The Difference Between Running and Being a Runner

“Running is more than a sport or a form of exercise, a passion or a pastime. It’s about identity.”

I love “I am” statements.

When you’re a kid, the question everyone asks is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” When you get older the question somehow warps into “What job do you want?” or “what is your career path?” In other words, what do you plan to do?

This causes many of us to forget about who we plan to be.

“I am” statements powerfully shift that way of thinking. They tie purpose and direction with identity. You can’t get fired from who you are. I am a doctor. I am a massage therapist. I am a librarian. You have a skill, a niche, a place for yourself that no one can take from you.

We get this. How many times have you said “I am a runner”, when telling people who you are?

Even if we go through phases of life where we don’t particularly like our jobs, our relationships are difficult, our parenting is in a rut, or we just don’t feel fulfilled or passionate about things in general, we have another identity – another way of being. And a way of being together.

Running is more than a sport or a form of exercise, a passion or a pastime. It’s about identity.

I found this quote, and I love it:

“Identity influences every aspect of our character, but it has special relevance to grit. Often, the critical gritty-or-not decisions we make – to get up one more time; to stick it out through this miserable, exhausting, summer; to run five miles with our teammates when on our own we might only run three – are a matter of identity more than anything else.

“Often, our passion and perseverance do not spring from a cold, calculating analysis of the costs and benefits of alternatives. Rather, the source of our strength is the person we know ourselves to be.” – Angela Duckworth

How true is this? How relevant to the grit and the gift of running! Maybe, at the beginning, our running began as an effort to get healthy. Maybe getting up early or getting off the couch had something to do with a cost/benefit analysis of the value of lacing up versus being lazy.

Maybe “how I want to feel” or “how I want to look” simply outweighed the ease of inertia or apathy. But over time and over the kilometres, something shifted. We ceased to question whether we should go for that run, because we became people who run, as opposed to people who were trying to change something about ourselves.

We became runners. It’s who we are.

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