Ryan Hall is a jogger.
Those are his words, not mine. “If someone asked me, ‘Do you run?’ I’d have to think about it,” Ryan Hall told me last week. “I would say I jog. Now I can relate to those people who don’t want to call themselves a runner. I’m more in that jogger category now, I think.”
This was one of the interesting answers the recently retired Hall had for a number of questions I threw his way last Tuesday afternoon. I shamelessly suggest that you check out the interview if you haven’t already done so.
In a matter of months, Hall has made the transformation from runner into jogger, at least in his own mind. Did he really lose his “identity” that quickly? By his own accounts, he’s not running as much these days and his body type has changed, which is seemingly enough to change his perception of himself and the activity he’s spent most of his life doing on a level that few of us can only begin to comprehend.
“When that’s your definition of being a runner [“flying through the forest, just totally in the flow”], going out now and running 4 miles three days a week, I don’t really feel like a runner,” Hall said. “It’s funny, oftentimes I’ll just wear normal ASICS baggy pants and a sweatshirt. I don’t put on my running shorts anymore because it just doesn’t feel right. I’m like, “I’m not really running here.”
On some level, I can relate. And I’m sure many of you reading this understand where Hall is coming from, too. I know when I’m not racing, training hard or all that fit in general—which, coincidentally enough, happens to be the case right now—I’ll put on my “fat shorts” and go “jog” until I’ve turned the corner back toward what I consider “real running,” i.e., long runs, weekly speed workouts and lining up to test myself at the occasional race. Fundamentally, it’s only my self-perception that changes. Translated: When you’re used to running at a certain level for most of your life, as Hall was (and I have been), it can be hard to identify with the runner you used to be when you’re no longer there.
That said (and my own self-wallowing aside), as long as I’m able to put one foot in front of the other faster than I can walk, I’ll call myself a runner. Why? Because the act of doing so—even if I’m not doing it as much, as regularly or as fast as I once did—still has meaning behind it. And as long as my running means something to me, I’ll proudly identify as a runner to anyone who asks. I think Ryan, who told me that he’ll always run to some extent, will eventually come to realize that “runner” is still a major part of his identity—even if “flying through the forest, just totally in the flow” isn’t what it used to be.
What makes a runner? Do you identify as one? Why or why not? Share your thoughts by Tweeting at me or replying to this email.