Here's a bargument for you: can someone run and yet not be a "runner". That is the question Megan and I have debated recently, and I am less certain of the answer than when we first started discussing the topic. You see, Megan has run a marathon before. In fact, she has run three of them. I know this because I trained with her for all of them and ran alongside her for all of them. In other words, I can vouch that she as done a lot of running. Over several years, she has clearly established herself as someone who runs. Yet, she does not feel like a runner.
When I asked her why, she had a whole series of responses ready, like "I never feel the runner's high", "I am a back-of-the-packer", "I would never want to run by myself", and finally "I don't enjoy running". O.K., fair enough I thought, but many of these reasons are things that any runner on any given day can think and still be a runner.
I have felt a runner's high, but not very often, and when I have it has been fleeting. I do however feel the runner's mellowness that Amby Burfoot describes nicely in The Runner's Guide to the Meaning of Life- a book that Mike turned me on to. He describes this as "simply the warm, contented feeling that almost all runners have after nearly every run". Actually, I think Megan might really like this book except that reading it might make her more of a runner than she is willing to admit. She does admit to feeling this contented feeling after run. In fact, it is probably one the main reasons she tolerates running.
As to being a back of the packer, unless you are a truly elite runner, you can always potentially be a back of the packer. You just have to find the right(or wrong pack). It is only a matter of perspective. No matter how slow you are, there is probably somebody slower out there. More likely, there could be millions or billions of people slower out there, especially if you include walkers or people who do not exercise at all. Further, no matter how fast you are, there is always someone faster. Even if you are Kenyan, this can be true. Back-of-the-packers work just as hard as front-of-the-packers and certainly run as far. I have very much enjoyed running at a slower pace in marathons with my wife, but it is frustrating to finish the race and have almost all of the food and other goodies taken by the faster finishers. That never strikes me as fair. Note to race directors, hold back some of your best food for the back-of-the-packers. They paid just as much to enter the event and don't have a chance at winning age group awards.
I actually don't mind running by myself, though I prefer in general to run with others. It definitely is easier to get up and out the door when I run with a group, and I certainly laugh a lot more on a group run. The time seems to pass more quickly and effortlessly. Yet running along isn't all that bad either. Some of my best thinking seems to happen when I am running by myself. However, the time passes more slowly, and it can be challenging to stay motivated on a a longer run. There also is no one to complain to!
That last reason that Megan claims she is not a runner is the hardest one for me to take on. Simply, she doesn't like to run. I like to run. I enjoy the process, the feeling of gliding along, sometimes effortlessly, other times almost heaving, but always feeling alive and connected with the world around me. I'm not sure she feels this. There are plenty of activities that don't give me this feeling, so I can relate to it on some level. I don't like using the stair-stepper, or the rowing machine, or really any type of workout machine. Come to think of it, I don't like working out inside at all.
So cast your vote, can you run without being a runner? To borrow a line from Mike V's other blog, perhaps "attitude makes the difference". I respect Megan for not feeling that she is a runner, but I still think she is wrong.