From the Archives- Running Myths

My kids told me last night that they never believed in Santa.  Don’t feel sorry for them.  Their lives are more than comfortable.  But it was a myth we never had to bust.  The fact that we open all of our presents on Christmas Eve and the handwriting on the gift tags looks exactly like mine may have given it away.  For others, Santa is alive and real and I urged my daughters not to spoil someone else’s belief in him.  There’s no harm in thinking he’s real (apologies for those who thought he was until they read this!).  But there are some myths that are dangerous and should be dispelled.  From the archives, a column I wrote in 2013 about a few running myths that simply need to go away.  Read on and enjoy!

It's a myth that running is hard and awful.  Sometimes it is.  And sometimes it's just fun.
It’s a myth that running is hard and awful. Sometimes it is. And sometimes it’s just fun.

I was a trusting child. I believed anything and everything anyone in authority- or who was simply older than I- told me.

If I crossed my eyes too long, they would stay crossed.

Swallowed gum would literally gum up my insides.

Wearing hats will make me bald.

Boys have cooties. According to my daughters, that one is true.

Myths are often perpetuated to encourage desired behavior. Often times they discourage what could potentially be a wonderful adventure.

For many, the world of running is a mysterious, foreign land filled with goal-obsessed athletes who wear bright-colored wicking shirts and dine on GU’s, Powerade and peanut butter sandwiches for dessert.

Granted, running may not be appealing to everyone, but often times the reasons that keep people from venturing into the land of sweet sweat aren’t real reasons at all. I’m here to debunk a few of the myths surrounding my beloved sport.

Myth #1: Real runners are fast.
It’s true that elite runners are fast, but only a tiny population of runners are considered elite. The vast majority of runners aren’t out to win big races or seek sponsorships from major shoe companies. Most are out to enjoy time outside, work out stress and get healthy. Only one major marathon in the country carries a qualifying time requirement: Boston. Other races simply require your money and presence.

Myth #2: Real runners race.
I know many runners who have no desire to ever set foot on a starting line of any race whether it be a 5K or a marathon. Paying an entrance fee and pinning on a bib number doesn’t make someone more of a runner. It simply makes them a racer. For many, running races adds unneeded stress and anxiety. Running should ease stress, not cause it.

Myth #3: Real runners use coaches.
Coaches aren’t just for elite or collegiate runners anymore. Especially with the internet, anyone can find a coach to help them meet their goals. But being coached isn’t a requirement to be a runner. I have worked with a coach in the past, but found that I work best alone. In fact, my most successful year in running happened sans coach.

Myth #4: Real runners are tall and skinny
I confess that I used to believe this one, too. Many people begin running believing they, too, will magically transform into Ryan Hall or Kara Goucher. Truth is runners come in every shape and size imaginable. If you’re new to running you can certainly expect to see your body transform, but often the changes we get are not the changes we anticipate. Sometimes they’re better. Go watch a race, even a marathon, and marvel at the vast array of body types that cruise by. It’s inspiring and reassuring.

Myth #5: Real runners run marathons.
Yes, marathons are my race of choice. I love the training. I love the long, lonely distances. That’s just me. For many, a marathon is the ultimate goal. Yet, there are many runners who never come close to reaching that 26.2 mile marker and have no desire to attempt it. It’s not about the distance covered. Some of the greatest runners in the world only run a few meters at a time. I dare anyone to tell Usain Bolt he’s not a runner.

Myth #6: Real runners just run.
If my body would allow me to run all day, ever day and never break down, I would do it. If I never had to strength train again, I’d be a very happy girl. If the only exercise I ever got was running my favorite trails with my favorite people I would be content. But my body does break down. My knees complain loudly and viciously when my glutes are weak. There are a few lucky ducks who can pile on the miles without ever cross-training, but they’re rare. Cross-training is a crucial part of most runner’s exercise diet. Not only does it give the body a break from the pounding but it’s a mental break, as well. Too much of a good thing is just too much.

“I run a little, but I’m not a real runner,” is one phrase that makes my ears ache. The truth of the matter is if you run, you’re a runner. Simple as that. There is no distance requirement. No size limit. No age limit. No speed test. That only thing that makes someone a runner is lacing up their shoes and running. There’s beauty in the simplicity.

Real runners run.

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