On being a runner.

The morning was perfect. Low sixties (16C), low humidity, no clouds. Tim was feeling much better about running than he had been on that Monday a couple weeks before. He was feeling better in general.

He showed up at the park and started running slowly, allowing his body to warmup. He nodded to the people he met on the path. He was getting more comfortable running in daylight now that he’d been working at it for a month. And running with someone like Paul had helped. There was a sense of community that helped him through some of the moments of insecurity. Alone, he would have quit.

Tim had never been a runner. Growing up, he spent more of his time exercising his mind than his body. He laughed at his friends who were working hard going in circles around a track. It seemed pointless.

But he couldn’t deny that something was different. His conversations were changing. His choices about all kinds of things were starting to shift. He thought back to the way he mocked his friends and wanted to apologize. A little.

After all, they were pretty arrogant about their abilities to attract attention.

He was lost in thought when Paul came up from behind. Paul had to say his name a couple times.

“Sorry,” Tim said. I was just thinking about changing labels. Are you a runner? Am I?”

“What do you think makes a person a runner?” Paul answered.

“I used to think it was about winning races,” Tim said. “Or having a certain physique or spending a certain amount on shoes or running ultramarathons. But I’m not so sure anymore. I’m starting to think it’s about running.”

Paul laughed. “Well, being a runner certainly involves running. I think about how I used to read about running. I’d look at magazines. I’d read books. But I wasn’t a runner. I wasn’t even a bad runner. But when I realized that, there was this small nudge. It said to do something different, to live differently. So I ran a little.”

“But how much? When had you run enough that you could look in the mirror and say, ‘I’m a runner’?”

“Ah. There’s an interesting thing. I think that when you say that there needs to be a change and you start running, that you are a runner.” Paul smiled.”You may or may not realize it or accept it, but you are. When you quit sitting and start moving, when you start to follow that path, you are a runner.”

“You make it sound like a conversion,” Tim said.

“I think of it more as accepting a new identity. And growing into that identity.” He looked at Tim. “It’s about training, after all. Learning how to live like a runner lives.”

Paul shook out his arms. “Time to get moving. It’s what runners do.”

He looked at Tim again. “And you are a runner.”