You would not even begin to imagine the reactions when you say it right in their face.
Some showed confusion (what d’ya mean?).
Most, though, showed extreme disgust (WHAT DO YOU MEAN?!).
Is being a 5km runner such a bad thing? Weren’t we all at one point, were just 5km runners? We were once the huffers and puffers. We have all experienced the 1km-which-lasted-forever moment.
But all dissipates when we hit the magic no. 5.
Of course, we would be cursing in a manner that would evoke the wraths of a grandmother.
But the sheer amount of joy that we were able to run (and walk) for 48 minutes under the 6pm evening sun was a turning point to many wonderful beginnings.
For a while, we were the 5km runners.
Insatiable curiosity would lead that to a 7.5km run, 10km race. A half marathon. And it goes on.
And someway down that line, the ecstasy of completing a 5km would be replaced by clocking a PB. The moment intensified when we crossed our first marathon. Our first 100km.
We were no longer the 5km runners.
Our collections of medals began to resemble the laundry we had by Wednesday. Our running vests were just as much as the calluses on our feet.
As our runs get longer, our confidence went on an upward trajectory. We begin to dissociate from our pre-runner self. We do not wish to be reminded of the pathetic creature who pants after a 5km run.
So yeah, it is an insult when someone tells us we are nothing more than a 5km runner.
It is offensive. Unnecessary.
Demeaning, in fact.
But my statement goes deeper than this.
Allow me to pose a question here:
Have we tied our worth to the distance we are able to run?
Have we allowed our medals and finisher shirts define who we are? The way we carry ourselves?
As I was finishing my last lap around the park today, I caught up with a veteran runner. Freckled skin. Lean built. A worn-out white vest with the peeling letters “1990 Marathon”.
We began to chat. The usual runners talk. How long have we been running? What were our fastest time and etc. His face showed no emotion when he was talking about his PBs.
However, when the conversation shifted to the people he has met, YOU COULD NOT EVEN TO IMAGINE THE CHANGE.
His eyes sparkled when he talk about the kids he coached. How animated when he shared about the strangers-turned-best-friends from the races he has been in.
And most of all, the people who got him into running.
That strikes me. Hard.
If running was a numbers game, it would be cold. It would be mere statistics.
But instead, running brings people from all backgrounds to unite under one cause.
It has the power to turn a bad day into an okay-kind-of-day.
It exemplifies the tenacity of a couch potato, who never ran a mile in her life, to get up, and say “Enough”.
It is the point of origin of a guy who looks into the mirror, and realising that he is more than just the guy who was staring back.
It is about taking that first difficult step. To acknowledge our own weaknesses and shortfalls, and facing them head on as we huff and puff for 48 minutes under the 6pm evening sun.
Running, essentially, is about transformation.
And it all starts with a 5km run. Nothing more.