If you don’t run, are you a runner?
My identity is so closely intertwined with running that I find it incredibly difficult to take any time off for fear of losing this ‘runner’-self which I have worked for six years to embrace. However at the moment I am taking that break, barely running at all, letting my body heal after a big season of racing. I know it’s necessary to recover, but it’s putting my entire being into tailspin…
Recently I listened to a podcast in which someone said that people who come to running later in life (eg. not from the day they were born) find it much more difficult to take a time-out because they fear that they will lose all their fitness. In comparison, elite athletes (who have run their whole lives) will take an off-season each year, and just accept that they will build up their fitness again the following cycle. To me, it again has to do with the idea of identity: I still feel like the ‘runner’ label can be taken away from me at any moment, as opposed to others who will be a runner their whole lives, even after retirement. While I would like this to be my primary state of being, there is still the idea in the back of my mind that perhaps this is just a ‘phase’ I’m going through.
Injury is the most common reason for having to stop running. It’s unfortunate that a majority of runners will encounter some issue or another, and I have seen people retreat socially in their injuries, because they don’t know how to be around their running friends when they themselves can’t partake. As a major sufferer of FOMO, I completely understand this need to escape. With praise to the heavens/gods/beings-on-high, I am lucky enough to never have been significantly injured and forced to take a complete break from running. My current break though is due to a persistent niggle in my left quad which has left me thinking: if this doesn’t go away, what would I do? Can I still be the person I have shaped myself into over these past years?
If you run, you are a runner. If you’re on a break, forced or voluntary, but will come back to running, then yes – you are still a runner (if you want to be). But I also want to challenge the idea of attaching yourself to a single label. I recently heard the term ‘athlete with a focus on running’ be used in lieu of ‘runner’, and I like how that sounds. Not only does it imply a more rounded person (you could also replace ‘athlete’ with ‘kickass wo/man’), but it also gives you room to shift your focus as life changes. Normally you may be an ‘athlete with a focus on running’, but right now you can be an ‘athlete with a focus on resting and recovering’. And that sounds pretty great, right?