Perspectives of a Runner

Not a Jogger

Day 86- Easy Run- 6.01 Miles.

Day 87- Tempo- 12 Miles.

Day 88- Easy Run- 5.10 Miles.

Day 89- Regular Run- 8.01 Miles.

In early August of this year Karina Ventrano went for a run in Howard Beach. Howard Beach is a neighborhood in Queens, just like Astoria, where I live. I didn’t know her at all but I learned that Karina was extraordinarily pretty and her social media profile was filled with pictures of her running races and posing with medals. Unfortunately, I didn’t know her until after she died. I only learned about Karina on August 2nd when her body was found after she went out for her routine run. I only learned about her because she was a runner in Queens, like me, that lost her life during a run.

I can’t make sense of the violence that led to her death. I can’t possibly understand the pain that her family must be going through. Aside from the cruelty of how she lost her life and the cowardice of person who took it, her death struck a chord with me because I appreciated someone like me, who grew up in a Queens and found happiness in running. I only her bring her up now because as evidenced by the headlines regarding her death, she was referred to as a jogger by a lot of people. This was wrong. If you look at other descriptions and the picture of her at races, she was a runner. And there is a distinction. The words mean something to people who run. I don’t know if it did to her but based on what I see, Karina was a runner. Before I started running I didn’t understand the difference. But now I know never call a runner a jogger or at least never call me a jogger.

Being a “runner” is something that so many people can identify with. I think I can give some guidelines to the layman on how to know when to call someone a “runner” versus anything else. Here are some basic points:

  • Running a marathon is not just a bucket list item. Running a marathon is an experience that comes with training and goals.
  • They pride themselves on running as much as possible.
  • Most days running is not a chore but a treat.
  • Training is where we find ourselves and not just for the race but in life.

Being a runner is something special because it takes finding something in yourself. Its the drive to push beyond running with your friends or during races. A runner finds the drive to get out there and push while they are by themselves in the cold, in the heat, in the morning or late at night. I used to think that was about pace and miles and numbers. But its not. A runner is something about the substance that makes up that person. It isn’t about the races or the goals or the medals. Its that drive and that desire that overcomes all the natural hesitation to push oneself to sweat and to work.

During my morning runs I see the same people almost every morning and I nod to them with respect. They have a look in their eyes that I now realize is just a mirror into my own self. We may not be running at the same speed or for the same purpose but we are speaking the same language in the steps we take and the sweat the pours out of us.

I remember when I first started running I didn’t think about running vesus jogging. I also avoided eye contact with any of my fellow runners. Back then I was focused on moving and was insecure about the way I looked slopping around in shorts and a t-shirt. All I knew was I found something satisfying about running so I fought any of the hesitations of fear and embarrasment. That feeling evolved as I grew healthier and realized the satisfaction came from pushing and feeling the effort. Races and pace obsession caused me to go through a phase when I thought I wasn’t running unless I was pushing. That of course led to injuries, which led me to reading more and more about how to train properly. Reading and appreciating how others do things made me feel like I was becoming a part of something. The results were not necessarily the same for all of us but the description of the feelings resonated.

This year and this training has been defined by adding more miles. But the distinction is adding easier miles and learning how to take my foot off the pedal. I am still a runner at any pace because the numbers don’t qualify us. For whatever reason and maybe it is semantics but being called a runner implies passion. It isn’t a hobby like jogging but its a lifestyle. So when I see someone pushing at whatever time, wearing a shirt from a race that I ran, I can nod at them with respect and feel like we belong to the same tribe and to the same feelings.

I love days like this when I go out to run an easy eight miles in anticipation and I see runners from the Dashing Whippets, Team for Kids and Queens Distance Runners getting in their long runs. Its October 1st, the air is a little cooler and the leaves are starting to fall. Its marathon season in New York and I can see all the members of my tribe.