Am I Really a Runner?

This may seem like a silly question, but one that needs answering. I started running 37 weeks ago (I have a training diary). So far, I have run two 5Ks, a 10K and two half-marathons (training for my third half). My fastest 5K was 25:25 and I am hoping to break two hours for the half. Needless to say, I am no speed-demon. But because of my lean physique (I also bike, swim and hit the weights), people ask “are you a runner?” My answer is always “oh, heavens no!” So at what point do I call myself a runner? Is it after a certain length of time? Consistency in running? Number of events? Love of running? Thanks! – Nikki

My answer is “oh heavens, YES!” By all means you are a runner! Calling yourself a “runner” is based on nothing else but a love of running that leads to an active pursuit of running, regardless of run pace, run distances, weekly mileage totals, races, or even length of time running.

In your case, you know the exact number of weeks you have been training and have a training diary. You have 6 races under your belt, which average out to a race about every 6 weeks! You have tackled distances from a 5K to a half marathon and now you have a time goal in mind for your next race. Your 5K time of 25:25 predicts a 2:00 half marathon, so you are certainly within reach of your goal. What is the expression … if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, then it must be a duck? Yes, you are a “runner”.

Your enthusiasm and running goals are exciting. Please be sure you allow adequate recovery time on a weekly basis as well as between races. My concern is that you are moving at such a rapid rate with your training and racing that you may be risking injury or burn out.

Your training plan should have at least one day a week off for complete rest and it should include a variety of training paces and distances with gradual weekly mileage increases. One way to watch for signs of over-training is monitoring your resting heart rate. This is an objective measurement that is easy to assess and offers great insight. Measure your resting heart rate each morning, before rising, to establish your baseline heart rate. Once you have established your resting norm, watch for any increases. If you have a resting heart rate that is 10 beats or more above your norm, you know something is up. This is often a sign of illness, fatigue, or lack of recovery time and it is best not to push your training until your resting heart rate returns to normal. You can opt to sleep in, or do a short, easy recovery run rather than a hard run on that day.

Pace your training program much like you would pace yourself on a long run; start out slowly and let the run come to you. Here’s to a long and successful running career!

Best wishes! Susan Paul, MS

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