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What makes you a ‘real’ runner?

What makes you a ‘real’ runner?

What makes you a ‘real’ runner? Or, maybe more importantly, what makes you not a ‘real’ runner? It’s a question that seems to pop up quite a lot in online forums and articles. Opinions are wide ranging; some of the posts I have seen say that you’re not a ‘real’ runner if:

  • You listen to music
  • You take walk breaks
  • You don’t enter races
  • You’re not a member of a running club
  • You haven’t completed a marathon
  • You’ve completed a marathon but had to walk some of the way
  • You don’t run every day……

Before my first blog post descends into incoherent ranting, I should introduce myself. I’m Sophie, I’m 30 years old, from Cardiff and last month I ran my first marathon (I’m amazed I managed to get over 100 words into writing this before dropping that in!). I’ve thought for a while about starting a blog to share my experiences of running, both good and bad, but most importantly, real. This will not be a glossy aspirational lifestyle blog; I won’t be posting pretty pictures of avocado based breakfasts, or my top training tips. This will be blisters, tears, black toenails, days off, ‘accidental’ prosecco, and chafing… hopefully not all at the same time.

Last year I went to watch 2 friends run in the Berlin Marathon, and from there I caught the bug. Having run a few half marathons in the past, I decided the time was right to go that one step further. However, me being me, I didn’t stop just at one marathon. I decided to complete the equivalent of 3 marathons in 2017- two half (Newport and Cardiff) and two full (Brighton and Edinburgh). I often have days when I wonder why I’ve signed myself up for what is proving to be a fairly onerous challenge. This got me thinking about what being a ‘real’ runner means to me;

  • The feeling when you have a terrible day, and getting outside for a run makes it all better;
  • Equally, the feeling of disappointment in yourself on days where you can’t bring yourself to get out, for whatever reason, then having to pull yourself together and get yourself back on track the next day;
  • The camaraderie and support you get from other runners, in person or online. I’ve joined a local running club, and love the @ukrunchat and @runr_uk communities on Twitter;
  • The head space and internal dialogue you experience on long runs; 4 hours inside your own head can really help you learn a lot about yourself;
  • Becoming absolutely obsessed with running kit; new trainers, new watch, new headphones…. The list goes on. If it’s out there, I will no doubt have coveted it for a short period of time and then caved in and bought it;
  • Having both a better body and a worse body than you’re used to; more toned legs and arms versus black toenails, blistered feet and chafe marks just about everywhere you can imagine them;
  • The challenge of getting the balance right between trying to eat as healthily as possible and using the need to ‘refuel’ and ‘carb load’ as an excuse to eat pizza- this is something I’ve not quite nailed down yet;
  • Being baffled by running lingo and technique…. people talk about tempo runs, hill work, speed sessions, and it makes me feel like I should be doing something other than just sticking my headphones on and running;
  • Trying not to get too hung up on times. I have friends who run a marathon in under 4 hours; my official finishing time for Brighton was 5.53.11. It’s hard sometimes not to line yourself up next to others and feel as though your race was somehow less because you walked a bit and it took you 2 hours longer. I try and remind myself that 26.2 miles is still 26.2 miles regardless of how long it took you; I have read blogs by sub 4 hour runners who say they can’t imagine the mental strength it must take for someone to be out running for nearly 6 hours, and I think that being a slower runner is a whole different challenge in terms of the stress it puts on your mind and body.
  • That feeling of incredible pride when you cross the finish line, regardless of the distance or time. I spent most of the race in Brighton welling up because I just couldn’t believe I was actually running a marathon. There is nothing quite like achieving something that you never thought would be possible, and nothing else I’ve done in my life has quite replicated that feeling.

Everyone will have their own take on how running has changed them, their favourite and least favourite things, what they find hard and what they absolutely love. One thing I am sure about though is that being a ‘real’ runner doesn’t have anything to do with how far, fast or often you run. It’s about doing things you never thought possible, challenging your limits, learning new things about yourself and hopefully becoming a part of a great community along the way.

I’m now 4 weeks away from my next marathon, with a half marathon to come next weekend as part of my training. I’ll keep you up to date on how things are going, and share a bit more about how I’ve got to this point. Feel free to check in on Twitter (@Sophie_Taylor87) if you want to see details of my runs, pictures of my puppy and copious food and drink related posts!

Please follow my running journey through my blog:

For now, I’ll leave you with one of my favourite running quotes:

"If you run, you are a runner. It doesn't matter how fast or how far. It doesn't matter if today is your first day or if you've been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run."


Thanks to Sophie for sharing her running experience and we look forward to following her progress!

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