What is the defining feature of a runner?
It's only over the last two years I've come to define myself as a runner, even though I've run sporadically for over 50 years. I'm very proud of being able to call myself a runner now that I feel I've earnt the right to the honour and there's no doubt that it has transformed and enriched every aspect of my life.
At the moment, I'm a runner who can't run. The fact that running is so much more than a physical act is painfully apparent to me just now. But what happens when you can't do the very thing that defines an important part of you? I might feel like a runner inside, but how do I proclaim my running identity when I'm not able to run? How do we runners recognise our ain people if they're not clad in lycra and trainers and out on the trot? When I see another runner and I'm not running I want a badge, an arm band, some way of letting them know that, although I am walking and in civvies, I run. I want to tell them - 'I'm a runner too, I just can't run at the moment!' I don't do this of course, I've come to learn that shouting at strangers is not acceptable behaviour. If there's someone with me, I have been known to make a running-type comment just loud enough for the passing runner to hear so that they know I am not just an ordinary person, I am one of us. Sad but true.
But even though I can't physically run, I am still a runner. Being a runner means being part of a massive community of folk to compare notes with, to share tales of glory and woe with. The running community loves to chat about the great passion we share. We learn from each other and support each other and cheer each other on to greater feats. Though indisposed, I can still work on my running. I can read about and develop my understanding of running; I can blog and tweet - life savers for us runners who are off our feet.
I'm finding the combination of injury-enforced time-out and connecting with the wider running community is taking me to interesting new places that will ultimately develop me as a runner. Because I'm injured I don't have an active running goal; no time; no race; no distance to focus on. This has enabled me to open up to new and better ways of doing things. For those of us who tend to get carried away with enthusiasm in our running, injury time can be nature's way of making us take stock. So the really daft thing to do is ignore the importance of time out and waste its potential.
I'm finding the mental part of injury time is a bit like the process my mind goes through on a long run. Once I settle down to accepting I'm here for a while, I begin to relax into where I am and just go with it and see where it takes me. Last time injury took me to Chi Running and my teacher Nick. This new long non-run is leading me to think about why I run, what drives me to get out there. I'm not sure why or where this will take me, but I know it's a journey I have to make. I have to put on my mental training shoes and get out there beyond my psychological comfort zone.
I am a runner. I can't run, but that won't stop me and it doesn't take away the fact that I am a runner. I ran today. I sat in the garden with my eyes closed. In my mind's eye I visualised my favourite run. I ran barefoot from North Berwick along the beach; splashing in the briny and leaving perfect Chi footprints from here to Yellowcraigs and back. I felt the sun on my face and the wind at my back (going and coming back - a delight of virtual runs!). The oystercatchers shrieked and the gannets were diving from a deep blue sky. My muscles were strong and every bit of me was on perfect form and my mind felt clear. I could run forever.
Hope you've had a good week, free from injury of the body or mind.