.…But I’m Not Really a Runner

On a daily basis people go into running shops across the country to buy running shoes but they preface the first words that leave their lips with, “… but I’m not really a runner.” Every time I hear someone say this I cringe, not because I am thinking, “Oh, another slowpoke” but because I remember being there myself and wish that I would have embraced my title sooner.

In junior high school, I was the fat kid. I joined the track team to stay in shape for football season and wasn’t all too interested in the whole running for long periods of time thing. My first day of practice, because I lacked raw speed to be a sprinter, the head coach sent me off with the distance runners. The group was slim, James Wagner and myself. The head coach instructed us to jog from our junior high to the elementary school and around the block, back to our school. This loop measured roughly two miles. James and I burst from the school track… and then got pretty tired after a few blocks.

After we knew we were out of sight, we took a walk break. Already sweating, we walked most of the way to the elementary school and took the turn. We were already beat. It was a long way back, but even longer if we kept walking, so we slowly started a trot. This was awful and no matter which direction we turned, it was the same distance back! James, feeling my pain, told me that his house was on the route and we could stop to get some cookies. Heck yeah! That sounded like a great idea to me! We started walking again, counting down the steps to James’ house. As we approached James’ driveway we looked at each other, nodded, and started jogging. We were about half of a mile out and decided then, that we were going to make it all the way to the school. We did.

10 years and countless miles later, that fat kid, who could hardly run a mile without stopping, broke the tape at the US Club Cross Country National Championships at Masterson Station. Despite the accomplishment, I always remember my first running accomplishment, completing that half mile, and the journey it took to get to Masterson Station. Every time I see someone walking, trotting, jogging, or running along the sidewalk I have to wonder were that workout might take them and smile remembering where my journey has led.

There is no magic time or number of miles you have to log to become a real runner. Real runners take the first step. They get up and go for a morning workout, whether that workout is 12 miles to and through the Arboretum or it is an 8-minute walk/jog around the Henry Clay track. From the moment you take that first step, you have joined the running fraternity/sorority. Every great runner you have ever seen started the same way, and each one realizes the hard work, effort, and journey that you have begun.

So come into John’s with your head held high and embrace your title. You are really a runner. And know that even the best runners in your area respect your drive, determination, and sacrifice to take those steps. In fact, many times it’s the fat guy huffing and puffing around the track, drenched in sweat that motivates and reminds all runners of that same journey.

David Jankowski
Current John’s Run/Walk Shop employee and Lexington Catholic Track & Field Coach, David was the USATF Club XC Champion in 2009, was a 2 time Olympic Trials Qualifier and has a PB of 2:16 in the marathon and 28:14 in the 10K

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