Sunday, February 11, 2007

My definition of a runner

I started running at the age of 27 as a means to control my emotions while going through a difficult divorce. At first and for a significant time the path I chose to run was a loop around my neighborhood. I traversed this loop 5 days a week at a consistent pace which allowed me to finish in 9 minutes flat each time. I certainly never considered myself a true runner. My older brother was my inspiration and what he accomplished as a young man training to be a part of his high school cross country team defined true running to me. I admired what he did so much that I was certain it was something I would never be able to match. My own goal was obviously to release my emotions through exercise but in large part I also wanted to be able to share a passion my brother had introduced to me. Thoughts of how excited he became after running 7 miles from our home to my grandfather’s house had always been in the back of my mind and still is today. I had always wanted that feeling of satisfaction and excitement and finally many years later as a young adult I made a concerted effort to acquire it. In no way did I ever think I would be able to be considered his equal and be called a runner nor did I want to. I only silently wanted to explore his world and feel and see what it was about. Even today I respect the discipline and work ethic my brother demonstrated as a child. He worked hard to make himself the best at whatever he attempted and he silently taught me many life lessons in the process of doing so. A middle child, I never said a lot but I certainly observed his every move and reap the benefits even today.

My purpose of writing today is to share my thoughts about my definition of a runner. A runner is anybody who runs any distance, any pace and at any frequency. If a person runs a ½ mile one time a week he or she is a runner. If a person runs a 14 minute mile he or she is a runner. If a person signs-up for a local 5K but finds that he or she is unable to finish that does not make the person any less of a runner. Be confident in who you are and do not allow those that run more or run faster or run everyday to intimidate you into believing they’re more of a runner than you are. Each of us has different ability levels that may allow one to reach the finish line before the other. That does not make the winner more of a runner than the person who comes in last or even the person who could only run 3 miles of a 5 mile race. It’s about effort and how much you’re willing to put forth. I know people who run both in the front and in the back and each have the same qualities that define a runner. Each is dedicated to the sport, well disciplined and willing to sacrifice time, energy, and time with their families in order to perform their best. Running is not about winning or losing but rather it’s about pushing yourself beyond your perceived limits while having fun at the same time. Always keep in mind that there are good runners but there are no bad runners and on Monday despite where you finish all of us still have to go to work.

I’ve never been in the habit of recognizing outstanding performances of others but this week I feel it is only appropriate to do so. 23 year old Jenn Shelton from Virginia Beach demolished the course record at the Rocky Raccoon 100 last week by running 14 hours and 57 minutes. Let me do the math for you. That equates to one hundred 8 minute and 58 second miles or four consecutive sub-4 hour marathons. She did so on a course that is widely considered the easiest in the United States but as a person who has run there I can assure you the course in no way can be compared to that of a flat asphalt road. She had challenges in the way of roots and mud to overcome which could have potentially slowed her considerably. I heard reports that not only did she have to overcome the natural challenges but also had to persevere though a nasty fall and resulting broken nose. As an ultra runner who participates in these types of races I rarely distinguish between men and women when I run. I consider everyone an equal with the ability on any given day to beat anyone whether male or female. In Huntsville, Texas on February 4th Jenn Shelton proved that what I believe is correct. Never underestimate anyone because we all have the potential for the greatness that Jenn displayed last week. Congrats to her and all of those that participated with her.

See ya
Dave B.


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