Real Runners Vs Fake Runners

A topic I visit and revisit almost yearly is about “real runners” versus…well I’m not really sure.  I suppose for the sake of this post I’ll say “fake runners”.  It falls under the category of comparison really.  As human beings we compare ourselves to anything and anyone.  So and so is pretty or so and so is fast at running or athletics…I could never be like them.

Where do we draw the line at what a real runner versus a fake runner is?  Not every blog I read is a “running blog” or always training for something.  Some read my blog, some don’t.  Some are walking 30 minute miles and that makes them happy.  Some are elite runners and that makes them happy.

When you go to a road race, there is a pretty strong divide of people.  There are the people running for a time.  Maybe they are hoping to PR. They are hoping to run their personal best for the day. They log miles every day.  They have flashy or serious singlets.  They are the “real runners”.

Then there are people at the race looking to finish.  Maybe it’s their first road race ever.  Maybe it’s their first time running ever.  Maybe they could care less about a time.  Maybe they are looking to PR.  Maybe they are wearing blue jeans and a tshirt or maybe they are wearing a flashy singlet or cool outfit.  Guess what?  They are also real runners.

Everyone at that road race is a real runner.  Everyone running outdoors, on the treadmill, on trails, in the city…they are all real runners.

What bothers me most is that people wait for someone to say “hey you…you over there…you are a real runner!”  You don’t need to justify that to anyone.  If you like to run you are a runner.  If you like to run but don’t race you are a runner.  If you like to race but never train…you are a real runner.

If running brings you any remote happiness, then you are a runner.  You don’t need to justify to others why you are indeed a runner.  You don’t really need to justify any aspect of your life if it makes you happy but if you think you are a runner…then you are.  You can be running a 4 minute mile and be going to the Olympics or a 30 minute mile.  If running brings you happiness…you are a real runner.

Questions for you:

Are you a real runner?

What/When was your first road race?

Categories: Tags: , , ,


  1. My first race was forever ago… I think 2007. I did a 5K and hated it and never did another until late 2009 when my church paid an entry fee into one. Then I did one my job sponsored and well… I was hooked after that.

    My run club has guys just out of college track who run 16 minute 5Ks and ladies who run/walk 16 minute miles. If you’re out there with us at dark thirty or after a busy workday trying to improve yourself in whatever way, whether that is get faster, lose weight, or accomplish a personal goal, you are a runner. We could honestly care less what speed you are going. That’s how it should be :).

  2. I laugh when some one brings this up before or after a race, in all honesty: Real and Fake are two adjectives that have no effect on a persons authenticity.

  3. My first road race was the Binghamton Bridge Run 5K in May of 2012. I ran it in 34:32. My last race was the Corning Wineglass half marathon on October 6th 2013 which I ran it in 1:32:53.

    I feel I am a runner and don’t need to justify myself to anyone. Your a runner in my opinion if you run for fun or competition. I don’t think there is a defining line so to speak.

  4. This post couldn’t have been more timely seeing as I just started lacing up my running shoes again. I have to admit that I never really called myself a real runner before, mostly because I never took it -that- seriously and felt like everyone else (who was running farther/faster than me) would just scoff at my personal accomplishments. The funny thing is, it never really got me down, though… I was happy for others and inspired by their successes, and just satisfied with doing my own thing. I’ve never been in a race or seriously trained for anything, but the other day I caught myself looking up races in my city and getting a little excited. I can’t say that I’ll ever be one of those flashy runners that run for times and PR’s, but you never know, right? For now I’m just enjoying my baby running steps 🙂

  5. A righteous post to the point of health-and-wellness prophecy. There is nothing like the elitist attitude to send droves of people into sedentary resignation. Studies of fitness dropouts so indicate. Your attitude on the other hand, invites the many into a sport that is itself curative, preventive, and transformative when undertaken with some homework, wisdom, and guidance at the start. Cheers!

  6. I was worried where this post was headed after the first set of ‘real runners’ but was so relieved and glad to see how you described the 2nd set and that they are also real runners. Everyone has their own challenges, goals and some have different abilities. I get amped up seeing overweight people walk and make progress, people that dabble in fitness but eat like crap change their diet and become healthier and happier and also see people who run a sub-7 minute mile pace stretch to their limits in training and knock off 5 seconds, or maybe not but the journey is worth it. Love your post. We are all runners (unless you buy the gear/apparel but don’t even run lol).

  7. The notion of ‘real’ runners always makes me giggle…even though I’d still never refer to myself as a runner in casual conversation. I know, stupid, right? I just always feel like I’m too slow to be a ‘real’ runner – not looking for sympathy here, as well all know that ‘slow’ is relative, right? – and deep down I still feel like the lazy, tubby, unfit kid who never dreamed of being able to run at all. I don’t win races (unless for some reason all of the fast people don’t show up) in amazing times, I don’t log training runs in the 6:30-7:00 pace range like a lot of bloggers out there who seem to do so effortlessly, but without running my life truly has no meaning. I absolutely agree that it’s the happiness derived from running, on some level, that makes a ‘real’ runner.


    1. Oh, and my first road race was a pink, sparkly all-women 5K Race For Life back in 2008. I didn’t train for it at all and hated the rah-rah running-skirt atmosphere, but the actual act of racing made me so hungry for more that I became somewhat addicted to it 😉

      1. Oops, typo – 2007, not 2008, although I didn’t bother actually training for a race until 2008. Okay, I’ll stop spamming your comments section now…

    2. HA I don’t mind at all! I’ve never be able to log runs that fast or effortless either. A training run that ends with averaging a low 8 minute pace makes me feel amazing (but is not effortless at all!).

  8. I am a real runner. I don’t think there are any fake runners and it annoys me when people ask “when can I call myself a runner?” You run = you’re a runner.
    My first road race was a 10K back in 2006.

  9. I love this! I have questioned myself time and again if I am a “real runner”. I run therefore I am a REAL runner. Although I am injured right now, all I want to do is get back to running. As long as you run you are a REAL runner. I think of it as runners and non-runners not REAL vs. FAKE.

  10. I loved this blog post. Mentally, this is something I grapple with quite regularly. I only stated running about 3 years ago, and I’m not consistent enough with my schedule. Because of this, it’s really easy to fall into the mentality of “I’m not really a runner, so I don’t need to get out there. ” but I do need to get out there. Running is therapy for me, it makes me feel better, it’s good for my body, it makes stress seem to dissolve away. Thank you for this blog post, and for reminding me that I shouldn’t get so hung up on the label thing. 🙂

    1. I can certainly relate. Running is always the least stressful part of my day and it makes me feel better. I only started running a little over 3 years ago too!

  11. I am in love with this post! I always bash myself and don’t consider myself a real runner because {comparatively} I am so slow. But I used to really enjoy it and am working on getting my running strength back.
    When I start running seriously again I will remind myself of this post and that I am a REAL runner 🙂

  12. Ahh thank you, this post was just what I needed to read! Especially since you’re what I would consider a “real” runner, it makes it that much more significant that you would extend that title to anyone who runs.

    I don’t think of myself as a real runner, most of the time. I’ve never been on a competitive team, and I think my paces are slow compared to where they should be after 5 years of running. Ugh just typing that makes me feel ashamed. My first road race was an incredibly slow half marathon – like over 2:30. I’ve blocked out what the exact time was! My PR for the half marathon is now 1:55, as of last year, so at least I’ve improved from there. Still, I wish I could take more pride in my running and not feel like an imposter.

  13. This is something I hear at the store all the time: “I run, but I’m not a runner.” Hey, customer, if you run, then guess what–you’re a runner! Simple as that! 🙂

  14. Love this. I’ve been running more regularly for about 8 months, and am training for a Turkey Trot. I often don’t think of myself as a “runner” but, why not? I run, and I’m trying, so that’s all that matters, right?

  15. Love this Hollie! My first half-marathon was exactly 4 years ago this weekend in Des Moines, IA and I was just reflecting on it this morning – that I decided to become a “runner” in 2009 when I was going to be turning 40, and inspired by The Biggest Loser TV show (i.e. if they can do it, so can I!) I applaud you for your refreshing perspective and can I get a Hell Yes for everyone and anyone who laces up and steps out the door on any day!

  16. I have been reading running blogs since before I even started running, they are actually what motivated me to sign up for my first 5k and find a training plan with no running experience whatsoever. However, those same running blogs are what made me feel like I was always too slow, not a real runner, etc. Not that it was their fault, it was mine for allowing myself to have that perception. Recently, mostly since my last injury that I’m just now making a comeback from, I’ve accepted that I am a runner, and not a bad one either (still not as good as most of the blogs I read but that’s okay, it gives me motivation) and I absolutely love running and the way it makes me feel. Now, when people ask, I proudly tell them that I am a runner and it finally feels like a description that fits me. 🙂

  17. Definitely agree! There is no such thing as a “fake” runner. 🙂 My first race was in college, the Philly half. I haven’t been back to run there since so I’m excited to run the full there this year!

  18. My first race was in June this year for a work supported event. It was 5k and I had 5 weeks to get my couch lovin’ tush prepared. I finished it with my 5 year old son running with me for the last 100 meters and it was fanatstic! Since then I have completed two more 5k’s, I have a 10k in less than 3 weeks, two Resolution Runs in January (5 and 8k) and a half marathon exactly 1 year from the day I started running. In September a neighbour and I were chatting at the meet-the-teacher night and she said to me “I saw you in the local paper! I had no idea you were a runner.” I started to reply that I wasn’t really a runner but stopped myself and said “Yeah, would you like to get together one morning for a run?” That’s when I thought of myself a a “real runner.”

    1. Anita, that is so cool. Did you even know that your name had been in the paper? It’s rare that any running event get published in my town paper or The Boston Globe. Usually only for the Boston Marathon gets any press.
      So did your neighbor go for a run with you? When you start recruiting people – you’re a real runner!!

  19. I totally agree. Working at a running store, I find it sad to hear “I’m not really a runner” or “I’m not a real runner” or some variation by which people devalue their own goals based on how they think they compare to others. I usually reply with something like, “You’re HERE, you run, you’re a runner! End of story.” I really hope they believe me because I mean it every time!

  20. I was scared to read this when I first read the title, I thought you were going somewhere different with it, LOL. I agree, if you actually run, no matter the distance or speed, then yes, you’re a runner.

  21. You hit the nail on the head Hollie. When I first started running I came across what John Bingham said and it has been my motto ever since. “If you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far. It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run.”

  22. It’s amazing to me how big the field of ‘real runners’ has gotten. I love to see the sport growing, especially amongst women and so many people finding joy in lacing up their colorful sneakers, pounding the pavement, and pushing their limits.

    I don’t remember what my first road race was but I know my first race was 6th grade Xcountry. I recently posted some rather unflattering pictures from those times : ) My first half marathon was St Louis in 2007 and I loved it and I was hooked!

  23. This is a great post Hollie! Great read this morning! Beautiful! 🙂
    My first race was a 5k back in 2011 and did my first half marathon in 2012. Ever since then I got hooked and signed up for more races. I felt like a real runner. I maybe newbie and slow, but I am proud of what I have accomplished. 🙂

  24. Great post : ) My favorite thing about running is seeing all the different people out there running. All shapes and sizes cruising along at their happy speed. Whenever I see some one moving it just makes me happy. I am always smiling and chirping good morning to people when I am out running. I was a bit sad over summer when I was walking my running routes because I felt like I was being judged by runners for being “lazy and walking” but then I realized hey when I see people walking I am just like GO YOU!!1

    So yes. we are all movers, groovers, and indeed runners! I am totes a runner and my first race was March 2010! The reston 10 miler.

  25. Wow, my first road race was so long ago. I think it was in HS after the cross country season came to an end. A group of us wanted to run one of the races so we all signed up and did that one more as fun.

    As for real runner versus “fake” runner, I agree with you. If you’re out there lacing up and running you’re a runner trying to accomplish something; whether it’s a sense of accomplishing your first run or winning a race. My bf makes fun of me because inside my upstairs linen closet is a huge box full of plaques, medals, trophies, running numbers, prizes, etc. that I have won since HS. I look at them from the race and then I put them away in a box. I don’t keep anything up to see. He thinks it’s funny every time I win/place in a race and that’s where the award goes. I think more often then not, I’d rather run a better time then win. I have won many races but some aren’t my best time; whereas, I’ve places in top three or maybe just my age group and ran my best time and that’s when you see a bigger smile across my face. It’s me against the time!

  26. Well said. I’ve written about this before and had many conversations with fellow runners about this. When do you feel like a runner? Any type of runner, real or pretend? If you run you are a runner and most of us were born to run.
    My first race was in March of 2003, The Run to Remember in Wakefield, MA. I don’t remember all of the details, but I remember a lot about that race.
    Your first race will always be special. Keep the bib, keep the medal, keep anything you have related to that race. Someday it will mean something to you or to someone who loves you.

  27. it is funny because people who know me well call me a runner but this is the first time in my life that I tend to not talk about it a lot. actually most people at my new job don’t really know I run. so funny to think about but hey, like you said it makes me happy so I go with that as why I run.

  28. Awesome post girl! I actually used to be embarressed to say I was running. Not because I was afraid of what people would say or think really, because I had always said how much I hated running. But slowly I grew to love it! I think you probably remember my “I am not a real runner” phase. I am glad that is over 🙂

Comments are closed.