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What defines you as a runner?

At the risk of offending someone, I have to say that I am amused every time I pass a car sporting a sticker declaring that the driver has done a marathon, half marathon, or some other distance. But before you go peeling that sticker off your own car, I had to give a little thought to what is behind people sticking some race distance to their vehicle. I’m pretty sure that most of the vehicles I see bearing the 26.2 sticker are not marathon maniacs who finished their 50th marathon before affixing the sticker to their bumper. But even if they have only finished one, I suppose that is reason for them to be proud. Is that what defines them as a runner?

I guess I forget what it’s like to be a newer runner who hasn’t done more races than they can count. For long-time runners, there are other measures of “being a runner.” It might be related to number of races run, PRs they have hit, or how long they have been running. I can remember being in college and feeling like a newbie runner since I only turned out for track and cross country part way through high school, while so many of my teammates had been running since they were in single digits. But now that I’m in my third decade of running, I suppose that I can legitimately say I’ve been a runner for the majority of my life. Although I’m trying to figure out if that is how I want to define my own running. Or perhaps I should just live in the past and slap an 800 sticker to the back of my car and recall the glory days of college racing?

How do you define yourself as a runner?


17 Responses to “What defines you as a runner?”

  1. You assume people put the stickers on for vanity, I assume they put them on to display what they enjoy doing.
    I have almost all those stickers (someone made them for me)but I’ve yet to put them on my car. I enjoy seeing those stickers on cars and it always makes me curious as to who is driving and if I know them. I think it simply a way of displaying what you like to do and who you are, kind of like wearing a name tag at a party. Of course, I guess the same could be said about the ridiculous college logo flags that people put on their cars :-/

    Posted by BrianH | December 8, 2011, 6:43 am
  2. I think people slap them on just because the stickers are given out free at the expos and they don’t want to toss ‘em. I definitely think you should go with the 800m sticker, or maybe even a “final 800m” sticker.

    Posted by Bill A. | December 8, 2011, 7:47 am
  3. There are those who wish to remain invisible and those who want to tell everyone what they did, who they are, and where they went to school or which team they root for. I’ve often thought I’d like a ’3.1′ sticker as a joke that only I would get. If anyone is interested in that kind of display, you can take a half marathon sticker (13.1)and cut off the ’1′. But to date, I’ve never seen ’3.1′ on a car. W

    Posted by john | December 8, 2011, 8:13 am
  4. Perhaps you should define yourself as someone who runs so that they can justify feelings of “amusement” at the less lofty achievements of others? Not sure all that would fit on a sticker though. Pity.

    Posted by EEH | December 8, 2011, 8:17 am
  5. A training partner who shall remain nameless, once dropped out of an important marathon. I sooo wanted to get them a 26.2 sticker with the distance lined out and 16.1 written in, to signify where they dropped out…

    At the risk of starting a flame war, my feeling about those stickers is the same about marathons in general these days. They are no longer “special”. Anyone can walk, run or waddle their way through one, so what’s the big deal?

    Now making the effort to get through one as quickly as YOU possibly can, that’s another story.

    Posted by Tim | December 8, 2011, 9:25 am
  6. I’m afraid this may be the kind of attitude that gives the club the reputation among some as group of “Fastholes”.

    Posted by Joe D. | December 8, 2011, 9:26 am
  7. P.S. – I agree with Brian. I think those stickers are most often an expression of an interest in a particular ongoing activity rather than a one-time brag about finishing a single race. Besides, Marathon Maniacs are among the biggest braggarts when it comes to shirts and car stickers (and I say that in a nice way).

    Posted by Joe D. | December 8, 2011, 9:30 am
  8. I agree with Brian. I have a 26.2 magnet on my car partly because I am proud of being able to run a marathon but mostly because it’s an activity I enjoy. I like seeing stickers on other cars and I always check the driver out with a sense of kinmanship that we have marathoning in common. Regardless if they do it in 6 hours or 3.

    Posted by Dave Waldron | December 8, 2011, 1:42 pm
  9. P.S. – Since becoming a runner 4 years ago, I’ve come to find out that there is a small group of runners that feel that if you can’t run a sub 40 minute 10k you have no business being on a marathon course. In this day when our country is dealing with an epidemic of obesity and diabetes shouldn’t we be embracing the popularity of these races? Shouldn’t we celebrate those that went 26.2 regardless of whether they ran or walked? I believe most races do a great job of managing the slower folks (with the exception of H2C..but that’s another topic) so they don’t get in the way of faster people.

    I say the more stickers on cars the better! :)

    Posted by Dave Waldron | December 8, 2011, 3:56 pm
  10. I just peeled my 26.2 sticker off the back of my car…

    Posted by Doug | December 8, 2011, 5:28 pm
  11. Guilty. I drive around with the 26.2 sticker on my car. The John Hancock one from the Boston Marathon. That is a milestone for many runners. It was for me. I never get tired of being reminded of what a great occasion it was for me and I think many feel the same about their marathon experiences.

    Posted by Julie | December 8, 2011, 9:14 pm
  12. The questions being asked are: how you measure yourself as a runner and how you identify yourself as a runner, not whether people with a running distance on their bumper are less of a runner than people with other measures. In addition to being a proud runner, I am also a proud Portlander, but I also don’t have a PDX, “Keep Portland Weird,” or “Keep Portland Beered” sticker on my car. I do have a couple Red Lizards on there though…

    Posted by Torrey | December 9, 2011, 6:21 am
  13. I haven’t read everyone’s comments, by here’s my 2 cents because it’s an interesting question.

    Why people run is personal. How much they run, where they run, how fast they run, etc. all depends on their perspective.

    I knew a girl in high school who grew up to become a competitive marathon runner. I saw her name in Runner’s World. I called to congratulate her and you would have thought she was a no good, average plodder since her standard was set much higher. I’ve known egotistical runners who mellow out with age. I know a woman who is surprising fast and extremely successful but doesn’t have the body type you would expect as a runner. I know people with disabilities who doggedly get out there and compete. I have a lot of admiration for all these people and watching the effort of some finishers often brings tears to my eyes.

    People put bumper stickers on their cars for lots of reasons. I think the person with all the stickers is demonstrating an aesthetic interest in oval shapes and a sense of complete passion, by having a range of distances. It’s kind of an art form as well as a statement. There are lots of other types of stickers that I find offensive and this certainly isn’t the case.

    I have a couple of bumper stickers on my car because I like the cause, but also because I’m afraid that if I try to pull them off, they won’t completely come off – and I’ll be in yet another project that takes too long.

    Posted by Jill | December 9, 2011, 5:56 pm
  14. Read this article and the comments, and wasn’t going to say anything, but just can’t help myself. I started running because I was overweight (ok, obese). Every interval of running was agony at first, but slowly became easier and I lost 40 lbs. I have more to go, but now I love running (on most days anyway). I ran my first half marathon in October and will run my second half marathon Sunday at the Holiday Half, and I’m planning on running a marathon next year. To me running is more than a sport, but something that helped me turn my life around. I haven’t gotten a 13.1 sticker yet, but if you see me with one on my car, its because it reminds me that I accomplished something I thought I would never be able to do.

    Posted by Melanie | December 9, 2011, 11:29 pm
  15. Shame Doug had to peel his sticker off his car lest another runner think less of him. I know people who never pay to race and run every day and people who just race 10ks and below and some like me that have never done a marathon.

    I say just like people who like different sports teams and different TV shows, runners have thier own preferences – and they don’t have to be ‘elite’ or run a million races to be a part of the crowd.

    If someone wants to think ‘less’ of me because of my 13.1 and Run Or stickers, let them. 30# later after I started running, I can say I became a runner the moment I finished my first 3.1 and decided I was going to sign up for my first Half Marathon..either that or when I joined Red Lizards last Christmas at Peacock Lane Run<3

    Posted by Maryalicia | December 14, 2011, 5:31 am
  16. I think the abundance of running shoes, and the running shoe to normal shoe ratio in my closet in defines me. Additionally having at least two or three dedicated “running stuff” drawers/shelves- I’ve got to be a real runner.

    All jokes aside- I think my definition of what makes me a runner has evolved over time.

    Other than playing soccer in high school I never really ran. After college, and a few additional pounds, I started to run a bit to shed some weight. I was running a couple miles two or three times a week at most on the t-mill and occasionally outside. If you would have asked me then, I would have surely told you I was “a runner”.

    Fast forward to October of 2008 and I ran the PDX marathon, which was my first race of any kind. My definition had again changed and I then thought I was a real runner. Since then I’ve run several more races, but I think my definition of a runner has expanded rather than narrowed.

    We all run for different reasons- some to lose weight, some for the competition, the camaraderie, or sometimes just to have time to think or maybe not think at all. I think I run for all of these reasons depending on the day, my mood, and what the scale says.

    I think the one thing that may define me best is that whenever I see another runner out, I am either jealous that the other person is getting to run, or I just smile knowing that they are out for their run. Big or small, fast or slow, I know that we likely share a common love.

    Posted by Dan | December 14, 2011, 9:04 am
  17. I, in away, admire those that place a sticker of distance on their bumper. I give much credit to anyone whether running of walking any distance. Someday we all will not be mobile.

    I most admire those that continue to strive for personal best however. Even if they never achieve a PR, it’s the act of trying that I enjoy witnessing.

    I don’t have a sticker of any distance achieved on my bumper. Except that of a license plate frame reading: “Redlizard Running Club”. Which says plenty.

    Posted by Steves | December 18, 2011, 2:34 pm

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