiler alert: it is.)

I’ve been continuously running since April 2018, and to date, I’ve run 11 races (10 5Ks and one 1 mile race). I’ve never been athletic—thanks, exercise-induced asthma—so the fact that I’ve been running for two years is kind of a miracle. I started running because it was something that was accessible—I hate using machines—and I figured it couldn’t be too hard to start doing.

I’m currently looking at my first 10K race in less than two months—the same one I was supposed to run last year but bailed on a month before—and although I’m in training mode, I’m beginning to question A. why I chose running, and B. if I’m actually any good at it.

I still have to stop and walk during my runs, and sometimes I have to stop completely for a minute to catch my breath—darn asthma. Having to do both or either makes me think I’m not a true runner, because I can’t just go for a 4 mile run and be able to run the whole thing and not be wheezing at the end. For some reason, my mind is wired to think that in order to call myself something—in this case, a runner—everything I do relating to it has to be perfect.

When, in reality, I should be focusing on my progress.

I’m running three times a week, and my mileage per run is increasing. Because of my 10K running plan, this week I should be running 5.5 miles—I know I have to have at least one run of that distance, if not two—and every two weeks I increase that number by a half mile. (Since the beginning of December, out of my 13 runs, I’ve only run 3-ish miles three times. Everything else is 4+ miles.) So since I’m running longer distances, my times are naturally longer. And as I’m running further, I’m more focused on building endurance and being able to run longer rather than focusing on my time. But I’m still looking at my times and wondering why I’m so slow.

This is how I’ve become hard on myself lately, wondering why I’m not getting any better, because I’m not getting the times I think I should get, when, in reality, I really don’t know what my times should be. My expectations for the 10K race are to A. finish it, B. be okay with having to walk parts of it, and C. reward myself with beer(s) after. (It is a St. Patrick’s Day race after all.) I’m aiming for a time of about an hour and ten minutes, which will become my PR for a 10K race since this is my first.

This time last year, I was running 5K lengths during my weekly runs, and for most of the year, ran just about that or a little longer. I know that by the middle of March this year, I’ll be running 7 miles (even with walking), and I’ll probably keep up distances of 4-5 miles as I have all of my 5K races later on. I’m hoping that by running a little bit longer, it’ll help my 5K times when I know I only have to run 3.1 miles instead of 5, like I’ll be better at pacing myself.

After rereading this post, I know I should be proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish. And I am. But lately I’ve been overcome with “ugh, I really don’t want to run” and “I’m not good at this” when I’m only looking at the last few weeks of runs rather than the last two years. I need to keep telling myself that it’s okay to walk—it’s going to prevent me from having an asthma attack during a run. Eventually I won’t have to walk. And even if a run is bad, those miles still count. I’m currently battling the New England winter, so I have to adapt to the weather. I’ll run outside as long as it’s not bitterly cold; I’m mostly running inside either on the indoor track on campus or on the treadmill in my basement. Once it gets warmer/nicer out, I’ll definitely run outside more, and I should see an improvement in my times. And those are when the majority of my races are, so it’ll be more reflective of what I can accomplish.

If you’ve made it this far in the post, congrats. I just kind of needed some place to word vomit about running.

10 comments

  1. When we saw Sara Bareilles at Times Talks last year, they introduced her to some who called herself an “aspiring writer.” Her reply was basically that if you write, you’re a writer … no “aspiring” about it.

    See also: you and running.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I totally get where you’re coming from wanting to feel like a runner and thinking the only way I could call myself that is by being a “perfect” runner. I’ve been a runner for about three years and sometimes still feel like I shouldn’t really call myself that, but just give yourself grace, you are a champion for getting out there and continuing to go for it! I’ll be rooting for you on your quest to finish your 10k! You can do it!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You’re still a runner, even if you need to walk during a run. I’ve been running for 7 years now, and I still need to walk during my runs (I have asthma too) – especially during the long ones. In trail running, it’s often advised to walk and even the elites do it. And even well-known road runners, such as the Olympian Jeff Galloway!

    You sounds like you’re doing really well in your training. 1:10 sounds like an achievable goal for your first 10K. And don’t worry too much about paces when training… Race day is often different with the excitement and adrenaline. I look forward to reading your race recap!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Asthma sucks. But it is what it is. I went for a run yesterday, planned on running 5 miles, but then only ran 1 mile and did 2 miles of a track workout (walk, run, sprint, run) because I just wasn’t feeling it but didn’t want to not do something. And I walked a few laps at the end, and it still felt good.

      Thanks! 🙂 I definitely know race day will be different but I just want to be prepared haha.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Asthma sucks, but at least running helps with it. My breathing has improved so much since I started running more seriously.

        That sounds like a good interval workout! I often do the same on my treadmill when I just don’t feel like braving the elements. The winters are much milder here, but so grey and rainy… It’s often tempting to just stay in with a blanket and Netflix.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. From my perspective, I consider you a runner. But if I were in your position, I’d be hesitant to call myself that too. Heck, I don’t like calling myself a writer or a blogger even though both are technically true. I just feel like a person who writes. And if you don’t want to call yourself a runner, just say you’re a person who runs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I feel like I need to put in X amount of miles or X amount of races before I can call myself a runner. But I’m trying to be better about calling myself a runner. And at least telling people I run makes for good small talk.

      Liked by 1 person

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