My mom started running when she was (I think) 57. She started with 5Ks, and she worked her way up to running half marathons. At some point, we likely knew we would have to be a little realistic: The later in life you begin running, the more difficult it is to avoid injuries because you’re simply not as conditioned. She was recently given some unnerving news: She has to tone it down and stick to shorter distances, like 5k.
I’m sure she would be lying if she said she wasn’t a little bit upset. However, she seemed excited at the prospect of running shorter races. And then…she started explaining herself.
Once again, I am going to argue against the stigmas that we might face as runners. Heck, we may even participate in them sometimes – either by choice or by habit. When my mom started to explain why it should be fine to enjoy shorter distances, I started to realize that your distance does not define whether or not you are a runner or a member of the running community.
There is no set rule that you have to run a certain distance to be considered a runner. Exciting news – anyone who runs is a runner!
Your pace doesn’t make you any less of a runner, either. So…about two days ago, I tried to run at an ungodly fast speed. It was miserable, and I had to cut my run short because over-striding causes IT band pain like you can’t believe. I thought, “Why the hell did I do this?” I have a history of obsessing over pace, and I have to remind myself that my pace doesn’t make me any less of a runner. It makes me a runner who just isn’t as fast as I want to be yet. If I decide I don’t want to be any faster than I am now, who cares. Still a runner.
Walk breaks are actually really smart, and they don’t make you less of a runner – they likely make you a smarter runner. No disrespect to anyone that can run, like literally run, distance races. I’m a product of Jeff Galloway, a former Olympian who BQ’d while still taking walk breaks. Another one of my favorite trainers, Hal Higdon, says that we need to respect everyone on the course whether they walk, run, or both. Taking walk breaks allows your body to recover just a tiny bit before you start pounding the pavement again. You’re probably the person who can go grocery shopping after your half instead of sitting in a bathtub full of ice. Kudos to you!
The running community is one of the most supportive out there, and I am so thankful to be a part of it. Let’s continue to make sure everyone feels like the runner that they truly are, no matter what the distance is.