The Working Closet

where life meets style

are you serious?

Route 66 Marathon

On Saturday morning, I got up at 5 am to run 10 miles. I finished in 1:37, without stopping once. I ran a negative split, which means that I ran the last five miles faster than the first five. And the fastest mile I ran was the very last one.

  *  *  *  *  *

Him: So you’re a pretty serious runner?

Me: Oh, no, not serious … I just run a lot.

  *  *  *  *  *

I spent most of Saturday’s run thinking about that conversation, and about why I don’t think of myself as a “serious” runner. There are a lot of reasons. Serious runners are faster than I am; they run further than I do. They are thinner than I am, and stronger. They look better in compression shorts.

All of that is ridiculous, I know. I had a terrible run at the Dallas Marathon and still finished in the top third in my age group, and ahead of over half of the men who ran the half marathon that day. If I didn’t take running seriously, I wouldn’t be able to do that. I train carefully for my races, and I show up for every run intending to do my best, whether it’s a half marathon or an easy four miles.

So why don’t I think of myself as a “serious” runner?

  *  *  *  *  *

I frequently tend to not take myself seriously, to assume that there is someone (or a lot of someones) who are better than I am at whatever it is I am doing, and thus I shouldn’t really knock myself out because this is the best I’m ever going to do. That’s not to say that I am half assing my way through life — I’m not; I work hard at what I do — but my perceptions are often skewed. I just assume that there is always someone out there who is a better writer or editor or stylist. My runner friends clock 8 minute miles and finish full marathons. I take for granted that I will not beat them, which must mean that I’m not as serious as they are.

This doesn’t mean that I see myself as a failure; I don’t. I think instead it says more about the things I really love — writing, running — and how ephemeral they are in the bigger picture. I’m not curing cancer, or doing anything equally serious, after all. I’m just running. But if running is important to me — and is is — then it’s something worth being serious about.

So why am I so hesitant to say yes, I am a serious runner?

  *  *  *  *  *

What does it mean to be “serious” about anything? When my kids are misbehaving, I will say “I’m serious — stop it.” What I mean in that moment is that I am one more infraction away from levying consequences; I am no longer joking around or putting up with this behavior. How does that translate to running — or anything else in life?

I think too often we equate serious with successful, and by that definition, no, I am not really a serious runner. I don’t win the races I enter; I don’t PR in every event. Hell, I don’t even win my age group, and most of the time, I finish behind my runner friends. But winning isn’t necessarily the right measure of seriousness. Charlie is serious about basketball, but his teams don’t always win — and he doesn’t always play well. What he does do is come home from practice or a game and go out in the driveway and do layup drills and dribbling drills over and over and over, in order to get better. And in order to be doing something he loves.

Maybe that’s the definition of serious.

I love running; I feel like every run is a chance to get better. And so I stick to my training schedule and I push myself to run farther and faster, and while I don’t think I take myself too seriously (I will not subject you to a blow-by-blow account of every. single. race.) I am committed to becoming a better runner. Maybe in the end that’s all it takes to be serious.

What are you serious about? And what does it mean to you to be serious?

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23 comments on “are you serious?

  1. Christina
    February 4, 2013

    I think you are serious because you get out there and run. You train, you set goals, you run in a lot of races, big and small. Being serious does not mean winning or getting PRs. It means you do it and do it regualarly and that you are committed to becoming a better runner. GO GO GO!

  2. Nicole
    February 4, 2013

    Your response reminds me of women’s propensity to apologize for way too many things. “I’m sorry, but could I please have some extra napkins?”
    Why do we find it hard to speak highly of ourselves? You are a SERIOUS runner (and you look awesome in your compression shorts :)

    • Susan
      February 4, 2013

      Nicole, I was thinking so much about that very angle as I wrote this, and I think you’re so right.

  3. Claire @ My Devising
    February 4, 2013

    good thoughts! but i’m way more concerned about your negative split. ohhh, the day that happens for me will be THE day! :)

  4. Anne
    February 4, 2013

    I am serious about yoga! I practice 5 times a week and I love it. There are no PR’s or winning but being able to feel good within my mind and body on any particular day is enough success for me.

  5. Julie
    February 4, 2013

    Susan, I definitely think you are a serious runner! My sad little 3 miles per day is decidedly unserious, but that’s the time I have, so that’s what it is. But I want to share a running story with you and your readers that unfolded in our little town. The student in the story is my son’s classmate, and truly, sometimes running can be transcendent. http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/uga-sports/2013/jan/31/athens-marathoner-runs-grace/

    • Susan
      February 4, 2013

      Julie, what an amazing story! I’m all weepy over here. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Jamie
      February 5, 2013

      Awesome story, Julie! Go Grace!!

  6. Kristen
    February 4, 2013

    I’m with you, 100%. I don’t consider myself a “serious” triathlete for the EXACT same reasons. But then, I look at my training over the last few weeks and the effort I put forth and realize that, while I might not be serious, I’m not exactly fucking around.

    I think, for me, it has a bit to do with managing people’s expectations. If I say, “Yes, I’m a serious runner/swimmer/triathlete/whatever,” I assume people want to hear about my tangible accomplishments. They want to hear how I placed and how many people I beat. If I say something like, “I’m a triathlete, but I have more enthusiasm than skill,” I feel like they’re more likely to share my excitement about a 15k PR that still left me in the bottom half of my age group. Does that make sense?

    • Susan
      February 4, 2013

      That makes total sense — and I like the idea of managing other people’s expectations. I totally agree with that.

  7. Laura Nance
    February 4, 2013

    You are a serious runner. A strong runner. And I admire your dedication!

  8. Miss Virginia
    February 4, 2013

    You are humble, Susan. One of the many, many, qualities I like about you (although I’ve never met you- I’m speaking of the you that comes across in your writing). By saying you are a SERIOUS runner, would make you sound like a serious person, in a self-promoting way, which you are not. I like the way you answered the question and I love the way you speak in a sort of self-depricating (but not really) kind of tone. Like when you say, “I ran a great race and didn’t die. Which is all I was really hoping for.” You’re funny and quick-witted and I admire how humble and low key you are when you have every reason to be totally braggy and full of your self. The person who would answer, “Yes, I’m very serious about running” is also the person who will tell you how brilliant their child is, how successful they are, how much they’ve accomplished, etc. That is not who you are – You are a wonderful role model.

    • Susan
      February 4, 2013

      Oh, Virginia, thank you so much. Your kind words came at just the right time today. I really appreciate it.

  9. mainlinemom
    February 4, 2013

    I makes me laugh to hear you call yourself NOT a serious runner.

  10. Shannon
    February 4, 2013

    In my town, which happens to be super fit and outdoorsy and full of competitive runners and cyclists, I always feel like NOT a “serious” runner because I don’t do races. (For many reasons, from schedule to current lifestyle to cost to arthritis that sometimes interferes w/ training.) And yet, I run 25-30 miles/week year-round. Which I guess is pretty serious, no? But I’d never think to call myself that. “Avid,” yes. “Serious”? Not so much. But maybe I am.

  11. Rachel
    February 5, 2013

    Yes to this. I am not what you would call a “competitive” runner. My goal is always just to finish, and I often don’t even know my pace when people ask. But I run, a lot. And I love it. Seriously.

  12. claudia098
    February 5, 2013

    Susan, you seem totally serious to me! I ran 2 half marathons last year and am registered for one in May. My goal for this year to is to run faster, but given how slow I ran those 2 races last year, I have a long way to go to get up to your pace. But whatever, I’m still getting out there.

    My question for you is, besides the obvious of “run faster,” HOW do you push yourself to run faster? You;ve mentioned doing some reading on it in past posts. Fartleks and all that stuff just makes my eyes glaze over. Any suggestions?

    • Susan
      February 5, 2013

      The thing that helped me pick up my pace the most was swimming, believe it or not — and I cannot explain why (although I think it has something to do with regulating my breathing). I don’t do drills or hill repeats or anything like that; I just run. In the fall I did a lot of runs where I just pushed myself to run faster, and to maintain that faster pace for longer and longer distances. Right now I’m back to just grinding out long miles, but I think that as the season wears on, I’ll go back to focusing on my pace.

      See? I have no plan, so I cannot really be serious. ;)

  13. Marek Cornett
    February 6, 2013

    Susan, let me tell you this. I’ve currently run 10 miles more this year than I did in the entire year of 2012. While I’m only three weeks in, I consider myself a pretty serious runner. I work at it as much as my current fitness state will allow, but I’m pretty damn serious about it!

  14. Leigh
    February 6, 2013

    I have struggled with this same thing–I’ve run several races including a half marathon, am scheduled to run another half later this year and am training to run a full in December. Yet I would never tell someone, “I’m a runner.” I’ve thought a lot about why that is, and I think it’s because I came so late to it–I was never athletic at all, didn’t start exercising even a tiny bit until I was in my mid 30s, and never ran so much as a 5K until I was 39. I just don’t think of myself as an athlete at all.

    I wish I could get past it; I think I’d be more motivated and confident if I could see myself differently–not as just the nerd I was ages ago in school, but a strong “serious runner.”

  15. Cindy
    February 13, 2013

    Brene Brown once said something I have never forgotten: “We as women are often afraid to say out loud that we are claiming something better for ourselves, because we are afraid that everyone around us will think, ‘Who do you think you are?'”

    I thought about that when I read this post. Just to say matter-of-factly, “I am a serious runner,” is to reach out and claim something better for yourself. I say do it.

  16. ememby
    February 14, 2013

    Love this post – it definitely got me thinking and I think it’s going to keep me thinking for a long while. That is the best thing that can happen (you know, other than actually doing…)

  17. Vicky
    March 18, 2013

    Love this post too! You are indeed a serious runner. I find I think exactly the same way. My friend said the other day, “Only serious runners get up at 5:30 in the morning to just run.” And are excited about it. :)

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