You Know You're A Runner...
Had a medical procedure recently. Nothing big. Just one of those things suggested for men of a certain age. My big "you know you're a runner" moment came afterward, when I bragged to my wife that the nurse had made mention of my low resting pulse. She gave me a weird sideways glance and let me prattle on for a minute before finally shutting me down, pointing out that my low pulse was more than counterbalanced by a stern warning from the doctor about some pre-cancerous discoveries and the need to change my diet. I heard her out. She clearly wasn't getting the picture. "But," I said when she'd finally finished, "my pulse was 44. That's pretty cool."
You know you're a runner when you're more proud of your pulse than you're scared of death.
You know you're a runner when you think you can eat anything, knowing you'll burn it off during tomorrow's run.
You know you're a runner when you get a certain sense of calm about your case of plantar fasciitis, knowing that only veteran runners get that hideous maladay. New runners and non-runners, on the other hand, get shin splints.
You know you're a runner when the idea of "calf-stripping" -- a hideous deep tissue massage of the lower leg -- sounds like your sort of challenge, if only to see if you can handle the pain.
You know you're a runner when...
I could go on and on. The point is that what sounds like absurd behavior to some people sounds pretty spot-on to the running community. I'm not a barefoot guy, for instance. In fact, I think the whole barefoot movement is right up there with running a marathon a day for two months straight as an indicator of individuals with a desperate need to call attention to themselves. But the same could be said for any aspect of the running world -- trail running versus treadmill running; half-marathons dressed as Tinkerbell; running in a pouring rain rather than just taking the day off, knowing that you will be a complete jerk to be around unless you get your run in. Running is the last bastion of true individuality, a place where quirkiness and your right to run wherever and however you want is unquestioned. I know, for instance, that this Saturday I will spend a solid two-plus hours in front of my TV, glued to the US Olympic Marathon Trials. Many out there in the running world will not even know that it's on. That doesn't mean we're not all runners. It means that we appreciate the pursuit for different reasons.
The reason I bring all this up is that from time to time I don't actually feel like I'm much of a runner. This occurs when I get injured and can't run. Or, as in the case of right now, I've completely overdone the holiday food and the scale confirms that I am heading straight to sumo-size if I don't push back from the table on a regular basis. These are not the words of a skeletal ectomorph unnaturally alarmed by an extra pound. These are the words of a man who has gained enormous amounts of weight on two occassions in his life, and knows that as I get older it's harder and harder to take it off. When I gain weight I don't feel like a runner. I don't feel like a runner because I don't look like a runner -- or the stereotypical vision of a runner. I'm not skinny, my jawline is invisible, my shirts fit too tight. When I don't look like a runner I imagine that people in passing cars casually say to one another that the linebacker running down the street should pick up the pace a little. On days like that, it feels like there is no hope that I will ever be the stereotypically ultra-lean runner. And truth be told, I probably won't. I'm too undisciplined -- or rather, when I am disciplined in my work I am an undisciplined in some other area of life. But these are the days I most need to remind myself that I am a runner. Because running will cure the blues that come with feeling hopeless. Running will remind me of my physicality, rather than my penchant for sloth. And running will give me that great peace of mind that comes when I get away from my phone and my computer and get my head in the right place for 20 or 40 or 80 minutes. Which is my way of saying that I need to go for a run right now.
In the end, you know you're a runner when you run. That's it. Doesn't matter how you look, how fast or slow you go, what shoe you prefer, where you stand on the mental stability of Dean Karnazes, and whether or not you believe that Ryan Hall's faith-based training is an example of having faith in yourself or faith in God. Stand at the finish line of a big city marathon and you will marvel that each and every runner looks completley different -- big, small, black, white, male, female. And yet they are all runners. Each and every one.
And for some strange reason, they are all smiling. Finishing a marathon has that effect on some people. Not me, I grimace. The marathon crushes me -- and yet I still feel like me and the marathon have some unfinished business.
So this is me, closing the computer and picking up my shoes. The first half-mile of any run from my house is my least favorite part, because it involves crossing two major streets and basically schlubbing along the sidewalk as my legs unlock. But after those first few minutes there is a trailhead, the one that goes to the Pacific in one direction and to the top of Mother Saddleback in the other. Somewhere out there on that trail I will forget that I feel enormous today, and stop any other form of self-judgment. And I will run until some still small voice tells me its time to go home.
You know you're a runner when you run.
Keep Pushing... Always