What’s your running identity?

By Todd McMillion

Running (and fitness) have long been an important part of my life, as an adult I have been running distance events for 36 years and have toed the line at the Reagan Run since its inception. I was reading an article recently about running and motivation, one of the topics in this article was, do you “identify as a runner”, or “is running just something, you do”. I pondered this question for quite a while.

I started running for fitness, spending most of my running miles on our local trails, I enjoyed the freedom running trails gave me, running trails made me feel like a kid at play, it was an adventure, it was an escape from the daily grind. I wasn’t training for any specific race, in fact apart from the Reagan Run I rarely raced, I was just running for the joy of running. While pondering the question of my identity as a runner during this period of my running life I fell into the “running is just something I do” category.

In 2005 “running is just something I do” started to shift when I ran my first marathon, that same year I ran my first trail race as well, up until then I didn’t know trail races existed, it was also the first year that my training was specific, the first year I started to run outdoors year around as well. Over the next 10 years, even though I was running more, and signing up for more races I was still a long way from saying that I “identified as a runner”, however running was a big part of my life.

In 2015 I signed up for my first Ultra Marathon, was active in a local running group and training for Ultra Marathons started to consume my days. Most of my friends, social acquaintances and activities were centered around running. In 2022 I raced in 6 Ultramarathons and ran 26 races total; this was the pinnacle of my running career. Over this 7-year period from 2015-2022 I think it’s safe to say that I “identified as a runner”, it was in almost every corner of my life, and truth be told, I missed the days of identifying as “running is just something I do”. Don’t get me wrong, I love every minute that I’m able to lace up my shoes and go for a run, it’s part of me and I hope to be lacing up my shoes and running for a long time to come.

My motivation to run is engrained in me, most of the time it’s beyond my control, running makes me happy, running gives me freedom, I love to eat as well, and running on a regular basis seems to melt the calories away. I discovered running early on, but it’s never too late to start, not only running, but fitness in general.

If you’re currently a runner, what’s your motivation to run, physical and mental health, fun, adventure, the next big race, none of the above or all the above? If you’re not running or engaged in some physical fitness program it’s never too late to start, it’s never too late to have an impact on your physical and mental health, it’s never too late to form a new habit.

As a long time, runner, it was fun for me to think about and analyze my own running identity and how it evolved through the years, but in the end, it has nothing to do with running at all, if running is part of your regular fitness routine, you are a runner!

See you all at Reagan Run 2024!