I am still running.

I don’t always believe what I tell other people is true for myself. Today’s example: I tell other people that if you run at all, you are a runner. But I’ve convinced myself that the only way that I am a runner is if I’m training for distance.

And I am learning that I have viewed this self-talk incorrectly. I have thought that this was an example of me be just being critical of myself. That this was somehow a function of my inner critic telling me that I wasn’t good enough or disciplined enough or focused enough.

But through my reading, I’m learning that this pressure isn’t coming from thinking that I’m not the same as everyone else. This pressure is coming from an inner desire to be better than. I’m placing higher expectations on myself than other people because I want to prove that I can excel. Sure, someone else can run a few times a week for a few miles and call themselves a runner, but that’s not me. Nope. I am a marathoner. I started a running group with hundreds of members. I can – and should – be maintaining 30 mile weeks. Otherwise? I’m not living up to my running potential. And I’m not a runner.

My inner runner critic isn’t just telling me that I have to be enough to be a runner. It is telling me that I have to be training to be a real runner. That I have to be pushing myself. That I have to be 100% committed to running in order to receive the benefit.

And I do not believe that this applies to other people at all.

So I’ve been neglecting running. I’ve believed that if I can’t go 100%, then I’ll just go 0%. Or, more accurately, I’ll go 100% once or twice a week and then not even think about it the rest of the week. Because running was miserable.

That’s not how I want to be. I am a runner. Running is in my blood. It is how I feel strong. It is how I feel powerful. It is how I somehow get out of my head and deep into my head at the same time.

But I didn’t know how to find a middle ground. I knew that I couldn’t fit distance running into my life right now. I just have too many awesome things going on. I knew that I couldn’t fit social running into my life the way I have been. My schedule needs to be more flexible. I knew that I wanted to run, needed to run. But I’ve been bouncing from 0% to 100% for months and I’m not a strong runner right now. And I didn’t know how to find a place where running felt rewarding instead of discouraging.

Enter Yoga for Living (thanks so much, Anna!). The chapter on discipline shouted at me. I felt like it was a lightning bolt/neon sign sent straight to me. The assignment was to pick something that I wanted to incorporate into my life and make a commitment to do it for 15 minutes a day for the next 30 days. Not 14:50, not 15:10. But 15 minutes.

That’s what I decided to do. I know I have not been the biggest run streak supporter, but the people I have seen struggle with it have been training for distance and adding extra runs in on rest days. But that’s not what I’m doing. I’m running for 15 minutes a day for 30 days. That’s it. Not watching pace or mileage or any other metrics. Taking different routes so I’m not competing with myself. Just 15 minutes of straight running and then walking home if I misjudged the route. Not 14:50 if I’m feeling weak. Or even 15:10 if I’m feeling super strong. Just 15 minutes.

And I feel different. Glorious.

I feel more like a runner when I run straight instead of run/walk. (To each his own, of course, but I know what feels good for me.) I feel more like a runner when I can rock a mile and change as opposed to struggling through 3 or more. I feel more like me when I can celebrate an uber-short run than being disappointed in a run with distance.

It took a book to give me permission to do less to learn where my sweet spot is for today. I had to learn that the pressure comes from a place that is selfish as much as self-critical.

Will I stay here? I don’t know. Who knows. But what I do know?

I am a runner.

And I am still running.