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Friday, July 25, 2014

What is a Real Runner?




A couple of days ago I had an interesting conversation with a woman. We were talking about exercise, not just for fitness sake, but for enjoyment. About fitness as a lifestyle worth living. I asked her how much she runs, and she explained that she “only runs a few miles several days per week.”

“You seem like a real runner,” she said.

I remember feeling an involuntary wrinkle in my brow and being taken aback for a moment. 

Because even though I started running as a kid and I still run a lot today, I don't actually didn’t think I ever perceived myself to be “a real runner.” 

When I think of a real runner I picture Karen Gaucher, Ryan Hall, Deena Castor and Meb Keflezighi. I tend to conjure mental images of people who have dedicated their lives to running in ways that I never could. In someway, I think I had classified a real runner as somebody who could consistently run 100 miles per week during their training periods or win races.

A real runner, I had always thought, never loses that focus on the future. Keeps her eye on the goal. She visualizes achieving her aim. Always thinks about finishing, and how it will feel.

But as I thought about that, I started to think about my friends who I think of as “real runners.” And I immediately came up with several that don't run outrageous distances. None of them run for paychecks. All of them truly love running.

John Hunt, Anjulee Johnson, Phủỏng Mai N, Sarah Graham, Mimi Jacobson-Kwok, Brynn Ewen, Laura Duplantis. These are my friends, normal people, and they are all “real runners.” In one way or another each one of them has impressed me. I have seen pictures of their runs and have been inspired. The way they have described a specific run, the way they felt, what they get from running has made me smile. 

What I realized is that their stories, their reasons for running and how their descriptions of running touches me is always about being in the moment.

It's about rows of palm trees on the Stanford campus. The smell of running through the redwoods. The beauty of oaks and pine trees passing overhead. It is about sunshine and fog and feeling alive. It's about being grateful to be fit, and able to run. It is about enjoying movement in a beautiful place, right now.

Its not about pace or distance. Its not about how many finisher medals hang on the wall. Its not about being a Kenyan. And its certainly not about how the next marathon finish will feel, tomorrow, next month or next year.

Its about gratitude. An instagram pic of a beautiful setting or a genuine smile in the middle of a long run. Its about now. The way it feels to run 47 blocks in Oakland, one way, today.

And then she asked me what my last run was like.

I didn’t think about how the run fit into my Ironman training plan. I didn’t think about the pace I kept. I described the feeling of warm sun on my shoulders, strength in my legs, 7 deer quietly feeding on the side of the trail, the amazing blue of Crystal Springs set a against a sea of green trees hugged gently by a thin blanket of clouds under a clear blue sky. I though about how that run made me feel so alive, in that moment. 

And I thought, “maybe I am a real runner.”  



Dr. Christopher Segler is a 12-time Ironman Triathlon Finisher, but more importably he is a real runner.  His podiatric sports medicine practice caters to athletes who think that there has to be way to stay fit, keep training, yet still heal an injury. He often lectures at medical conferences on the treatment of complicated running injuries, running biomechanics, and subtle fracture patterns of the foot and ankle. If you have a question about a running injury you can call him directly at 415-308-0833.  You can also learn more about running injuries at www.AnkleCenter.com and www.DocOnTheRun.com


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