“___________” Fill in the blank with what you think. Personally, my mind goes to the following picture.
What is a Runner’s Build? This question is one I’ve spent a considerable amount of time contemplating based on my personal experiences and that of my friends, co-workers, etc. I cannot even count the times people have said to me, “You run what? But you don’t look like a runner.” The Jersey girl in me wants to explain with a physical expletive…you know…the bird. But my self-conscious self and nerd brain goes into overdrive. “What does a runner look like? I guess my legs are pretty short. Are my quads too big? butt too round? Ponytail too amazing?” (well…leave off the last one). The insecurities and angst this question can bring out is incredible. Then I start thinking about the Skee-Lo song lyrics “I wish I was a little bit taller…” Granted, I’d love a rabbit in a hat, but have no desire to be a baller nor six-foot-nine. I bring up Skee-Lo because everyone, at one point or another, doubts themselves and wishes for something to be different. That they could be, do, look or act differently. That they could CHANGE just one thing, no matter how self-confident the person.
I have always had a gymnasts’/softball players’/weight lifters’ athletic build. Did I wish to be longer and leaner? OF COURSE, who doesn’t have that idiotic thought in their brain. But I am muscular…and short. Added to the fact that up until 10 years ago I never used to run more than 3-5 miles at a stretch, so it does not surprise me that those who have known me the longest are surprised by my crazy endurance life. Each time I signed up for, and completed, a race, I would get some version of “Wow, you did pretty good for a non-runner.” They usually caveat the statement with the surprise and the fact that I never “looked” like a runner. After ten years, I just have to say the following. I AM A RUNNER! And TRIATHLETE! AND I LOOK like one! Whether still bulked up from years of college sports, or leaned out after 10 years, I am still a runner and look like one. I might look different from the gazelles we see on TV running marathons or in our magazines…at 5’3″ tall there is no chance at a long-legged stride loping down the avenue for me.
So you want to look like a runner: GO RUN! Seriously, it is that simple. A runner to me is someone who runs…whether short, tall, muscular, thin, heavy, flatfooted, or pigeon toed. When I first started running more, it was difficult. During a run, my brain would say “you aren’t a runner, this is hard. You should do something else.” We all know the human mind is powerful – it can be our greatest friend or our worst enemy. I wanted to r un…I had goals…so I had to ignore that little monster bird tweeting in my brain and just…RUN. Unless you plan to compete in the Olympics, or go pro to earn money and sponsorships, it really doesn’t matter what type of “build” you have as a runner. In the 2015 Boston Marathon there were 30,251 starters…regular age groupers like you and me. 97.9% of them FINISHED the marathon, but I bet that anyone would still describe the other 2.1% as “runners.” The above statistic doesn’t even account for all the 5k, 10k, half marathon, and ultra runners around the globe. Yes, the professional men and women are streamlined athletes with loping strides and rock hard abs, but the rest of us have…day jobs. We don’t get paid to run and workout. We don’t get paid to eat the healthiest foods because our livelihood depends on it. We get paid…and then we use that money to buy gear to run in, or to pay for races. We are age groupers with day jobs and need to give ourselves a break. Do we look like professional runners? Maybe…maybe not. But we ARE runners.
My favorite part of races is the finish line. Not just when I cross one, but when I watch others cross. Watch hours 15-17 at any Ironman race or hour 6+ of a marathon. Heck, look at me crossing any given triathlon, marathon or ultra (below is an example) and you will see the raw emotion on my face, because we set a goal, and after MONTHS we crossed the line that said we accomplished our goal. That’s powerful. The good news is you do NOT need a race to be a runner…nor to look like one. If you want to run and you go running, then you are a runner with a runners build. To quote Tove Lo, “Now if we’re talking body, you got a perfect one,” or Bruno Mars, “Cause you’re amazing, just the way you are.” So what does a runner look like???? A runner looks like YOU, or me, or your cubicle mate, or the grandfather at the end of your street.
Me at the end of JFK: