What Makes A Runner?

March 19, 2014

Kathleen from FrugalPortland.com discusses what it means to be a runner


The following is a guest post from the amazing Kathleen, another frugality blogger whom I adore.  She just completed a half marathon, her first- and totally kicked tush…so proud to have her guest posting today!

Hi, I’m Kathleen, and my corner of the internet is Frugal Portland, where I discuss ways to live more simply and have a fulfilling, frugal life in my home city. Thanks, Shannyn, for letting me post over here!

I don’t consider myself a runner. In fact, when Shannyn came to visit, and suggested we run a “fun” 5K on the 4th of July, I was skeptical. So I didn’t train for it, but I ran, and I did fine, and then I put my shoes away. See, Shannyn is a runner. No doubt about it. She gets the medals, she runs when it’s six degrees outside, she has a routine, all of it. But I’m not a runner.

Over the winter, my fiancé talked me into running with him. Actually, that’s not true. I wanted to run with him. See, he’s a runner, too. And I saw how much he enjoyed running (or probably, more likely, how much he enjoyed being done with a run). One of his goals is to run a half marathon (or longer) in each of the 50 states. I’m down with traveling, so I said I’d join him.

“Great! There’s a half marathon in New Orleans in February!” he said, in November.

And so we trained. And trained. Guys, running is no joke. You have to do it 3-4 times a week, even when you don’t want to. And boy did I not want to. I didn’t want to leave the warm comfy bed only to find myself shivering in the cold for three miles. I was not a runner. I was the fiancée of a runner.

But then I got to thinking. What makes a runner? And furthermore, why don’t I feel like one?

The Gear

I have the shoes. I did the whole “get fitted” thing where I went into a running store, walked on a treadmill, tried to understand what on earth he was talking about when he said I tended to pronate (my initial reaction was to get defensive: “I do not! What’s that?”). I have the clothes. Heck, I even have winter running things. Running gloves. Running tights. Running long sleeve shirts. A running jacket with little reflective bits. One of those silly running headband things that tells the world “hi, I am so hardcore that I will run even when it’s freeze-your-ears-off cold outside.” Smartwool running socks.

It’s not the gear that makes a runner.



The Bling

Over the summer, I ran a 5K that handed out medals the size of coasters. What the heck? I had absolutely no interest in keeping that thing. The last race I ran had beer openers as medals. Now those were useful. But a piece of medal on the end of a ribbon indicating that I was willing to pay $20 to run a 5K? There’s just not room for things like that in my life.

I see other people (good friends, no less!) talk about how exciting the new medals are at whatever race they’re running. I simply do not get it. So it must not be the bling that makes a runner.


“Runners High”

Runners tell you that there’s adrenaline, this high they get when they run. They feel so good! They get the sense they can accomplish anything! Whee!

Well, I want that. In fact, I really want that. The best I’ve felt about running, ever, is finishing. To me, it’s like laundry. I don’t like doing laundry, but I sure do like having clean clothes. So I don’t like running, but I sure do like marking one more day in my training calendar.


The Willingness to Run, No Matter What

Runners run. They run when it’s hot, they run when it’s raining, and they run when it’s snowing. They just run.

Well, then, maybe I am a runner. Because I run when I don’t want to run. I’m on a schedule. I want to finish a half marathon in 2 hours 15 minutes (talk about arbitrary – I hardly know what that means!). So I train. I get out there and run 3-4 times a week. Even in the winter. During cold snaps. Probably when it snows (though I haven’t had to test that theory yet).

I run, not because I feel like running, but to mark something off my to-do list.

Does that make me a runner?



Honestly, it all comes down to attitude. I had the same problem last year, identifying myself as a writer. But I am a writer. Writers write. Runners run.

So I suppose I am a runner too. Even though I feel like a yogi who sometimes runs with her boyfriend. I think I’ll be a stronger, more positive runner if I change my outlook, and I’ve found that going public with my intentions really helps me, so here goes:

Hi, I’m Kathleen, and I’m a writer and a runner.


Hey, that actually feels better. I’m a runner. Yes indeed. No qualifiers. I don’t need to say new, or slow, or just starting out or anything. I’m a runner. Full stop.

Now I’m off to go wash my running clothes. Because no matter what, I love the day after long runs. It’s called a rest day, and my interpretation is restorative yoga, lots of sitting, and no running.

I run for the rest day. But I’m still a runner. Hey, I ran a half marathon and wanted to do another even before my legs stopped being sore!

Mind over matter, people.


8 comments so far.

8 responses to “What Makes A Runner?”

  1. S says:

    I think a runner is someone who goes out and runs. The labels are funny, who cares? Just go out and run when you want or need to. Some of the best runners I know are pretty minimalist in gear–good shoes, but adequate running clothes, cheap watches, no frills.

    • Andy says:

      Totally, labels are silly… unless you call me a jogger, then I’ll unload on you… in my head.

    • Cally says:

      I had to laugh reading the “journey of a runner”,
      That was my metamorphosis too. I started running around our high school track. I was 54 and my goal was to complete one lap without stopping. I remember the feeling when I finally made it. I’ve been running 14 years now with my husband . We ran through our sixties and now we’re going for our seventies. We finished an 8 K last Sunday, our best times ever. I am a runner but still, the fun begins when the race is over!
      This is frugal excercize. No monthly gym fee!

  2. Andy says:

    I always feel sad when new runners feel the need to justify calling themselves runners. If you strap on running shoes and go for it, you’re doing better than everyone else sitting around and shouldn’t feel bad about calling yourself a runner. No non-runner will dispute your new title and no real runner would dare discourage you from joining the sport.
    Running isn’t easy and just because you can’t run a mile without walking, you shouldn’t feel bad. Hal Higdon and Jeff Galloway both advocate for walk breaks in their training programs, including the marathon.
    Find what makes running worthwhile to you, I run because I enjoy the scenery. Others do it for feeling healthy or to calm the mind. Making it worthwhile and sticking with it is what makes you a runner.
    One last thing, running in place at a stop light doesn’t do a damn thing for your legs and makes us all look bad, so just stand there and look pissed until the light turns green (really we’re happy that we “had” to take a break).

  3. kathleen says:

    I KNOW the labels are silly but if you identify as a something, you’re more likely to do that something. I’m a runner who hasn’t laced up her shoes in a few weeks. It gives more weight to running.

  4. I just started to jog every 5:00 A.M, running or jogging is definitely fun, you would meet new friends and have a healthier life. I do jog at the city hall in our place, I just bought my new running watch and running shoes, hopefully I could join a running marathon.

  5. April says:

    Agree with the previous comments… What makes a runner? Simple. Someone who goes for a run… I run slow… otherwise known as jogging… If you call me a jogger I don’t take it as an insult. Come on!!! Does it matter what someone calls me or thinks of me? I’m moving… putting one foot in front of the other, taking care of myself… I don’t get this long list of what makes a runner…. I don’t have the money to get all of the awesome gadgets… Just step outside and move. Let go of the need to meet a bunch of criteria.


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