Posted by: Karen | March 24, 2008

Starting Over, and Labels

If there is one thing I have learned about runners, it is this:

They start over and over and over and over.

Sometimes they take long breaks – months. Years! But inside they still want to have that good running feeling again. Sometimes the breaks are a month, a week, a day, or a minute.

All runners progress through cycles and they are unique to each runner. Many people cringe at having to begin again and again, but in my experience, it’s just part of the lifestyle.

Once you accept that starting is an integral part of being a runner, you can find a way to enjoy starting (I realize this is a challenge). When you find a way to like beginning, you do it more often, and before you know it, you’re starting at higher levels.

Jon started me off on this topic by wondering if he is still a runner. I think it took me a good year or two of running until I thought of myself as a runner for life. Until then, I was someone who trained sporadically for various races.

Like Jon, I still am challenged by labels. My challenge is not “are you a runner” anymore – it’s “are you a marathoner?”. I’ve run one, so technically, I am. I might run another marathon some day (not this year), however, I really prefer shorter distances. I don’t feel a need to run a marathon ever again. Am I still a marathoner?



  1. I think so. I don’t think you need to keep reaffirming over and over that you are a marathoner. One 26.2 mile journey means you have joined the club for life!

  2. If you take the Ironman approach, it’s a label (and often a tattoo) that you keep for life. I vote yes.

    1 Marathon, maybe more, maybe not 🙂

  3. You are a marathoner and always will be. As for me, it is something I aspire to, yet currently I am gnawing through my own limbs worrying about this darned flu that’s keeping me from running. Can’t wait tooooo long between runs or I’ll lose it all!

    I am suffering from runners paranoia.

  4. Interesting post. I love the thoughtul ponderings. I ran a marathon in high school, but it was so long ago that I don’t think about it much these days. I still have the medal though. Funny though… I don’t think of myself as a marathoner. Maybe after the next one!

    There’s this thing called the “imposter syndrome” when people don’t feel like they’ve earned the right to call themselves by some label. (Happens a lot to grad students, actually!) Sometimes it takes a while to grow into your own skin.

  5. I think the hardest is when people assume you aren’t a runner. LIke, ‘you run?” as if you can somehow determine if someone is a runner based on height, weight, shoesize, brasize, headsize or attractiveness. They seem shocked that I am not only a runner but that i can tell them the correct mileage in a 12k 10k or how long a marathon…it like I said I eat dogs for dinner, because yum…they’re good. Sometimes I’m a maintenance runner, sometimes I’m in training and sometime I”m pregnant…or injured…but I’m always a runner and I get so darn defensive when people acted shocked by it…Do you run? Yes. And I also ate your dog for dinner…he was yummy.


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