Posted by: hjelen87 | November 28, 2012

I was a runner before it was cool


Everyone wants to feel like they are special.  We all want to have a way to stand out from the crowd.  But what happens when that thing that used to make you stand out from the crowd is overtaken by that crowd and no longer makes you different, but rather makes you seem just like everyone else?

In college, I was part of what I thought of as a unique, special group of people: runners.  We who were on the cross country team ran in snow, cold, rain, and heat.  We ran to push the limits of our bodies.  We ran to see just how far and how fast we could go.  We competed.  Sometimes, after a particularly cold, snowy run, we would come into the dining center in our spandex pants with our hair frozen and people would look at us like we were crazy.  And we liked it.  It made us stand out.  We were proud to be called runners.

And then, the masses descended.  Suddenly, everyone was a “runner.”  The local 5k road race filled to capacity with people who wanted to claim the label we had worked so hard to have.  I could no longer say I was a runner in casual conversation without half the room telling me that they were runners, too.  It bothered me.  They were encroaching on my territory.  And in the process, they were changing the meaning of the very word I used to use to describe myself.  Now, a runner is someone who finishes a 5k road race, whether they trained or not, no matter how slow they jogged or how many walk breaks they took.

Then something even worse happened: finishing a marathon became a fad.  Now everyone runs marathons, because it’s the cool thing to do.  And now, people who have finished a marathon think that they are more of a “real runner” than I, who haven’t finished a marathon, am.  It doesn’t matter to them that I’ve broken 5 minutes in a mile, or could run a 10 miler in the time it takes them to run a 10k.  I haven’t run a marathon, so I’m not a “real runner.”

Now I feel the need to change the terms somehow.  I still want to stand out from the crowd, but calling myself a “runner” is no longer a good way to do that.  So sometimes when I talk to people, and they ask me what I like to do in my spare time, I tell them I like to race, rather than just run.  Sometimes it works and they understand the distinction.  Many times it doesn’t.  And it’s not just me who wants to differentiate themselves from the “casual runners.”  Around the time when all those “Sh*t _____ Say” videos came out, there were plenty of runner ones, but I really related to this one that I found: Sh!t Serious Runners Say.  The creator of the video added the “serious” part to set himself (and those like him) apart from all the casual runners out there.

But regardless of the terms I now have to use to accurately describe myself and the thing I spend so much time doing, I just want to state right here for the record: I was a RUNNER before it was cool.



  1. Move to California….very few runners there I feel. Lots of gym rats but I only know/see a few runners. Here I do see tons of people out running….move to L.A. you’ll be a star!

  2. I never run. It’s not safe to run with scissors!

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