What is a “proper runner”?

There was a time in my life when running around the block would have seemed like I was running a marathon. I remember those cold, breathless nights plodding in the dark aiming for just “one more lamppost” like it was yesterday. I saw a tweet last week saying if you can run x distance in x time then you are a proper runner and it got me thinking.

Is being a runner just about time and distance?

I guess on one basic level it is: we all strive to have a goal in mind, doesn’t matter if it’s 3 lampposts without stopping or a 100k race, doesn’t matter if it’s a sub 35 min 10k or a sub 40 minย 5k but we do as runners think in time and distance because those things are the baseline set by running society and more widely society in general. Look at the health initiative “Couch to 5k” it’s a programme to aims for a distance. You can’t escape it.

But running is about so much more than time and distance, it’s about how it makes you feel, about yourself and everything around you. Going for a run can be one of the most uplifting things that you can do, it may hurt but you’ll always feel better for putting one foot in front of another. And that sense of achievement when youย grasp your personal goal is like a year of Christmas days ( without the Eastenders special ) all rolled into one.

You’ll learn more about yourself running than you will paying a therapist, you’ll find your pain level, you’ll find your ‘happy place’, you’ll get a sense of how far you can push yourself mentally and physically, and you’ll get valuable thinking time where you can evaluate your life and what you have achieved and what you will go on to achieve as the path unfolds in front of you.

Do you get the sense that I love to run?

Having not run for many months I really value the time that I get to plod these days and of late my running has been going very well. I’m seeing small improvements every week, I’m feeling better about myself as I plod along and the world as a whole seems a nicer place. BUT if I was to believe that tweet I can’t call myself a proper runner because I can’t run x distance in x time. I have a brother, Craig, who I’m very proud of, he’s the British 100km Champion and this week he won a 50 mile race at an average speed of less than 7 minute miling in waist deep water at times. A phenomenal achievement and one that should be celebrated. We should celebrate runners who are talented, quick and work hard but we shouldn’t dismiss those of us that work hard but aren’t able to run 20 odd miles at 6 min pace or win gold medals.

As far as I’m concerned a proper runner is one that opens the door every day, and takes that first difficult step on a journey that will see them return to that door, a little less energetic, a little red-faced, a little sore but above all else a better person.

I’m a proper runner and I’m bloody proud of it.

As I said at the beginning of this post I’ve come along way since my own lamppost days, so far that I’ve actually made the short list of the 2014 Running Awards in the book category. If you have a spare minute, I’d appreciate it if you could vote for me, it would be nice not to come last ๐Ÿ˜‰
Votes can be cast here: http://therunningawards.com/

So tomorrow open your front door, take that step and become a proper runner once more. Happy running folks.

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23 responses to “What is a “proper runner”?

  1. I run ergo I am a runner ๐Ÿ˜€ doesn’t matter how fast you go or how far for that matter. The fact that you can is awesome.

  2. well saId! im back to the lamp-post stage after 10 months of injury and still struggle with that feeling of not being a proper runner. Slow but sure… and i am going to complete the London Marathon this year.. may take time but will do it! Thanks for your blogs.. they are always motivating!!

  3. Excellent post, I think all this talk of “proper runners” in certain circles can really put people off taking up this wonderful and amazing sport and make them feel it is so far beyond them.

    I like you think if you put on a pair of trainers whether you run for 30secs or 30mins your a runner and should be proud of that fact and all that matters is your giving It a go and trying.

    I support a beginners walk/run 5k session at my local running club and all of these people deserve to be called runners from week 1, they are moving way out of a comfort zone and trying something very new and hats off to them for being brave enough to try.

    Keep up the great posts

  4. Watching your ‘plods’ on strava as your average pace quickly overtook my throwing up chunks efforts having been training for almost a year has me at least aiming for a proper runner pace.

    • Pace is all relative, my blowing chunks pace is my brothers warm down pace. As long as you know within yourself that you are giving it your best shot then that is great. Good luck.

  5. Well said, I rate my runs not only by the time and distance – but by the weather difficulty and the width of my smile. There’s a strong correlation between rain and happiness levels for me.

  6. Excellent post. Running is about so much more than speed or distance. I reckon it’s closer to a state of mind. And it provides a great connection to fellow runners all over the world.

  7. So True Andy, anybody that gets off there back side and goes for a run plodding or otherwise us a proper runner. I always get angry when people comment on runners who plod a long. Saying they will never achieve anything running like that. I always tell them they have already achieved something the minute they glstep out their door! Ps I voted for you mate. Excellent books!!!!

  8. Voted for. A great book, made me really up my game, especially with cycling distance. Agree with your latest blog, runners are people who run, not who run a distance in a particular time.

  9. Great article. The guardian did a story on the sub 2 hour marathon. And with in the comments was a guy saying he’s sick of marathon s too many people claim to have run a marathon, when in fact all they have done is, done a marathon. Because as far as he was concerned anybody completing a marathon in over 3:30:00 hasn’t run one and those people should be banned from taking part.

    It goes without saying h e got a lot of flack. Running is one of the most, if not the most. Inclusive sport there is there is no gender, age, size or disability restrictions . Any one can and is welcome to run regardless of how fast or
    Slow you are. What matters is that you enjoy your self and the way that runners support and encourage each other as they take on nature and whatever route is laid out in front of them is second to none.

    We are an inclusive bunch and everyone is welcome to join us

  10. If you run you are a runner, and if you’re battling through something to do that – you get extra “hard as nails”* points ๐Ÿ˜‰ Took me a while to realise that, I always said I wasn’t a real runner – but I am, how can I not be. I’m a triathlete ๐Ÿ™‚ Just like you say, if it’s one lamppost or one hundred Km if you run your a runner.

    I voted, you’ve been a great inspiration to me. ๐Ÿ™‚

    *Hard as nails points = the extra points you get for running in the snow / rain / wind/ back from injury / illness / or if you’re just starting out.

  11. Nigel Whitlock-James

    A “proper” runner would be someone that encourages people to run, not judges them by their results. I run because I can, because it gives me time to think, because it makes me feel good about myself. Times and results are of course an important part of running at any competitive level; but to nullify people’s achievements because they didn’t make a particular time is degrading. Running should be inclusive and welcoming. In a society where we are seeing more and more people being classed as obese, we should be praising anyone that steps out and makes the effort to exercise. Categorising people as “not proper runners” is elitist, and I think even goes so far as to be Anti Running.

  12. Hi Andy, i’ve almost finished your second book and i love it. Cant Swim, Cant Ride, Cant Run was the main thing that got me into tri and keeping up to date with what you can do really spurs me on! I had a little accident with a car and have been off my bike for a few weeks and im going crazy so i know exactly how you felt before But reading your books and blog has inspired me to start writing and i love it! I just have to say as a 20 year old bloke finding something i am this passionate about is amazing and i have to thank you for the inspiration you gave me.

  13. Couldn’t agree more Andy, I love running especially in the rain, with my mates and my dogs. Thanks for shouting me on during Ironman UK

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  15. Nice blog post. I find it very arrogant of those who like to downgrade other peoples achievements and belittle someone whose main goal is just to improve or keep fit. Thanks for writing about your thoughts on it.

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