She haunts me. Always staring at me with eyes full of judgement. I try to avoid her gaze, moving quickly when I pass her, but I can’t escape her stare. Even without looking at her, I feel her disappointment.
‘She’ is Lauren Fleshman, Olympic marathon hopeful, and the feature of the cover of the November issue of Runner’s World. She sits on my dresser atop a growing stack of magazines, each featuring a perfect runner who’s pissed at me. They’re pissed because I won’t read their issue. It’s not that I don’t like Runner’s World. I enjoy it very much, in fact. I’ve gotten some wonderful advice from Runner’s World, and reading about others’ stories of defeat and triumph inspires me. But I just can’t read it right now.
I can’t read it because I don’t feel like I’m a real runner. I feel like a fraud.
In actuality, I’m in a bit of a hiatus. I let running go a bit during ski season, because, as Kyle pointed out, running 4 miles in the morning and then skiing for 5 hours is fucking stupid thing to do and a great way to hurt myself. Then I decided to give P90X an actual go, which meant only one day a week for running. And now that I’ve got Sassy, Kyle and I are going for long bike rides almost everyday. All this means that I’m no longer running the crazy distances 5 days a week like I was last summer, instead going only once or twice a week, and managing only 3 or 4 miles in a run.
I still run, yes, but I no longer feel like a runner. A runner puts running before all else, and never turns down the chance to hit the pavement. A runner can do 5 miles without contemplating throwing themselves in traffic. A runner is constantly looking ahead to the next race, and always trying to run further and faster. I used to be those things, but not right now. I run, but I don’t -er. So to read a magazine written for people who love running, who are passionate about running, it feels like I’m a poser. I don’t feel like I deserve to call myself one of their ranks.
Which has gotten me wondering, what makes someone an -er? A runner, a writer, a skier, a dancer, a hiker, a gamer, a designer; the title indicating that this activity is part of who you are, a facet of your life. When do you get to call yourself an -er? Where’s the threshold between someone who simply does and an -er? Is it the frequency in which a person engages in the activity, or is there a skill level that must be reached? Is simply having passion and enthusiasm enough, or do you have to be good at it, too?
And let’s say your passion wanes, and you’re not into it as much as you used to. Are you still an -er? Can you be a sometimes -er, a casual -er? When do you stop being an -er altogether? And once you’re no longer an -er, how long do you have to be back at it and at what intensity level before you can call yourself an -er again?
I don’t know the answer to any of these questions. I run but I don’t feel like a runner. I write but I don’t feel like a writer. I hike but wouldn’t call myself a hiker yet. I play Mario Kart, but wouldn’t begin to call myself a gamer. I can’t explain it, but I don’t feel qualified to be an -er in most of the activities in which I participate.
I do, however, know in my heart of hearts that I am a skier, a blogger, and a lighting designer. I used to be a singer, a dancer, and a runner, but I know that I’m not anymore. I can’t explain any of them.
Where are you an -er?