When do you get to call yourself "a runner?"
It's been a discussion for many years, and of course, there is no right answer. For me, if you go for a run, you're a runner. I don't see why it needs to be an exclusive label. One of the best parts about running is how accessible it is for everyone. You don't need equipment. You don't need membership. You need shoes and road in front of you. Poof, you're a runner.
Still, there are some who think you need enter races or make a certain pace. Some think that if you walk during your workouts, it doesn't count. These are the extremes. A more moderate standard is simple: it comes down to how often you run.
As relaxed as my standard is in general, this last is the standard I have for myself. If someone asks, are you a runner, my answer depends on how often I've been running. If I feel food about the work I've been doing lately, it's an easy "yes." Even if my mileage isn't that high, as long as I know that I've been out as much (or close to as much) as I want, then sure, I'm a runner. If (as now) I haven't been out much at all, I'll usually say something like, "Well, I run marathons, but I haven't been doing much lately." When I know that I'm not performing up to my own standards, I hate to claim credit, so I have to keep my statements in check.
But do I? Let me ask another question by way of answer: does it rain in Austin in August?
A week ago, a year ago, three years ago, the answer might be no. In fact, it didn't rain a drop in 2010 or 2011, less than 2 inches in 2012, and under half an inch in every year since then. No, it never rains in Austin in August.
Except, of course, that I'm directing outdoor theatre right now, and as the fifth inch of rain this week falls outside my window, I have to say, it definitely does. And in this moment, as I scramble to find rehearsal spaces with roofs, the "truth" of summer rain in Texas doesn't matter all that much. The last six years' evidence doesn't matter. It's raining now.
That's the problem with absolute negatives. It does rain in August. Not much and not often, but it does rain. In the same way, even if I'm not running much or often, I'm still a runner. And I still smile like an idiot running in the rain, just the way I did this morning.
It doesn't mean I'm satisfied with the occasional run, and I'll still qualify that answer every time I give it, but on a basic, fundamental level, my "truth" is that I am a runner.
And this week, a wet one.