On Friday, a friend of mine shared one article from our local newspaper. It was about a local woman who chased down a criminal while she waited for the police to arrive after he had broken into her car. She said to him “You may as well stop. The police are coming. And if you are going to run, you better run fast and more than 3 miles because I’m a runner.”
Initially, I thought her response was quite ballsy coming from someone who’d run a few 5k races and taken up running just last year. The more I thought about her statement though, I couldn’t help marveling at her commitment to her identity as a runner. She didn’t say “you’d better stop, because I’ve run a 5k before” or “you’d better stop, because I run sometimes” or “you’d better stop, because I can run 3 miles.” No, she said “I am a runner.”
Then it hit me. That’s it! That’s the secret sauce. That’s the 1% shift that determines who feels entitled to reach for the stars after getting off the couch, rather than retreating to a life of lethargy with bragging rights. It’s a switch inside your brain that you control by simply making a profession to yourself and to others. Someone who says out loud, “I am a runner” or “I am an athlete” and believes it, makes it clear that they are committed to this identity.
It takes real courage to make that proclamation. I mean after all, when you say you are a runner and you are a size 16, people may snicker behind your back right? Yes, that is a good possibility. By the way, I started calling myself a runner after I completed my first 5k. I didn’t know any better. Back then I thought of a 5k the way I currently think of an Ironman. It was the end all, be all of athletic accomplishment. So when I did one, I proudly took my place within the subset of people who call themselves runners, even though on the outside I resembled nothing of the sort. Now, I’m suddenly convinced that this kind of ballsiness or in my case ignorance can propel people into the stratosphere of confidence.
After 5k, then what? “Well I’m a runner. I better do a 10k. Serious runners do the 10k distance, right? Am I just a runner or am I a serious runner? Oh I’m definitely a serious runner.” Then what? “Half Marathon…” Then what? “Anything…Anything-I-decide-to-do.”
Friends and family who’ve witnessed my own transformation from couch-spud to endurance junky have asked me how they can do the same. I used to say “simply put one foot in front of the other”. I thought that if they would just get started, they’d surely fall in love with running the way I did. What’s not to love? I realize now that my advice has been incomplete. Now, I’ll say “just put one foot in front of the other and believe you are a runner!”