When Did You Start Calling Yourself A Runner?

When Did You Start Calling Yourself A Runner?

Running in New England on May 11, 2014. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

This year marks the 10th anniversary of my life as a runner—my runiversary, if you will. It was late 2004 and early 2005 when I first laced up an old pair of sneakers unearthed from the depths of my closet and went for a run. Then, for some inexplicable reason, I did it again, and again, and again until it became a habit.

But I certainly didn’t call myself “a runner.” That didn’t happen for a few more years. But looking back, I wish I had staked a claim to the word “runner” a lot earlier.

I wrote about it in an essay at SHAPE.

What Makes You A Runner?

More than 65 million Americans went for a run last year. More than 19 million ran a race. But many of those people are hesitant to call themselves “runners.” I would know—I used to be one of them…

Sound familiar? I hear “Oh, I’m not a real runner” constantly—at races, parties, in social media, and everywhere else I encounter people who regularly put one foot in front of the other.

So what exactly makes you a runner? The short answer is simple: If you run, you’re a runner.

But the long answer is much more complicated—and it has nothing to do with how fast you are… One three-hour marathoner I know who has qualified for the prestigious Boston Marathon—a feat only 10 percent of marathoners achieve—says he still has a hard time calling himself a runner. It’s an epidemic that extends far and wide, from the fastest to the slowest among us. Why?

You can read the whole thing at SHAPE.com.

What About You?

I take a liberal view: if you run, you’re a runner. Plain and simple. But I’d love to hear your thoughts. When did you start calling yourself a runner? When do you think you should have? What, exactly, makes someone a runner?

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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.


03 2015

20 Comments Add Yours ↓

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  1. Pam #

    I love your Shape article. I call myself a runner but still say stupid things. When people hear I qualified for Boston I always preface it by saying it is easier for an older runner. I certainly don’t fit the average profile and did not even start running until the age of 57. We are all runners no matter what speed or distance we run. The thing I like best about running is that it has no age boundaries and my running group is mostly comprised of lovely women who could be my children!
    Pam recently posted..Running like a Champion – some things we loveMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      Thank you. Love this and totally agree! I don’t know why we self depricate. Qualifying for Boston is amazing at ANY age and something I still aspire to! I love that my running team has runners from their 20s to 60s, working together. Keep on rocking it!

  2. 3

    This was always so funny when I worked at Fleet Feet. We would greet a customer at the door, and ask them what they had come in for that day. “Well, I’m training for this race…I mean…I’m running…but I’m not a real runner!” And we would always stress to them that if they put one foot in front of the other, then they were a runner. But my dern goodness, the amount of times I would hear that in a day…
    Cheri @ Overactive Blogger recently posted..First time for every thing pt 3.My Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      I can only imagine! We have so many preconceived notions about what makes someone a runner that so many people are quick to discount themselves. But I totally agree with you!

  3. 5

    After tons of races (including now a marathon-which I’m still in denial about that I did) I still can’t call myself a runner. I don’t know why. Is it because I still think I’m too slow? Is it because I take walk breaks during a race? I don’t know, but if someone says I’m a runner, I will actually argue with them. But … CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR RUNNIVERSARY! 10 Years and going strong! Way to go! :)

    • Karla Bruning

      Thank you, Kellie! And you can argue with me all you want, but YOU are a RUNNER! I know the mentality. I used to have it. I hope that someday you’re able to appreciate who you are and what you do: that is, a runner who runs! You obsess about running, you write a blog about running, you run in training and in races (including a marathon!!!). You’re clearly a runner!

  4. 7

    In the last year or so, I’ve thought about writing on this topic often, very often. The reason is for exactly what you point out: that the subject is incredibly complicated and nuanced, a fact I am most conscious of when I am injured and out of the game, so to speak, as I was recently from around Thanksgiving to mid-January.

    It never used to be that complicated for me. I feel like I’ve been a runner most of my life, and for me, it is (or should be) as simple as what you wrote in your piece: “Being a runner is part of my identity, and it feels good.”

    The number of miles changes, as do a host of other factors, but when I see a runner–fast, slow, heavy, thin–I always get a swell in my heart and think, “there goes one of my peeps.”

    • Karla Bruning

      Yes! I definitely feel a solidarity. Just today two runners from Ireland stopped me to ask directions to my local running spot. It made me happy for no real reason other than I’m a runner and I happened upon two visiting runners in my neighborhood. Like you said, the miles might change, you might be injured, but none of that changes the fact that you’re a runner in your heart.

  5. 9

    And congratulations by the way, I’ve always loved the inspiration of your story.

  6. 11

    This is always an interesting one…and I’m embarrassed to admit that even when I DO call myself a runner it’s usually quickly followed by, “but I’m not fast”.

    I have no idea why I and many others struggle with this one! Maybe I feel like I’m misrepresenting myself if I call myself a runner? Which is silly because I’ve run 6 marathons and over a dozen half marathons – there’s definitely some running involved to do that!
    Danielle recently posted..Yoga for Runners: Where to BeginMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      I used to do the same thing saying, “But I’m not fast” or “I’m really slow.” I think you’ve hit it on the nose with the word “misrepresenting,” like if we call ourselves runners people will think we’re Olympians or something, which obviously they won’t, but we’re still afraid of seeming more than we are. I’d love it if we could all shake off that thinking and be all, “Heck yeah! I’m a runner!” regardless of fast or slow, how many races we’ve done, etc.

  7. 13

    Self-deprecating jogger – that is the best phrase and it is so me! I absolutely love your article. I still can’t call myself a runner – instead I say “I run” but I don’t stop there. Oh no, I then go on to caveat my statement with “but I’m not fast and in fact I do intervals so I’m not really running the whole time”. I don’t know why it is so hard to say “I’m a runner.”

    Congrats on your runniversary!! :)
    Emily recently posted..2015 Enchanted 10KMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      Thank you, Emily! I know how hard it is, but you’re absolutely a runner! You are dedicated to the sport and do more races than anyone else I know! Is Jeff Galloway a runner? No one would doubt that, and he’s been doing run-walk for 30+ years!
      Karla Bruning recently posted..Run TCS New York City Marathon 2015 For CharityMy Profile

  8. 15

    Good story Karla. I started running seriously in the early ’80s when the only information about running was in Runner’s World. Think I called myself a runner pretty much from day one. I guess most people called themselves runners back then. Definitely more options now with fitness walking, charity events and ‘boot camp’ style training quite popular.
    Ewen recently posted..Cross country and track racingMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      You were one of the original runners of the first boom! Yep, it was a much smaller club than it is nowadays, which is why I think so many people hesitate to call themselves runners. They’re not sure they really belong. But I love that all the different options and styles of running have made the sport more inclusive and more accessible to a wider array of people.
      Karla Bruning recently posted..Run TCS New York City Marathon 2015 For CharityMy Profile

  9. 17

    Honestly, it took a little while for me to look at myself as a “runner!” I remember feeling so ridiculously intimidated during those first couple of 5Ks and 10Ks, and convinced myself that people were looking at me and thinking “what is SHE doing here?” But I think once I started participating in more races and seeing that there were runners there in all shapes and sizes, and with all speed/ability levels, I started to feel more comfortable referring to myself as a “runner.” Looking back, it’s clearly pretty ridiculous…like you said, if you run, then you’re a runner!

    • Karla Bruning

      Yup! I think that’s such a common experience among newbies. I know I felt intimidated and not at all like a “real” runner. But, honestly, I worked harder then than I do now because running was so much harder when I was first starting out! Which is why I want to spread the word that, hey, we’re all runners out there! Glad you embrace it now, too!

  10. 19

    As a slow runner, I never wanted to call myself a RUNNER in case someone would jump out and call me a liar. After I found blogging and began to meet people of all different sizes and levels, I finally felt like I fit in with the runners. Then, the first time I thought to myself “I haven’t run in a few days. I miss running!” That was when I knew I was a runner.

    • Karla Bruning

      Love that! When running is a regular part of your routine–and especially when you miss it–you’re definitely a runner!


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