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Out There: So What Exactly Is A “Real” Runner?

by Susan Lacke

A few months after I began running in 2009, I entered my first 5K. When friend of mine saw me with my bib number, she said, “You know the difference between a jogger and a runner? A race number!” Shortly after that, I ran another race with a fellow runner who wore a shirt declaring real runners kick assphalt. Shortly after that, a training partner declared he couldn’t truly call himself a runner until he had qualified for the Boston Marathon.

So what, exactly, is a “real” runner? Those of us who have no interest in racing, BQ-ing, or using a clever play on words to justify our existence as a runner need an answer. I’m making one. If you’ve ever had one of these experiences, count yourself in the running club:


It seemed like a good idea at the time to change for your evening workout at your office. You went to the bathroom down the hall, got into your shorts, t-shirt with the pit stains, and socks, then realized you left your running shoes at your desk. You never realized just how far the bathroom was from your desk until you made the trek in colorful spandex and high heels—or how creative your co-workers could be with nicknames.


At some point in training or racing, you will go out with a group that’s too fast, start with too much intensity, make a mistake in nutrition, or commit another cardinal running sin. Rather than own up to it, you drop back with an “injury,” fake-limping for a minute to catch your breath. There’s no shame in admitting it; most of the time, we learn from this humbling experience. As the saying goes, “You can’t learn from your mistakes unless you make them.” Just don’t make the same mistake twice.


Nature calls. You answer it. In the absence of a toilet, you search for an inconspicuous place to empty your bladder. Though most workout bathroom breaks will be quick and successful, eventually you’ll encounter a urinary upset. This usually takes one of two forms: You get caught mid-whiz—hopefully not by the police—or you topple over into a retaining wall, tree, or shrubbery. If you live in the desert, substitute “cactus” for “shrubbery,” and remember: The doctor removing the spikes from your behind isn’t laughing at you. She’s laughing with you.


You’ve likely been passed in a race by someone old enough to be your Grandpa’s Grandpa. Mad? You’re not mad—you’re impressed! In fact, the experience made you consider a hip replacement for yourself. Hey, Harold – wait up!


After a long run, you come home to eat your special recovery meal with its meticulously measured carb-to-protein ratio. You sit on the couch with your feet up, sipping your special recovery drink while you log your miles online. You, stud, are the pinnacle of discipline.

An hour later, your stomach grumbles. Perhaps you didn’t take in enough calories during your run. You make a trip to the kitchen and bring back a banana. Then a bagel. Then ice cream. Four hours later, the pizza delivery boy is at your house, pointing out the cupcake frosting on your nose.

If any of these experiences sound familiar to you, you’re most certainly a runner. If all of them do, well, we’ll just call you “seasoned.”

Now wipe that cupcake frosting off your nose.

Are You a "Real" Runner?


A very funny (and true) article about being a "real" runner. Have you experienced any (or all) of the stated? Then keep on runnin'.

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