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Am I an -Er?

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?

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • allison April 22, 2012, 11:44 am

    damn you for making me contemplate life on a sunday morning. ok, afternoon, but still. being an -er is something i think about a LOT, especially in terms of anything artistic ending in -er, because that seems so subjective and most judged by the public. in your case, you may not be a runner (though i think you are, since you do it and i dont) but you’re still athletic as hell so that counts for something!

    now im going to go make an -er list…

  • Karen April 22, 2012, 1:25 pm

    you are a good sist-er, daught-er & daught-er-in-law as well as a terrific support-er of my son.. you are a runn-er, a danc-er-, a super lighting design-er & lots of other -ers…..

    I would like to say creative as well, even tho’ it doesn’t have the -er; and you are a very articulate & expansive writ-er & blogg-er…

    • Monster April 22, 2012, 1:27 pm

      I forgot about those first three. I think those are my favorite…

  • Brad April 22, 2012, 7:46 pm

    I think that the -er words are, for the most part, a classification inside something bigger. Being a runner just means you’re an athlete.

    When I’m designing something I consider myself a designer, but even when I’m not actively cueing or rendering something, I’m still an artist.

    The same goes for being an athlete – you can choose to be passionate about different things and activities (skiing, PX90, bike rides) while still being true to the larger aspect of your life.

    I think the -er words are just classifications of activities that reflect your viewpoint in the world. You haven’t stopped being athletic or working out, you’ve just changed the scenery, which is a great thing to do every once in a while.

    • Monster April 22, 2012, 10:11 pm

      That’s a fantastic way of thinking about it, on a larger scale from a macro viewpoint. I like that.

      And oddly enough, designer, the one -er that one would think I’d be the most unsure of and requires me to be the most vulnerable in front of the most people, is one that I’m most sure about. Funny how that works.

  • Christine April 22, 2012, 7:55 pm

    I hope I’m a moth-er, but don’t always feel like I am. I do think I am a stage manage-er, even though I don’t do it consistently. I think whether or not you are an -er has more to do with your competency and enjoyment that your level of intensity or achievement.

    • Ryan April 24, 2012, 4:42 pm

      You are also a good lov-er.

  • Charm City Kim April 25, 2012, 1:55 pm

    I totally relate to the hesitation to call myself a runn-er. I’m slow and I don’t run crazy distances. I stopped my subscription to Runner’s World because I just didn’t feel like I was that engrossed in running anymore (despite the fact that I try to run/jog 3 times a week).

    If I had to put you in a category, I’d say you’re a kick-ass writ-er or blogg-er.

  • SVV April 26, 2012, 5:15 pm

    What about being a fuck-er? Cause I’m only that, like, once a week.

    • Monster April 26, 2012, 5:32 pm

      As long as you’re committed to the fucker lifestyle.

      • Camels & Chocolate April 27, 2012, 1:14 pm

        Haha, I was going to respond to this comment of yours in its awesomeness and then saw, in turn, who was a response to. Fitting.

  • Camels & Chocolate April 27, 2012, 1:13 pm

    Girlfriend, I’m so with you on all of these feelings. Want to know what I’m going to be doing during the Nashville Marathon tomorrow? Not running 26.2 miles, not even running 13.1 miles, but sitting on the sidelines with Scott, drinking beer and watching as my friends dart past.

    Whatever. Running at the crack of dawn is overrated anyway.

  • Keely April 29, 2012, 4:37 pm

    Yeah, I don’t know, either. I’ve been a casual -er of many things lately, but not one where I would introduce myself as, “Hi, I’m Keely, I’m a ______________-er”.

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