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What’s In A Good Runner – by Jeremy Wallace

Good Runner - Las Vegas Runners

Good Runner - Las Vegas Runners“Did you win?” he asked innocently.  A simple question from an acquaintance about a month or two ago.  I don’t blame him.  He had no idea such a question can stir a flurry of emotions in a competitive athlete like myself.  He was referring to the Boston Marathon.  A question from someone who doesn’t run, and one that brings about feelings of anxiety, inadequacy and ultimately rage deep in my soul.  How, you might ask?  Well, my first thought was “Is this guy screwing with me?” but a quick check of any quick-shifting pupils or any hint of his mouth turned up at the corners indicated he was dead serious.  He actually wanted to know if I won the Boston Marathon.  I’ve found the idea that I’m the greatest runner ever is pretty common among my non-running friends.  They typically have no idea what it takes to finish a marathon, let alone win one.  My second thought was that I should explain to him that I finished 1,195 out of 26,610 runners which is in the top 5%.  I wanted to tell him that you have to qualify for the event with a good time in another marathon, that I was probably in the top 1% of marathoners nationally, that 26,000 people is a lot, that only one person can win, that the winner is probably from East Africa and that I would be competitive locally but the Boston Marathon is a World-class event, and that I trained really hard for it and still feel accomplished………. But people who don’t run generally don’t know or care much about marathons or the 5 million+ people in the US who run them so why bother, plus in my make-believe conversation, his response would have been something to the effect of “So you lost?” which would have been where the rage came in, because there’s nothing more enraging to a runner than a couch potato making subtle judgements…….  So, I answered with a simple “Yes, of course I won!” and he seemed to be satisfied with that.  Don’t judge me.  He went on to tell me about a “5K marathon” he did once at a 5:00/mile pace.  I just nodded and smiled, mostly because it’s easier.  Here’s the truth though, he didn’t really care about my race either way, he just wanted to relate to me and make small talk.  What’s the harm, and why do I feel the need to justify anything?  Then I started thinking, what really makes a good runner?………………..

Is it time it takes to complete a distance?  If so, what distance?  100m?  ½ Marathon?  Is it rank?  If so, which rank?  The local 5K?  The Olympics?  Is it running longevity?  Is the 70 year old runner who’s been doing it all his life better than the 25 year old speed-demon?  What about someone who never gets injured?  Is he a good runner?  I occasionally get called a “good”, but I mostly consider myself mediocre, mostly because I’m sure I haven’t reached my potential and I’m not sure I have the drive to get there because there are times when I don’t give 100%.  What about you?  Here’s a better question:

What makes YOU a good runner?

Do you do your best?  At anything?  Are you committed to reaching your goals, even when they’re not easy or convenient?  Do you put everything you have into your diet, deficiencies, rest and training so you can put your all into your event?  How about your last main event?  Were you able to stay focused?  Did you leave every ounce of you on the course?  What about mid-training?  Did you complete the majority of your workouts with purpose and diligence or did you just go for a jog?  If not, why not?  Just do your best.  It’s such a simple statement, but so hard to do.  Some days your best will be just getting out of bed, other days you’ll be able to push yourself to the absolute limits of exhaustion.  I’ve found that most athletes are unable or unwilling to give 100%.  Maybe it’s time, fear,  lack of motivation or passion.  Whatever the case, what really makes you a good runner is the ability to get the best out of yourself on this day, without comparison to anyone else or yourself on any other day.  So my challenge to you and myself is to develop or redevelop our passion for running.  Refocus and find our excellence today, because what makes you a good runner is within you and up to you.  You can only have one Personal Record in your life at any given distance, one “best race ever”.  That means if you’re only comparing yourself to your PRs, you’ll be disappointed a lot.  If you’re constantly judging yourself and ability based on your last-best effort or someone else’s, you’ve already lost.  Remember, there can only be one Boston Marathon 1st place finisher.  If it’s not you, it doesn’t mean you lost, even if you finished 1,195th.  If you lost, the only reason is because you didn’t try.

I digress.  Let’s revisit the original problem

What if you find yourself in a similar situation?  What should you do if you’ve been cornered by an friend who seriously wants to know if you won your last race?  Someone staring you in the eye waiting to apply his disappointed look, sigh and judge your athletic performance before he tells you about his fantasy 3.1 mile-marathon and then goes back to eating his Cheetos without another thought of your silly little run?  You tell him “Of course I won!” and move on:)  It’s the truth, isn’t it?

Jeremy Wallace
Las Vegas Runners
RRCA and USATF certified coach
Could win the Boston Marathon if he wanted

USATF and RRCA Running Coach, Jeremy Wallace