As we celebrate Global Running Day this week (June 5th) I see so many people out there questioning if they are a “real” runner. The answer to that question is if you run, then YES, you are a real runner. I don’t care what pace it is, if you are out there running, then you are a runner. Runners are some of the nicest, inclusive, hard working, goal oriented and sometimes sweatiest people around. A bond is formed whenever you share a few miles with someone, swap races stories, or agree on what gels are the best. Running is the most inclusive community I have ever been a part of and have met some of the best people I have ever known.

After my break from running in high school, I came back to running and was always worried when someone would ask me to run with them because I “wasn’t that fast”. For years, I would make up excuses not to meet up with people because I was terrified that I would slow them down or they would hear my heavy breathing (I have asthma— so even slow paces can make me sound like a wheezing death train). It wasn’t until I finally stepped out of my comfort zone and started running with those “fast” people that I finally fell in love with running and I also started to get faster. The miles would click by as they told stories (the paces were too fast for me to talk and breathe. So the added benefit of running with faster people is that they can talk and you can just nod and listen). I started placing in my age group in races and saw my times keep improving. They were helping me get better, but what I didn’t know is that I was also helping them! How could that be? I was so much slower…Well every run has a purpose and even the fast runners need slow runs. I was keeping them on track with making sure they didn’t run too fast. Slow runs are a huge benefit to faster runners for recovery miles or coming back from injury or just adding some junk miles into their training cycle. So, if someone asks you to run with them, be honest with what paces you can do and if they still ask, then go!!! Don’t be scared, because they could need you as much as you need them.

The other great thing about running, other than giving you a family to be a part of, is the fact that there is always someone faster and always someone slower. This gives you an opportunity to admire the speed some people have and strive to improve your own paces. It also gives you the ability to help someone that you may be faster than achieve their goals. We always have someone to admire. We always have someone to chase and we always have someone to be in awe of their determination and drive. Several years back, I had missed my marathon goal by 5 mins and was pretty upset. I finished, showered, read some emails and went to walk to get some food and think about how hard I ran, but still missed my goals. When I was walking to eat there was a man coming down the last mile finishing the marathon. It was at the 6 hour mark and I teared up at the thought of how hard that man had worked to be out there 6 hours. Just because the time is slower, doesn’t mean the effort isn’t just as great. In fact, one could argue that he worked harder than I did that day. I realized, in that moment, that running was more than just a time on the clock. The persistence, hard work, sacrifice and determination is what makes you a runner, not pace, nor tons of miles. Time goals are great, but never outrun the joy of running. Never let a pace or clock determine the effort you put into a goal.

As we celebrate running this week, remember that you belong in this community and that we all are chasing someone or something. Let’s all continue to cheer each other on and encourage each other along the way, because this is one big family and we all have a seat at the family reunion table (or in our case) the starting line.

Happy Running, my friends!

Alicia Rider

#MEGAInfluencer @rarunnergirl262.