Friday, August 15, 2014

How Do You Know If You're A Real Runner?

I’ve been running for 43 years. September 29, 1971 was my first cross-country practice at Maine-Endwell. I was in 7th grade and on my first run EVER I ran 7.6 miles UP Struble Road to Robinson Hill- down Country Club to Taft, UP Taft and down Hooper back to the High School.
I remember being so sore in bed that night wanting to quit and, in an era when parents didn’t baby their kids, my mother told me that if I quit I was a wimp. Thank God she made me continue to run because within about four days I was no longer sore (this includes running my first race on my fourth day of running) and hooked- for life. Back then, running was different - everyone was hard core, serious. The first road race I remember was a “5 mile” race around the grounds of the State Hospital. The spectators were patients watching out the windows. There were about 50 runners and everyone was “good”. Everyone was a serious runner who trained and raced hard.
The running boom hit and numbers grew. How many people remember the Sun Run in Downtown Binghamton? Over 600 in the 5K; I have to admit it felt really cool to be a young kid and finish up near the front with all those people running.

This leads up to a race I was in sometime in the early 1990’s, a friend from high school was running and told me that he was “not a REAL runner like I was”. Well that got me thinking - Just what IS a real runner? According to him, he wasn’t a real runner (and I was) because he ran a time in the mid 20’s for 5K and I was somewhere around 17:00 + or -. I was at the front of the pack and he was at the back of the pack.
OK, if I was a REAL runner then what about the guys who were running 15:00? Did THEY make ME “not a real runner”? Then, what about the guys running under 14:00? Were the 15:00 guys not real runners? I watched the Olympics and one guy won the 5000 meter run. Was he the only “real runner” in the race, in the world?
The answer is (and I speak with over 40 years of experience folks) NO!!!! 
Truly, honestly, we are ALL real runners.
Do you go out and train when your schedule allows you to? Do you run the mileage your lifestyle lets you run? Do you enter races and run your best? Trying to beat your PR?
Then you are a real runner.
I was thinking about it the other day and here’s what I think: When you run there is a time when both of your feet are off the ground at the same time. When you walk one foot is always touching the ground.

So now that we’ve solved that problem let’s move on to our perceptions.

When I was younger I could run 6:00 per mile easily, I could do workouts of 400 meter repeats at under 65 seconds and even under 60 seconds and 300’s in under 45 seconds. Now, if I even approach 7:00 on a training run I’m excited (and by approach I mean get that fast). I do 400’s in 1:20 and 300’s in 1:00.
Am I any less of a runner now than when I as 25 years old?

No way - I still love it and feel great doing it.
Meagan Krifchin at Confluence Running in Binghamton, NY
Maegan Krifchin at Confluence Running
Confluence Running has these “Beginner Group Runs". Experienced runners run with newer runners. Our motto is “No runner left behind”. I really enjoy these group runs. Running along at 10:00-11:00 per mile and YES!!!! One of my feet is always off the ground!
Are these people real runners? They sure are. They are out there doing a very healthy activity and becoming “better”, so to speak. In the words of Maegan Krifchin, a Pro Runner from the Syracuse area, they are becoming the best “me” they can become.
We all have our own level- 12:39 for 5K, 15:00, 17:00, 21:00, 31:00. If you’re out there running, your best, becoming a better “you”, then you are a runner. 

A REAL runner.

5K, 10K, ½ marathon, marathon, ultra- it doesn’t matter the

distance, it’s the effort, it’s YOU being YOUR 


Yes, you are a runner and you should think of yourself as a runner. I’ve been a real runner for over 40 years and I respect you, so you should respect yourself.  

About the Author:

Michael Cordi has been a dedicated track and cross country coach for years, as well as an active and enthusiastic member of the running community in Binghamton, NY.

Just a 5k: Why Even After Two Marathons I'm Still Intimidated

 Just a 5k: Why Even After Two Marathons I'm Still Intimidated

I hear it all time time at packet pick up for races or running groups on Facebook: "I'm only running the 5k."  As if the only thing that mattered in running was the distance you're capable of enduring.  As if someone who can "only" run as far as 3.1 miles is not a "real" runner. 

I, too, was guilty of this when I started running.  Running even a 10k distance seemed completely unimaginable to me, though I knew others could do it.  I never thought I'd run a half marathon, let alone complete a full marathon distance.  I knew I was the bottom of the barrel, distance-wise.  "I'm not that kind of runner," I'd think,  "I'll never be the person that can go so very far."  It was all I could manage to pull off my 3 mile training runs a few times a week.  I remember making the decision to run a half marathon and wondering whether I'd ever really be able to make it that far.  

That far.  That's what entered my head.  Speed wasn't my goal, though I liked the idea of it.  I had a tendency to obsess over the numbers and find where I ranked among other runners after a race.  I loved hitting those PR goals.  But instead of pushing for personal speed records, I pushed for distance records.  How far is my body capable of going?  Ten miles?  Twenty miles?  Fifty miles?  I still don't know.  I have yet to find that limit and it's still very interesting to me to go the distance.  

A 5k race is a very different beast, however.  It's not the long, slow endurance of discomfort, but the short, fast endurance of as much pain as you can manage.  Contrary to the attitude of most beginner runners, who treat it as if it's just a stepping stone, the 5k is it's own entity.  It's its own race.  It's worthy of respect, in its own right.  How many Olympic 5000 meter runners say "oh, I'm only running a 5k" on race day?  My guess is not a single one in the history of the games.  The 5k is a difficult race - not quite a sprint, but still short enough to push yourself extremely hard.

Now I find myself in the position of being close to really competing against the top athletes in my area in a 5k.  I was never a runner, I started running at 30 years old after having 3 babies and years of neglecting my body.  I began running just to add some interest to my life and hopefully, finally, lose the last of the baby weight.  Those local elite athletes were placed on a pedestal that I never expected to approach, yet now, several years and thousands of miles later, I find myself nearing their pace, slowly but steadily.  The pedestal I placed them on in my head is now completely intimidating to me when I consider racing them.  I'm inexperienced in racing, anyway, having tried many different distances but no single distance frequently.   

Now, however, I've landed in a place where I'm approaching the runners I idolized.  It's exciting and terrifying all at once.  I keep thinking "how did I get here?  I'm not a 'real' runner."   I feel like I don't deserve to reap the benefits of all the work I've done. I feel like I'm not worthy. But the reality is, I am worthy, and I am ready to take that step.

This evening, I'll be running my first 5k in more than two years.  "Only" a 5k, but I find my heart racing and panic building every time I think of it.  I know I can run the distance, but the speed is a completely different question in my head, let alone the pain involved in pushing myself as hard as I possibly can for 3.1 miles.  I realize now that it wasn't a pedestal that I've put them on, but rather a stepping stone. And today, I'm taking a deep breath, swallowing my panic, and taking that terrifying step up to that stone.

About the author:
Jenna Jenks runs, writes, and raises her 3 children in Binghamton, NY. In her spare time she knits and dreams about training for triathlons.