You Are A Runner

WordPress, the site through which the blog is managed, keeps a beautiful record of all of my site statistics. I know how many different pages of my site are read each day, how people get to my site (facebook, google reader, etc), what links on my site are clicked on, and, probably most interesting, what people type into search engines to get to my site.

This is fascinating to me. Some great things have been googled, and personal favorites include “lady sarah dishes,” “stretched gumby,” “my running face,” and the all-time-best-ever: “excessive googling”. Someone really gets me.

But in all honesty, it’s really interesting to see not only that people others share my relationship with Google, but that people are using it to determine how to face their issues with binge eating, when it’s time to buy new sneakers, how carbohydrates and proteins fuel the body, and how to cook spaghetti squash (the face up verses face down issue continues to be a hot topic). I enjoy seeing proof that people are trying to learn and integrate healthiness by learning things from Google. That’s exactly what I do.

Recently, people have been googling about what a runner’s body should look like, or how far they should be able to run in an hour, and those are some things that I’d like to talk about.  

I think like any sport, expert runners stand out by having amazingly athletic (and perhaps distinctive?) bodies which and move them incredibly fast.

The coolest thing about running, I think, that unlike perhaps football, tennis or even biking or swimming, it is an incredibly manageable sport to take on as a grown up person–the equipment and space needed is simple, a team isn’t needed, and we all grew up running. We’ve all run before. It’s approachable and integratable in ways that many other forms of exercise are not. We all can run. With the exception of any medical or physical limitations, I suppose.

So we all can run. We’ve all got the necessary parts for it. But the runners who we have to look towards as top of their game look like this: Good freaking God, Kara Goucher. You’re insane. How dare I attempt and love the same sport that you attempt and love?

And that’s the cool thing about running.

When I first started running, I weighted probably 250 pounds. And I was nervous that people who saw me running at the gym would think, “Oh, that’s cute that she’s trying, but she’s not a runner”. And that’s how I felt about myself running, anyway. It was nice that I was trying, but I mean. Who was I kidding? After a good amount of time with Couch to 5k, I realized that I actually had turned my body into one that could run. Sure, it still weighed well over 200 pounds, but it could run for numerous back-to-back miles. My body looked like a 220ish pound body. It did not look like the stereotypical runner’s body. But it was a runner’s body. 

So what should a runner’s body look like? Look down. That’s what a runner’s body should look like.

We can all run, it’s just about conditioning our bodies (and our minds, probably, too) to get used to it.

Now for the “how far should I be able to run in x amount of time” googlers.

If you’re looking for a straight up answer, running 4 or 5 miles in an hour is a nice, easy, slow pace that’s very manageable. If you’re walking and running, make it 3-4 miles in an hour. Also some people can run 13 miles in an hour, which is about how fast some people bike. So, I guess you should be able to run between 3 and 13 miles in one hour. And if you can get in more than that, well damn.

The non-straight up answer: You should be able to run enough in an hour to get a good workout in. You should be able to get some thoughts that are bothering you worked through. You should be able to get in some good people watching, surrounding admiring, and maybe some awesome silent-rapping along with your running playlist accomplished. You should run enough that you love it, and stop or mix it up the moment you get bored or feel like you’re doing something tedious. However far that all takes you in an hour, is exactly how far you should be running in an hour. 3 miles, 5 miles, 8 miles, or 13, you ran it and you are great. Your heart and muscles know how long they are working hard for. I probably burn way more calories in my hour-long 5-6 mile run than Ryan Hall burns in his hour-ish 13 mile run. 

But if you’re looking to build yourself into a faster or stronger runner, look to integrate some speed work (great Runner’s World article on that here) to work on that.

Finding a workout that you enjoy is a million times more important than how relatively “good” you are at it. It’s about how good the workout is to you. If you enjoy (or think you could enjoy) running, who the hell is there to tell you that you don’t have the right body for it or that you’re not fast enough for it? And if it’s you telling yourself those things, well, I’m sure that’s the hurdle that a lot of us are working over.

Running is the most global sport there is. Toddlers run and 100 year old people run. Some people run 16 minute miles, some run 4 minute miles. Everybody runs for a different reason, but that reason is enough to keep them going, so that’s all that matters.  So it’s just about finding out why you want to run (for me, it’s just because it’s fun & makes me feel good), realizing that you already have a runner’s body (you don’t need to be 7’1”, be able to lift 200+ pounds, or have any defining physical traits to be a runner), and accepting that, right now at this moment, you are one kind a runner, and that, through more work and time, you can transform your body from being able to run for 30 seconds to 30 minutes, to, oh who knows, one day maybe 30 or 300 miles.

There are people who do that, you know. For fun. Runners are wacko.


13 Comments to “You Are A Runner”

  1. You’re so cute and inspiring! I love how much you love running.

  2. Today in honor of birthday week I woke up and decided that I wanted to run 2 miles, straight, without walking. And for someone who has never run 1 mile straight without walking, I was asking a lot of myself. But I tried, and I succeeded!! And post-gym I looked at my email and the notification of this post was the first thing I saw. THANK YOU for being awesome and an inspiration!!

  3. Since my doctor has nixed walking for exercise, I’m pretty sure running is out, too! But, I love your article anyway because you have described how I feel about swimming.

    No, I don’t have a swimsuit-friendly body and no, I don’t really know the correct technique, and no, I don’t want my nose under water, but I MOVE in the water and it takes exertion so I know I am doing something good for my body. I’m tired when I’m finished and I feel so good. So, I will continue to call what I do swimming and I will continue to do it because I feel good.

    Thanks for being so inspiring!

  4. Sarah…you truly make me smile…and laugh out loud…and nod my head in agreement…and want to share this with so many people I know. Love your guts, girl!!

  5. I use to run back in college. I would never classify myself as a runner, but like you said everyone has their own way of doing it. I would run about 3 miles and it felt pretty good. No races or anything like that just for fun and enjoy the outdoors.

    I want to get back to that, but feel I need to take off about 50 more pounds to feel a bit more comfortable. Plus, keeping the “twins” under wraps can be a bit difficult too and I’m getting use to my Enell. It’s so stickin’ tight, but those babies are not jiggling – thank goodness! Keep the blog coming!!


  6. Hi Sarah! I found your blog via the running one you commented on that was on the main WordPress page. Fascinating re what constitutes a runner. I do have to say though as an ex-long distance runner & now as a rather fat lady that I personally do not think everyone is meant or built to run. Yes we all have the necessary parts to put one foot in front of the other, but whether that means we are “runners” I’m not so sure.

    Running is something you are either naturally good at or not- if you are a runner it means, in my view, that you have a natural style & a natural ability.

    Running to me is something where your legs are moving at pace (e.g. less than 6minute per kilometre), where you have very little or no pronation, you lift your knees & kick your legs back high with a straight back, bum tucked in etc. Most recreational ‘runners’ are in fact shufflers or joggers at best. They look awkward & I am certain that long term, unless they are prepared to learn how to run properly (see running drills like Laura Fleshman’s You Tibe clip – they will only do their bodies more harm than good. Such people are I think, at high risk for feet, hip, back, knee, shin & ankle injuries. Maybe not for a few years but definitely when they hit their 50s and onwards. Running may look easy & may be cheap but it is incredibly taxing on the body – your foot strikes the ground something like 20,000 times in n average run and your foot only has something like 40 bones to cope with the stress of your entire body weight striking the ground.

    So personally I think that if beginners are contemplating running – that is, people who were not natural runners as kids/didn’t naturally win events etc and need shoes with support (as opposed to neutral shoes) then they should not only do a walk to run program, but ensure they do the running drills such as those in the clip above AND do weight bearing exercises – especially 3/4 squats, lunges/walking lunges, hamstring curls & core exercises so that they learn to switch on their pelvic floor muscles when running.

    Sorry I know this is an essay but I just wanted to put a different point of view across! 🙂

    • I totally hear what you’re saying (and thank you for taking the time to put it all to words!), but after reading “Born to Run,” well. I’m a bit brainwashed on this matter.

      I think that with the right training and attention to detail, anyone can become someone who runs in a healthy and safe way. I definitely recommend that book — amazing!

  7. OH I have read Born to Run – LOVE it! I was actually going to recommend it to you when I spied your barefoot blog. Again, kudos to you for your dedication at improving your lifestyle & putting yourself out there – you’re a true inspiration…..even to people on the other side of the world!

  8. P.s can I just add re the brave picture you posted of yourself above you actually look great! You have fantastic form and yes, attention to form & sticking to a good program can take anyone from a wannabe to a competitive athlete. And I so here you re the “Oh, that’s cute that she’s trying”…..I also especially love the supportive comments you get from random passerbys who say “good on you, keep going”. As someone who used to be competitive I used to find this hugely humiliating however, I found it far better to just tune others out, measure yourself against no one and lap up all the encouragement you can get. I am sure that even the top runners find motivation hard some days and I doubt they get as much encouragement as those of us that don’t look quite as fluid or athletic!

  9. My favorite quote of the day: “So, I guess you should be able to run between 3 and 13 miles in one hour. And if you can get in more than that, well damn.” Ha!

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