I Am Runner, Hear Me Roar: How to Feel Hard-Core


Runners braved cold rain at the NYRR 4 Mile race. Photo by Charles Smith/smith_cl9/Flickr

As a runner, it’s perfectly normal for your athletic self-esteem to fluctuate. My compass bounces between, “I’m a pathetic, sorry excuse for a runner” (insert wah-wah sound) and “I am runner. Hear me roar!”

Most often, I hover near the realm of “Eh, not bad for a 30-something with arthritis in one knee and remnants of a bone tumor in the other.”

But let’s be honest here. There’s nothing like capturing that “I am runner. Hear me roar!” feeling, even if just for a few fleeting moments.

As much as it pains me to say this, one guaranteed way to make me to feel hard-core is a brutal run in the rain.

Let me backpedal a bit. I hate running in the rain—flames on the side of my face hate. But perhaps that’s the exact reason why nothing makes me feel tougher than powering through a run or, better yet, a race in the rain. No, not just rain—cold rain. No, not just cold rain—cold, pouring rain.

Thankfully, it’s been a cold, wet spring here in New York City. When I woke up to my alarm at 7 a.m. on a recent Saturday morning, I groaned as I heard the downpour pelting my window.

I wanted to bail. I wanted to “accidently on purpose” sleep through my alarm and burrow under the covers. But I made a commitment to sing the national anthem before the NYRR 4 Mile race. So I got up, laced up my shoes and headed to Central Park.

It was 44 degrees. It was pouring. I was shivering. My teeth nearly chattered as I sidled up to the mike. Then it was time to race. Once you’re wet, you’re wet, I figured. But if you’re cold, a great way to get warm is to run.

So I hopped into the corral and crossed the start as the rain beat down from a gray, gloomy sky.

It was my first race since the 2010 ING New York City Marathon in November. I took three months off from running to work out my newly diagnosed arthritic knee in physical therapy. So I wasn’t hoping to score a personal best or even come close. I just wanted to remind my legs what racing felt like.

Then, after about a mile and a half, a funny thing happened. I actually felt great. I gave into the rain and let my body charge. I listened to the splashing feet of the 5,161 runners around me. We were hard-core.

Waking at 7 a.m. on a Saturday? Bah. Shivering in 44-degree air? Bah. Sloshing through driving rain? Bah. We were runners and all the denizens of Central Park could hear us roar. I felt empowered, I felt fierce, I felt fast. I felt like a real athlete.

Next time I need a bump in my running self-esteem, I’m going to strike while the iron is hot or, uh, wet, and run when the rain is a pouring. Why? “I am runner. Hear me roar!” It feels so good.

I’m curious, what makes you feel hard core as a runner?

Karla Bruning is a journalist and running nerd. She has completed four marathons, trains with the New York Harriers and is a member of New York Road Runners. Follow Karla’s “Notes From a Running Nerd” at RunKarlaRun.com, Facebook and Twitter@KBruning. To listen to an interview with Karla, check out The Marathon Show, available for streaming or download on BlogTalkRadio and iTunes.

Karla Bruning


Karla Bruning is a race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the New York City Triathlon + contributor to Shape, Redbook, Runner's World + other publications. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims. When she's not running, talking about running or writing about running, she's snuggling her baby, spoiling her dog + compulsively traveling.


05 2011

9 Comments Add Yours ↓

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  1. Ian #

    Yes! I love catching that hard-core feeling as well. Running in the rain definitely does it for me, but I prefer warm summer thunderstorms. Passing people that are clearly starting their run when I’m at the end of my long run is another fave. Passing bikers is also great although rare. And I just like the simple feeling of finishing an early weekend run and walking back home and passing people that are just getting up and rolling into their brunch spot. It’s like time travel. As if your day is that much longer than theirs.

  2. 2

    My wife made a needlepoint for me that said “The Hardest Thing to get is Going”. I hung it in my PT office. I think it applies to probably 75% of my runs!!

  3. 3

    Running my Monday four laps of the Harlem hill loop after a 90 minute masters swimming practice at 5:30 am. Although not for the past 11 months since I bruised my Achilles in a crowded lane on a flip-turn.

    That was a better than average rendition of the anthem that morning. I hope you are in a position to return to your running form. One of the nice things about working for NYRR is getting inspired by the platform we provide for this generation of talented female runners out there.

    Glad you where able to use the photo. As long as it does not conflict with race set-up (and until I return to the Half-Marathon Series) I will be shooting the runners for the Flickr group. I hope I catch you soon.

  4. 4

    I agree, running in the run would do it (though no friggin way would I even remotely consider running in cold rain–that would be a TM day for me). But trail running also works. And longer or faster runs. And racing.

    BTW, check into prolotherapy for your knee. I don’t sell or have any association with the people who do that work, but I’ve been considering it myself for quite a while, heard lots of good things. Check caringmedical.com to read more. I’ve been trying to get my husband (former runner) to go see them for over one year–he has hip arthritis and stopped running as a result (his choice, with which I didn’t agree).

    Good luck with continuing to feel hard core most of the time and kudos on those freezing wet runs. Brrrrrrr…..90 degrees here today.

  5. 5

    Two things: Running when I’ve had a little too much wine the night before and am feeling hungover. (Best cure I’ve ever found is to run 5-8kms!) And running in February in Ottawa in a snowstorm!

  6. 6

    Lugging my oversized self up and down hills

  7. 7

    this really made me smile. i ran the same race. i almost stayed in bed too. i got absolutely soaked and i LOVED it. ran a personal best (by quite a bit), got my bib time down to 9.03 pace and felt strong as a lion the whole way around. it was bizarre. no roaring though, but a fair bit of whooping.
    good luck in the 10k tomorrow. i’m running it too (and secretly praying for more rain…..)

    lindsay x

    • Karla Bruning
      Karla #

      Thanks, Lindsay! Haha, I’ve been secretly hoping for rain tomorrow too! Good luck in the Mini!

  8. Karla Bruning
    Karla #

    Thanks for all your comments everyone! I’ll have to do a follow-up post :) And Tina, thanks for the tip on prolotherapy. I’ll have to look into it…

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