As I sit here contemplating whether or not to end my run streak (more on that in a later post), knowing it’s not helping me recover properly and I’m on the cusp of injury, I have other things on my mind.
Whether I stuck it out or gave it up, it wouldn’t come close to my biggest regret as a runner. My biggest regret isn’t my failure to rest and recover properly (although it’s a problem). And it certainly isn’t a race I missed out on or a PR I didn’t achieve.
No. My biggest regret as a runner took place long before I even considered myself a “runner.” (Let’s be clear, though—if you run in any capacity, you are a runner.)
What I regret most is laughing as the
trash guy I was dating at the time made fun of a woman while she was running.
He was what I considered a “real runner.” He ran track and/or cross country (I don’t remember which) in high school. He and his mom were training for the upcoming Chicago Marathon (I didn’t even know what a marathon was or understand why someone would want to run one).
I was in college and running regularly, usually as a way to blow off steam, but also in an attempt to stay slim, because, let’s face it, I used to eat a lot of junk and drink a lot of beer.
I didn’t consider myself a “real runner.” I never ran more than a couple miles. I had run a 5k (or was planning to—I can’t remember), but I wasn’t fast, and I hadn’t been an athlete of any kind in high school like so many other people. Somehow I thought all these things disqualified me from calling myself a “runner.”
One hot summer day in 2009, I was driving us to one of the public pools in my hometown. On our way, we passed a woman (she could have been my age, younger, older—I have no idea) running down the street.
He commented something along the lines of “She must be really out of shape—look at how hard she’s pumping her arms. Haha.” As a “non-runner” who desperately wanted to be seen as one by a “real runner,” I laughed and agreed.
My hometown is hilly. You can’t get too far in any one direction without going up or down a hill. In fact, the race I ran last October had a Snapchat filter that said, “I conquered the hills of Old Town.” So yeah, it’s not flat.
So pumping her arms probably had less to do with what kind of shape she was in and more to do with running uphill. And it probably wasn’t the first hill of her run.
Why did I make fun of a woman who was out there running, giving it—and those hills—her all? If I had to guess, I’d say I laughed along because I was insecure.
There are so many things I could have—should have—said in response to his comment. Maybe she was new to running. Or maybe she was working really hard because she’s training for a race. Maybe she’s not used to running on hills like that.
I wish I would have stood up for her and told the guy he was a jerk for laughing at her. It would have meant standing up for myself, too.
Fortunately, our “relationship” ended a few short weeks later, but it took me a long, long time to call myself a runner.
I’ve never forgotten that moment and how I laughed at someone who was out there giving it her all.
Now when I see someone running, I applaud them (silently) for getting out there and running and working hard. It’s not easy to get out there knowing someone driving by might criticize you, or worse, actually say something rude to you.
I hate that I was ever that person because I know how hard it is. And I never want to be anything but supportive of people who are trying to lose weight or hit a new PR or whatever other goal they may have.
My biggest regret was also a great lesson, and I believe it’s made me a better runner and a better person.
You don’t need anyone else to call you a runner to be a runner. If you run, you’re a runner. That’s all the validation you—and I—need.