When I first started running, I struggled a lot with the stigma that to be a runner I couldn’t walk. Not once. Not one step. Not until cool down. And even then, jogging is a much more hardcore way to cool down. Somehow, the act of walking a few steps every now and again totally negated the sweat, hard work and effort that went into running three miles. If I had to walk, that must mean I failed at running. And at the very least, I wasn’t allowed to call myself a “runner” if I walked a single step. I had to clarify my title by saying I was a “walk/runner” or a “jogger”. Because the title “runner” was strictly reserved for those that weren’t weak.
Professional athletes in other sports take breaks all the time. You don’t hear basketball players calling themselves “basketball player/sitter” because they sit their highly paid bums on the bench, do you? Or football players considered weak because they stand in a huddle between plays. So why did I feel like walking was such a scarlet letter?
Honestly it was because, while the running community is supportive and motivating, those on the “outside” seem to think that walking while running is failing. And when I started running, I was on the outside. Now that I’m in the running community, I’m realizing that runners come in all speeds (and yes, walking is just a speed). And we are all celebrated with the same finish line, the same medal, and the same bagel halves. The finish line does not care if you walked for 30 seconds at mile two.
And so, now I walk when I feel like it. And guess what? I’m still a runner. And I spew the term around without adding an asterisk or a slash to quantify my title. Want to know something even more shocking? A lot of runners walk. They may walk through water stations. Or be on a schedule (run 5 minutes, walk a minute). Or just walk when they feel like it. And they all call themselves “runners” without shame or trepidation.
Want to know why you didn’t notice it before? Because when they are walking, they don’t look like runners, they look like walkers (go figure). Sometimes runners even stop completely midrun (gasp!) and you don’t recognize those either because then they just look like loiterers. Some of us stop and do random stretches on the side of the road. We just look like crazy people.
Of course, not all runners walk. But there are a lot more of us than you probably would think. And no one looks down on us because we walk. Or tells us we aren’t good enough. Seriously, come over to the running side, we have nice people, free beer, and you can walk all you want.