I do not call myself a Runner. Not like I call myself a Knitter, or even Geologist/Mineralogist (although I haven’t worked in that field for years), or even a Scientist. Somehow it does not seem part of my identity…yet. It’s something I generally keep to myself, and don’t talk about much, although I run around 60k a week. Mostly on trails.
Perhaps that’s the difference. “Road Runners” seem to be different than “Trail Runners”, or at least that’s the way it seems from websites and magazines. From what I see, if you run 5k on a road, Great! you’re a runner. But 5k on a trail? No, no…that’s not trail running. Nor is 15 or even 20k on a trail a “real” trail runner. It often seems that if you are not actively training for, or running, Ultra Marathons, then you are not a “real” Trail Runner.
I follow on Instagram lots of trail running posts and magazines, especially Trail Runner Magazine – it has lots of great and inspiring articles and photos. Really. Fantastic advice. I’m not sure it was there, or somewhere else I read an article about how running any distance is OK. The author obviously meant to be inclusive and inspiring, but at the end, it just came across as patronizing. Yes, if you run on trails, then you are a trail runner, *even* if you aren’t up to running *real* trails of 50k or more. Gah!
My point is, I hesitate to mention running. Because then I feel like a fraud calling myself a trail runner, since I absolutely HATE running on the road. I like trails. I like mud. I like brushing past trees, leaping (or sometimes clambering) over logs. The views, the peace and quiet – the lack of people! The bugs, the dirt, the scratches. I love it all. But here’s the thing: I “only” log about 60k a week, over the course of 4 or 5 days. And I am slooooow. I mean, slow, slow. My gait is uneven. I trundle along. But guess what? I am OK with that. Because it’s just me. I don’t belong to a larger community, where I feel the need to impress people. I occasionally see other runners – some smile and say “hello” (well, “Morgen” or “Grüsse” – this is Switzerland, after all), and some look down their overly fit noses at me. Oh yeah – that reminds me – I certainly do not look like a runner. I am short and heavy. I am built like a short Rugby Forward.
The one person who has summed the running experience up the best, without being condescending is Matthew Inman, AKA The Oatmeal, in the comic “The terrible and wonderful reasons why I run long distances“. The series of comics are brilliant, and each point he makes is real – the struggle, the reasons behind it, the frustrations and the rewards. The most on-point bit is when he states that “It enables me to feel like my life is rocketing skyward, even if it is going straight to hell”.
What is the point of this rambling rant, anyway? I’m honestly not sure – perhaps just to get it off my chest. Oh, and to mention that I signed up for my first “race”. The Virtual Swiss 800: From 16. May to 16. August, you need to run a total of 800k (497 miles). Wow! That sounds like a lot! Until you break it down, actually. Which is about 60k a week, which is what I am doing anyway. It’s on the honor system, so you report your miles daily on the website, and if you reach the goal before the 16. August, you get a medal.
I figure this is a challenge right up my ally – it’s not in front of others, there’s no pressure to look good or fast – I only need to prove to myself that I can do it. Perhaps at the end of this I will call myself a Runner – but at the very least, it is motivation to keep me on the trail and enjoying the great views and fresh air of Switzerland!