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The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Runner: Coming Out as a Not-Always Runner

The internet is flooded with inspirational advice for runners. This advice falls into roughly three categories: (1) Sparkly Unicorn Heart Advice; (2) Ambiguously Inspirational Advice; and everyone's favorite, (3) Disappointed Older Sibling Advice. Sparkly Unicorn Advice-givers say things like: "Always be yourself. Unless you can be a runner. Then always be a runner!" or "I always thought of running as just DANCING forward." While I have tried dancing at marathons-- mainly to get the feeling back in my bloodless arms-- I can say with substantial certainty that running is absolutely nothing like dancing. When I recently mentioned to future husband that we might should take a dance class for our wedding, he replied that he didn't think we could find a physical therapy class that would fit that bill. For those of you that missed the joke: I can run, but I sure as hell can't dance. run the edge inspirational quote dancing

Ambiguously inspirational Advice, on the other hand, is the kind of advice that could be about anything or anyone at all. The quote itself isn’t directly related to running and and for all you know, it was written by some dead white guy who only lived to what we now consider middle age, four-score and a hundred years ago. Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and even ole Bill Faulkner are all up to the task of giving Ambiguously Inspirational Advice. Quotes like: “Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience,” with a beautiful background of crisply green, Oregon woods. See what I did there? It has the word “pace” in it so, like, it can be about running, right? It doesn’t matter that RWE was born in 1803 and running really wasn’t high in the to-do queue for 19th-century American intellectuals.

ralph waldo emerson instagram run oregon

Third and finally, we have Disappointed Older Sibling Advice. Things like “Don’t ask me why I run. Ask yourself why you DON’T” and my all-time-favorite backdoor brag, “My sport is your sport’s punishment.” As the oldest child of three, I’m informed that I give out a lot of this unwelcome disappointment-based advice. I, of course, have no idea what they’re talking about. I love and respect everyone’s completely valid life choices, no matter how stupid they are. *cough*

smug bastard running in road microsoft paint gif

Of course, sometimes inspirational advice just isn’t inspirational enough to get you out there and running, no matter what format it comes in– radically aspirational, relatable due to ambiguity, or just plain mean and condescending. So to that end, I’m coming out.

I am coming out as a runner who loves running with all her heart but who doesn’t always have the time or energy to run. Sometimes I spend entire weeks NOT running. At this point in my life, with so many things in the inevitably monstrous to-do list, sometimes two-dimensional inspiration isn’t inspirational enough to get me out the front door. Looking at my training log on Nike+, for instance, is a true comparison of contrasts. Last fall, I kicked total a$$ with several months of mileage in the triple digits– three whole numbers! For once I was finally able to reply to one of my local running shoe store’s month-so-far mileage weigh-ins on Facebook. Granted, I was still far below those kooks who somehow get up into the 150s in a month (how do they do that?!), but for me, hitting 100 felt like a wildly huge accomplishment.

Flash forward to the new year, and while everyone else was either getting their butts out into the road for the first time or with new running goals for 2014, I got distracted with a new Big Law gig, a kidney infection, ramped up wedding planning, and a big old heaping helping of I just don’t feel like it. In January I ran 15.9 miles and in February– even with a half marathon— I ran a grand total of 31.9 miles. Six of those miles were only due to the sheer cheerleading persistence of my formerly anti-running fiance, who’d sworn up and down that– while I could run all I wanted– twelve years in the military had ruined him on running forever.

FAKE RUNNER burt yasso quote real runner

Maybe it’s because my 30th birthday is coming up in eight days, but I feel like I’ve finally come to a place in my life where– despite being an objective failure in some respects regarding my running (no strength training, no stretching, no regular running schedule, no speed training, never getting any faster, forgetting my socks, the list goes on and on)– I no longer question the fact that I am a real runner.

I used to be ashamed that everyone in the world was training harder and longer than me, logging more miles, eating clean, and finishing half marathons at completely bat sh!t crazy, breakneck speeds of 60 minutes for the half marathon. Let’s be honest. I would be lucky to break two hours. It would probably kill me.

I am a real runner, no matter how many miles I log or how slowly I log them. I am a real runner whether I’m a vegan or vegetarian or omnivore, a protein drink junkie or a juicer who Instagrams their neon green concoctions in mason jars on a biweekly basis. I am a real runner, and I believe I will get stronger and faster with time: I also believe that I will forgive myself if I don’t. Are you a real runner, too? (ANSWER: Yes. Yes, you are.)

Here’s some advice from my friends that recently got me back out on the road after a layoff, because words from real people you know are always better than dead guys you’ve never met:

“Not feeling like running sometimes is pretty normal, I think. I’m sure Lindsay Vonn doesn’t feel like skiing everyday. And if you could add a taco recipe in [to your blog article], that would be great too.” – Erica R., Bend, Oregon (Enjoy the mahi mahi, Erica!)

“Sometimes I have to trick myself into a run. Tell myself I am just going for a walk. Usually end up running.” – Dianna H., Maumelle, Arkansas (Brilliant, Dianna! I’ll have to try this.)

“[The] RunKeeper app [is a] good way to track routes & progress. I try to run with a group from work about once a week. We have beer & nachos afterward. I joke about the fact that I don’t really enjoy running & will never be a real “runner.” I’m totally ok with that. I like Zumba & power yoga so much more.” Lea C., Nashville, Tennessee (Know your loves! And in any case, beer and nachos make everything better, don’t they?)

All you Real Runners out there (that’s all of you), what do you do to get yourself out the door for a run when you just don’t feel like it?

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About Anne Milligan (34 Articles)
Anne Milligan lives and runs in North Portland.

3 Comments on The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Runner: Coming Out as a Not-Always Runner

  1. Pretty much all of the running books that I’ve read, from Daniels Running Formula to Hal Higdon’s Masters Running, suggest that periodic breaks from running — and they don’t mean a rest day — can benefit many runners. (Of course, being obsessed as I am, I find it hard to follow that advice, unless I’m dealing with a nagging injury or something….)

    Oh, and 150 miles/month is not so crazy, is it? The crazy ones are the ones who are well over 200 miles/month. <.<

  2. I have a boss that is my reason for going out and running when I don’t feel like it or the rain is coming down sideways, I say to him, “It’s just too wet out there, or maybe I should just wait until the end of the day?” He says to me “Get your a$$ out there and get it done!” So I do, and I am always thankful afterwards.

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