I am not a runner

I am not a runner.

I think Lauren Fleshman put it best –  “Running is not who I am. It’s something I love, something I do”.

Running is not who I am. Running does not define me. And some days I am very thankful for that because I run slow and I run ugly and sometimes I whine a lot.

For a long time though, running did define me. As if my worth as a person was somehow intimately linked to my mile splits. A personal best meant that I was “good enough”.  It never seemed to be enough though. There was always something else that I felt like I needed to accomplish before I felt like I could call myself a “real runner”.

I’ll be a “real runner” if I can run a marathon. But it will only be legit if I break 4 hours. So I did that. But then I still didn’t feel like a “real runner” because it really wasn’t that fast. So maybe if I had better times at shorter distances, I would finally feel like I made it as a runner. So over the last couple years, I have set new PRs at every distance. I have done well in my age group and I have a couple 2nd and 3rd place finishes to my name. But I still didn’t feel like a “real runner” because my mile time wasn’t that great. Or my weekly mileage was low compared to other runners. There was always something else. Some new standard that I had to meet in order to be legit.

So then I decided that I would be a “real runner” if I could qualify for Boston. Which I did! It took me a lot of time and a lot of hard training, but I did it. Still I wonder if I could have run a qualifying time without the downhill advantage. Like I didn’t really earn Boston and somehow I am still an imposter. Still not a “real runner”. I guess I’m a great fake runner!

Part of my struggle to see myself as runner is the fact that I am not built like a runner. I’m built like a small truck. When I think of distance runners, I think of SmartCars. Very small, very light, very efficient. On the other end of the spectrum are strength and power athletes, who are more like jacked-up pickups. I’m more like a small utility vehicle. I’ve heard of people and their pets starting to look alike – apparently that can also happen with a person’s car. And that’s okay because I also enjoy being strong. It’s a good balance. I know that hauling around excess muscle mass isn’t the most efficient distance running strategy, but I’d like to be able to put up a fight in case I can’t outrun someone. Being strong just makes life so much easier.

I think like a runner though. I suffer through speedwork and long runs like a runner. I experience the running highs and the running lows. I persevere. I have run in all sorts of weather conditions – 100 degree heat, far below freezing (4 degrees), windy days, a snowstorm, and those beautiful mornings that are sunny and 48. I am horribly familiar with carbohydrate gels, chafing, and blisters.  I eat like a runner. As far as I know, I actually run when I leave my house in the mornings.

I race like a runner. I have probably beaten people who consider themselves “real runners”.

But running is not who I am. It’s something I do, something I love. It’s something that brings me immense joy, pain, pride, laughter, social bonding and everything in between. My running shoes are my constant. But it does not define me.

No number can tell me who I am – a weight on the scale that tells me I’m too heavy to be a “real runner”, a race time that tells me I have room to improve, a race time that tells me I’ve come a long way, or my weekly mileage. I am a “real runner” because I run. The end.

And for the record, we are all “real runners”.

“If you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far. It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run.”
(John Bingham)

“I often hear someone say I’m not a real runner. We are all runners, some just run faster than others. I never met a fake runner.” (Bart Yasso)



When life kicks you in the face, make cookies!!

Do you ever feel like you got run over by life? October felt like getting drug down the highway by a truck called academics. As a result, I have not done much blogging, much running, or much cooking. Which makes me sad. All of those things bring me joy. And fall is my favorite season for baking. Because I love all that is pumpkin and the way my house smells when there is goodness coming from my oven. There is something so cozy about baking on a crisp fall day.

But priorities are priorities. And priorities are school. I started Boston training on Monday… 24 weeks until the big day. I am going to experiment with a more strength-based training program. Similar to a Crossfit Endurance sort of program. And it makes me nervous as I come from the high-mileage = good marathon camp. So it will be a grand adventure. I will only be running 3 days per week. 3 quality runs per week though… some speed work, a medium-long tempo run, and a long run. The other days will be strength and conditioning days.

When life starts kicking you in the face, you need to take a break sometimes. So today I took a mental health day. And I finally finally finally got around to baking some cookies! They are soft and pillowy and delicious! And easy peasy.

I rarely ever buy gluten free flour blends… I prefer to make my own. But sometimes life gets busy and a mix is the way to go in order to retain the little sanity that I have left. So I picked up some of Bob’s Red Mill GF flour blend and off I went. I was looking for a good dessert recipe and found a recipe for gluten-free vegan cookies on the back of the package. So I decided to give it a shot! I tweaked a few things and put a pumpkin twist on it and I am quite pleased with how they turned out!

Chocolate Chip Cookies 

(adapted from this recipe)

1 cup gluten-free oats (or oat flour)
1 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill gluten free flour blend (or whatever your favorite is)
3/4 cup coconut sugar
1/4 cup arrowroot starch
1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (I imagine applesauce would work here too)
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
2 TBSP vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 325.

Obliterate your oats in a food processor/blender. I added all the dry ingredients (oats through baking soda) to the food processor and pulsed until well combined.

Add your wet ingredients (eggs, pumpkin, coconut oil, and vanilla) and mix until combined. This dough is pretty thick, so I started the mixing process in the food processor and then transferred to a mixing bowl and finished it by hand. Stir in your chocolate chips by hand.

Drop by the spoonful (the size of the spoon is up to you) onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake for 7 minutes, rotate trays, and bake for 7 more minutes (a total of 14 minutes). Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before removing from tray. They are good straight from the oven (unless, of course, you burn your mouth on the chocolate) but they are better if you let them cool a little bit.