Question: what's a "real" runner?
For some, it's simple. You run? You're the real deal. Still, people use excuses to call themselves anything BUT, or worse, find ways to bar other people from the title. How far you run, where you do it, what you wear, if you listen to music or not—too many qualifiers have been part of the debate over time. Lucky for us, times are a changin'.
"I Run, but I'm Not a Runner."
In the "before" we had one idea of what a runner looked like: the gazelle-human hybrids with calves of steel, shredding any distance like so much iceberg lettuce, leaving the world huffing their dust. Now, the definition has opened up as Instagram tags, podcasts, and even advertising campaigns show us that real runners come in every size, at every speed.
If you're someone who is struggling to accept your title—aren't I just a JOGGER?—I've got one easy move to turn those tables. Ready? Of course you are.
1. Run outside. See other runner approaching from opposite direction.
2. As you come within eyesight of that runner, just as you're passing, elevate and then drop your chin in a nodding motion. Alternatively, give them a small wave. Soldier on.
It's called the Nod, or the Wave. (Creative, I know.) If you've ever received one, you know how awesome it feels. During my first half marathon training last year, one windy, rainy Sunday I had to tackle 14 kms, a distance I'd never taken on before. It was early. I left behind my sleeping friends and crept outside to brave the elements, feeling unsteady about the distance literally stretching ahead of me.
Then a fellow runner braving the elements gave me the Nod. It was like I had been accepted into a secret club. I was running solo, but I wasn't alone. I ran 16 km.
Community Building 101
This simple, powerful gesture turns random people into a community, and transforms joggers into runners. The Nod tells us we're all in this together. It says, "I see you." It says, "you're one of us!"
There is a small caveat that some runners may not return the gesture—don't take it personally. As Marc Parent wrote in his Runner's World piece "You Know You're A Runner When..."
"...when I see runners, I not only trust them, I wonder who they are. I think they could be my friends. I think we would feel the same about everything. We would like the same bands. The runners who frown when I smile and wave just don't understand that yet."
By giving someone ELSE the Nod, you recognize that you're doing the same thing they're doing. They run. You run. They're a runner? You're a runner. Boom. Welcome home.
Maybe this sounds ridiculous, but it's important that title of "runner" be shared by as MANY people as possible. We are not VIP. We are the literal human race. The more people who call themselves runners, the more we expand the scope of our sport. Outsiders might see themselves in our movement, and get courage to change their lives. More victories. More friends.
The running community, and the fitness community as a whole, improves as it grows and changes. And really, the more people who feel included, the stronger and more vibrant our movement becomes. We need to expand and welcome—nod if you agree.