Often I am asked to qualify when someone becomes a runner. To me, being a runner is not about how far or how fast you go. Rather, it’s that you go. That you go with passion and purpose. To better yourself physically, mentally or spiritually. When you beat that voice inside your head telling you to stop, you are a runner.
Last weekend, I had the privilege of taking part in an epic celebration of running in honor of Steve Prefontaine courtesy of Nike. If there is one person who epitomizes the term runner, it’s Pre. He possessed a rare combination of talent, determination, fiery competitiveness and charisma that made him a running legend. He ran gutsy races, never sitting back, always forcing the pace, making his competitors give their all. He was an artist on the run:
“Some people create with words or with music or with a brush and paints. I like to make something beautiful when I run. I like to make people stop and say ‘I’ve never seen anyone run like that before’”.
Last weekend I got to experience running through Pre’s eyes in his adopted town of Eugene, OR – better known as Tracktown USA. My weekend began with a 5:30am wake-up call for an early morning track workout at historic Hayward Field. And not just any workout, but Pre’s signature 30-40 workout. A workout that strips you down and forces you to run on pure guts.
To be honest, the workout intimidated the heck out of me. That voice inside my head told me to feign injury or sneak off the track and go for an easy run. But I was on Pre’s track, and he demanded my best. He demanded that I not sacrifice my gift of being a runner. So I ran.
With each lap, I became more comfortable with being uncomfortable. Each time that voice inside my head started gabbing, I responded by finding an extra gear within my legs, lungs and heart. Even though I was running almost about twice as slow as Pre would run the workout, our efforts were the same. I was feeling exactly what Pre must have felt. That personal connection, especially at his beloved Hayward Field, was magical – and beautiful. I have never been so proud to call myself a runner.
Pre was right. Running is a gift. It enables us to find stillness through motion. To create works of art out of our efforts. It takes us to new places. It brings us home. And when we refuse to give anything less than our best, then we earn the title Runner.