A blog by runners. For runners.

How can you tell if you’re a ‘real’ runner? Avoid the click-bait and just look in the mirror

If you run, you're a real runner. Period. The end.Click-bait has taken over the Internet –  or at least, my Facebook feed. I’m constantly taunted by articles like, “You know you’re a real runner when you …”  or “10 ways to tell a serious runner from a non-serious runner.”

Too much chum in the water, if you ask me. Because if you lace up your shoes, lean forward, and avoid falling on your face, you’re running. Plain and simple. (Unless you pump your arms and dip your knees to fool your gym teacher – I’m looking at you, Mr. Hagy!)

A few years ago, in his wildly popular book, Born to Run, Chris McDougall explained the origins of running for survival. He detailed how a strong gluteus maximus enables us to cover more distance, faster, and more efficiently.

He wasn’t the first one to discover or author these claims. But he wrote about them well. How many of you stashed a jar of chia seeds in your pantry after reading? Readers ate it up. Many of us nodded our heads when big bad Nike was thrown under the bus. In the most peculiar way, maybe some of us even shook out fingers at Vibram when we got our MRI scans back.

The truth is, there are not enough conclusive, longitudinal studies to say a fore, mid, or heel strike is more efficient; to say barefoot, “minimalist,” or cushioned trainers are better, either.

We have data. Oh boy, do we have data! Lots of it. But the human body can defy data. Always does. It can excel with an “inefficient” stride or strike. Just look at Deena Kastor and Shalane Flanagan. Their idiosyncrasies are almost poetic.

Three years ago, Simon Winchester, an op-ed contributor for the The New York Times, wrote about the magic word in our language with the most definitions or senses. You guessed it—RUN! Some 645 senses. But why? If you don’t have time to be bored, you know why.

Because we’re always on.

Busy. Moving. Can’t talk now. Working. Driving. Checking. Double checking. Tapping. Pressing. Scrolling. Crunching. Clicking. I’ll take that to go.

As a culture, we obsess over definitions and categories. Left and right. Black and white. In and out. And it’s hard to escape this way of thinking. We seek patterns. We need them. Patterns lead to truth, truth leads to understanding, comfort, power, faith, security. We seek and understand patterns at an early age. Patterns help us know a dog from a cat; a frog from a toad; edible berries from poisonous ones. In many cases, this stuff matters. But in many cases, it really doesn’t.

What’s a real runner? Give me a break.

Deep down, we all have our own reasons for lacing up our shoes (or even going sans shoes), leaning forward, and channeling the forces of gravity.

We run because it’s primal. We chase. Evade. Hunt. It’s our way to embrace the gravity of our decisions and movements.

We run because it’s existential. We solve problems, think more clearly. We catch a glimpse at truths that elude us when we have two feet planted on the ground.

We run because it’s biological – inscribed in our DNA.

We run because it’s healthy. We lose weight and inches, inhibitions and borders. We gain confidence and muscle, awareness and appreciation.

We run because we can’t stop the earth from turning. We can’t slow time. We can’t go back.

So the only thing that makes sense is to get ahead of it. Or escape it. No matter who you think you are and what you’ve done by the end of the day, running makes you better. It helps you feel like you exist. It makes you feel real.

Written by Stephen Marcin.

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