Am I a Runner? A Lesson in Backtracking

If you’re any sort of creative, you’ve likely heard the speech about owning your title. “I’m not really a painter,” you say. “It’s just a hobby.” And you’re not a painter, because you don’t believe it—you won’t add the identity to your own. For years I never referred to myself as a writer. I thought I could have the title once I published something, once someone told me I was a writer, once I had a completed novel to send out. Up until someone else validated it, I wasn’t really a writer, just a faker with some creative ideas.

I feel the same way about being a runner. I haven’t yet accepted the title of runner. I’m waiting to finish a 5k, to finally invest in real running shoes, for a friend to casually drop the word while we’re out. I want someone else to give me the title, when it really won’t mean anything until I give it to myself.

This week I decided to backtrack in my Couch to 5K journey. After two weeks of failing to run for the full 25-28 minutes, I decided it was time to get some wins under my belt—even if I’d already achieved them. So I took it a step back a few weeks, and returned to running with breaks. On Monday I ran for five minutes, walked for three, ran for eight, walked for three, and ran for another five. And while it sort of felt like a failure to have to try again, the real failure would have been listening to that skank in my head who keeps saying “just quit—you’re not a runner.” So I got some good music, did a little dancing, and felt great. I did two ten minute runs on Wednesday, and again felt great. Music got me pumped (Sia’s Chandelier makes me look like a GLORIOUS IDIOT—1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, DRINK!—hand motions and all), and the weather kept me sane. Today I ran for the 22 straight minutes again in the terrible cold (46?? SNOW IN THE FORECAST? I hate you Minnesota), and felt surprisingly great. I even kept running after the stop time. I kept a 10:16 pace today, which is a step down from days past, but I’m calling it a win. I’m not overexerting myself, I actually enjoyed running.

I don’t know if I feel comfortable accepting the title of runner yet. At this point, I’m a little worried if I call it out too soon, I’ll spook it, like a scared rabbit. That just as quickly as I’ve started running, I’ll stop. I know it seems ridiculous, but I’ve begun and quit enough things (I’m a poet, I’m a pianist, I’m a playwright!), that I want to careful with what I commit to. So perhaps it isn’t now that I call myself a runner. But maybe, someday, I’ll find the title at the end of the block.

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