What’s in a Name

I started this blog in April 2015 when I really wasn’t a runner. Actually maybe I was a little bit of a runner already by then. I was run/walking 3 miles ish 3 times a week and was some weeks into a runDisney training plan. Anyway. Really Not a Runner seemed like the perfect title for the blog because that’s how I felt. I didn’t feel like a runner. Runners are skinny folk who love every run, find it easy and can, you know, talk while they’re moving at an unimaginable pace smiling away happily looking forward to some yummy juiced kale when they get home. Runners are not lazy fat women like me who like chocolate. I exaggerate but I just didn’t see myself as one of them. Runners are other people.

Since then I have run two marathons (one of them as part of the Dopey Challenge), a handful of half marathons, a few 10ks and 5ks and hundreds of miles on roads and trails (nearly 500 this year alone). I often still run/walk but I can run far further without walking than I ever thought possible, I have got physically and mentally stronger. I’m healthier if not actually much less overweight and running has taught me all sorts of stuff about me and about others. And occasionally, actually more and more often, I actually enjoy running. I always enjoy having done it but sometimes I really do love the actual running too.

I have learned to decipher training plans, adapt them to suit me and I have identified my weak spots and what I need to do to strengthen them. I have figured out fuelling, got it wrong, got it right, started over… and I keep learning. And I miss it when I don’t run. It takes a little while for that realisation to hit but then I suddenly realise that that odd feeling is me missing running.

Ever since I joined the absolutely fantastic Trail Running Magazine’s Run 1000 miles challenge Facebook group and started sharing my running journey there, there have been suggestions/requests that I change the title of my blog. Runners are telling me I’m one of them. I’m a little emotional about that. Their support, advice, encouragement and good humour has been fantastic and invaluable this year and part of me wants to change the blog title for them, because they make me believe that I do belong, that they are just like me but a bit faster and a bit fitter (but that shit’s just numbers). They rightly point out that I run and therefore am a runner. They have a point.  Suggestions have been to just take out the ‘not’, then yesterday one was to change the t to a w to make it really now a runner. I quite like that.

But. Well. Really Not a Runner is me. It’s still how I feel. To me it sums up my relationship with running. Running is still the only thing I do that I am not good at. I wouldn’t dream of trying something else I’d be this bad at based on all objective data generally used to measure ‘good’. I’m not even not fast, I’m actually so slow that coming last in races is always a distinct possibility.  People walk their dogs faster than I run (true story!). I struggle with distance, with hills (up and down), with slippery, with mud, with wet, with boring flat, with road, with trail, with EVERYTHING. But I keep going. I know this applies to many runners and all runners know not every run is great and running isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. But there is something about the title that works for me. Taking the not out wouldn’t work because most days I don’t feel at all like a runner. I have achieved running stuff and I run but I don’t feel like a runner. But then I always struggle with this sort of stuff. I just feel like me. The change to ‘now’ is attractive because it captures the journey from sofa-dweller to plodding along but it doesn’t quite capture the ups and downs that running has brought  and will certainly bring in the future. It suggests a magic point at which I went from non-runner to runner (which logically of course is the point at which I put my trainers on and ran).

So I have added brackets around the ‘not’. The brackets allow for me to really be a runner as well as really not and that works for me. And I think it can also work for lots of other people – particularly starting out. It means I can run and acknowledge that just the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other at very slightly above walking pace (sometimes) makes me a runner. It also means that I can acknowledge that the hardest thing about running is mental. That not feeling like I’m good enough, fast enough, fit enough or whatever is normal. It allows me to feel like I’m part of the gang but also remember how far I’ve come, how much running has changed me and that it is ok for me to sometimes fall back to the me that really isn’t a runner. After all,  without the determination and bravery of the non-running me I wouldn’t be here 2 marathons later planning marathons 3 and 4. The brackets and leaving the ‘not’ in honour her and the millions of other yet to be runners who don’t think they can, who haven’t yet put their trainers on and tried (again maybe) but who will, when their time is right (which if you’re reading this and are thinking about possibly having a go – that time is now, right now – do it for you, go be awesome). You really don’t have to be a runner to be a runner. You just have to be you.

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