When are you a runner?

I remember those moments as a school kid when the PE teacher would choose team captains. I knew if I wasn’t a captain, I may as well sit down and wait until the very end to be the last kid picked. I was always the last kid picked, even if a best friend was the captain. I was that chubby/slow/awkward/nerdy kid who no one wanted on their team. It stunk.

I also remember every year, we had to do a physical fitness test. Sure, I could do sit-ups and jump rope, but when it came to the run? I would fail. I never got a president’s fitness award or anything like that.  As a nerd, I was always on the honor roll, I was first to finish my times table tests in class, I could spell like it was nobody’s business, but…. I remember feeling like an intense failure when I’d never bring a president’s fitness award to my parents.

The ultimate failure was in 8th grade PE. That day, every student had to run 10 minutes non-stop in the gym for part of the track & field fitness test. And if you stopped, you dropped a letter grade for that test. I remember starting off slow, thinking I can do this…I can…just 10 minutes. I need that A. 5 minutes in, one of the bullies taunted me about being so fat and how ridiculous it was that I was completely out of breath. Between the running and the taunting, I just stopped to walk so I could hold back the tears. My PE teacher screamed my last name and said, “That’s a B. You better run before it’s a C!” So, I got back to it and soon after, my sides started cramping. I had to stop again, but I knew that making a C would be terrible. I didn’t make Cs in school, but every muscle in my body was screaming for me to stop. So, I did. I got yelled at again, and the bullies started with the fat jokes. That PE teacher didn’t care…in those days, bullying was a normal thing. It still hurt like hell, but no teacher really did anything about bullies. Those were the longest 10 minutes of my life, and I ended up with a D grade for that test. My very first D.

That’s something I don’t think I will ever forget. Sure, it was just a 10 minute PE test, but I let myself fail. I let the bullies get to me, and I didn’t get the grade that I wanted. I was so ashamed, and told myself that running was just one of those things I’d never be able to do.

Fast forward 15 years. Now, I’ve been following a good bit of healthy living blogs, watching people run for leisure or because it’s routine. I’ve read about people’s journeys to train for a half or ::gulp::, even a full marathon. It’s been inspiring to read about, but the memories from middle school left a bitter taste in my mouth for running. If I couldn’t run 10 minutes then, what makes me think I could run 10 minutes now?

I wanted to try it, though. I’ve read a few blogs where people have lost 100+ lbs., and their main cardio activity was running.

Hold the phone! Fat people like me CAN run??!

So, I did the first workout of Couch to 5K. One minute running, 90 seconds walking…8 times. I was dead after that. DEAD. I kept thinking…that was just ONE MINUTE. How do these people do it?!

But…I was determined. If they can do it, so can I.

The crazy thing is, I’m doing the Couch to 5K in the middle of summer in Louisiana. Humidity sucks. Heat sucks. I’m a dripping gross mess when I get home, and I’m usually doing my runs at 7:00/7:30pm. Still…it’s hot y’all!

There were many times where I told myself that I should try something else. I’m 265 lbs. I’m too fat for this. But then, during my 20 minute run in week 5, I remembered those bullies.

The ones who told me Shamu doesn’t run…
The ones who told me I was a waste of air…
The ones who told me to get out of their way…

I had a moment where I was about to cry, because I felt like I couldn’t do this anymore. Who was I? I’m not a runner…I will NEVER be a runner….

But when I looked down at my phone, I realized I had already ran for 11 minutes. Non-stop. If I kept going, I could go home knowing that I ran twice the amount of that fitness test in middle school. So I pushed through it. When I was done, I didn’t cry…all I did was smile. I did this. I ran over a mile….without a break.

And then yesterday, I ran for 25 minutes without a break, going 30 seconds faster/mile than the 20 minute run. This week, my runs are nothing but 25 minutes non-stop running. What happened? 6 short weeks ago, I was having my lungs explode over a minute of running. And now??!


I mean, first I should ask…AM I a runner yet? If not, when do you call yourself a runner?


  1. First of all – congrats!! I am so excited for you, and I think you qualify as a runner :) I also HATE running, but heard about C25K through your blog and others, and once the pros way outweighed the cons for running (the only con was that I hate it) I decided to do it. I just started week 5, so the longest I’m running right now is just 5 minutes at a time, but considering that I used to die when I ran a block to catch the bus, I feel like that’s an improvement! I still don’t know when you consider yourself a runner, I feel like when I buy new running shoes and don’t actually hate my runs (and have almost 100% of the time be running instead of a few walking breaks) then I will feel like a runner! But I feel like anyone who runs is a runner :) Keep up the good work! You give me hope, I’m still scared of the upcoming 25 min runs 😉

  2. Woo hoo! You are definitely a runner! And screw those bullies! I’m a C25K success story too, with a half marathon and several sprint triathlons under my belt. It took me about six months to build to a 10k. A year later, I ran a half marathon (and an ultra marathon relay). I’ve told you this on twitter before, but I totally still take walk breaks when I run. Anything over three miles and I have to walk a bit to keep my heart rate in check. You are doing awesomely!

  3. “If you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far. It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run.” Keep up the great work Amy!

  4. Yeah, runner!! I have loved following your running progress on Twitter, it’s so inspiring. Your blog post mad me tear up but I’m so excited for you with what you have overcome! Running is HARD. Some people make it look easy bit it’s not. I am so excited for you to run your first 5k!!

  5. You are so definitely a runner!! I saw a really inspirational photo yesterday on FB of a woman who said she was 300 lbs – had lost 100 already – and was competing in a triathlon! You can do whatever you set your mind to! Congrats! YOU ARE AWESOME!

  6. You… You are an inspiration to every single person who dreams of running! I’m so proud of you and can not begin to tell you what an inspiration you are to me, too!!!

  7. You didn’t let yourself fail in 8th grade. The teacher failed. The PE program failed. The bullies failed. {{PS…don’t you know those bullies are leading perfectly miserable lives right now?}}

    You are ROCKING the c25k out there in those HOT, HUMID Louisiana evenings! I’m not sure how you do it, but you do! GO GIRL!!!

  8. You, my friend, are a runner.

    Keep going!!

  9. linda payne says:

    Congrads on starting the program and sticking with it – I’ve just started it(on week 3) and I question whether I can do it and like you I’m starting with the humidity of the Eastern Shore, but I keep hearing that voice that says 90 seconds 60 seconds 30 seconds and then I hear my voice saying you are almost there hang in there – Listen to your voice that says you can do it. I’m so happy for you, just keep doing it!

  10. Thank you for posting this, it could mirror my story exactly. I crazily picked up the couch to 5k in the middle of the Texas summer, and I haven’t completed it yet, but I’m getting better, I can run for longer and I will get there.
    Keep it up!

  11. Love this!! You are a runner and you are inspiring those of us who are just starting the C25K!

    Thank you for sharing from your heart!

  12. You’re crushing it, you runner you. Yes you, the girl, the runner who is running in the heat while others, like myself are big weenies and sticking to a treadmill until it cools off.

    You are a runner.

    And thanks for the inspiration!

  13. Did you go to Hurst?! I do NOT remember that PE test! Who was the teacher? That just makes me completely angry & I agree with Bridget up there, you didn’t fail, the teacher & the program failed. 10 minutes straight isn’t something you just DO, you gotta train for that. I mean, I would have to.. Now AND in 8th grade. To base someone’s grade solely on that is NOT ok.

    I LOVE seeing your instagram posts nightly & as soon as this baby is born, I’m getting out there.. I’m even going to BUY the apps! You are making such great progress, never question if you’re a runner.. You’re out there running, you’re a RUNNER! 25 minutes without a break is amaziiiiing!

    Also, who were the bullies?! Haha.. I want names!

    • I did! I think her name was Coach Vinnett? Or something like that?

      Gah, I wish I could publicly write who they were on here. :( I can message you if you want to know lol!

      • Oh, yes.. Coach Vinnett.. I remember her. I never had her (thank God) but I’ve heard the horror stories! And yes, by all means, Facebook message me! Sorry I’m just seeing this, apparently I never came back to follow up. :/

  14. Congrats! You are an inspiration! I run in Dallas and whine about it and cannot imagine how hard it is to run in LA. Really, you are working twice as hard as anyone anywhere else in the country.

    And YES you are a runner!! The best thing I ever did was join a running group and saw that runners come in all shapes and sizes and paces.

    “I often hear people say ‘I’m not a real runner.’ We are all runners, some just run faster than others. I’ve never met a fake runner.” —RW’s Chief Running Officer, Bart Yasso

  15. Congratulations on your running progress! Doesn’t it feel awesome? :)

    I was both a nerd and jock in school but I wasn’t very popular. I remembered being the last one picked as well:( It made me feel a bit crappy but then I would play and kick butt :) I think letting kids pick teams is poor strategy. Only the teachers should be assigning players. I got all the A’s and played well in most sports but I had low self-esteem.

    I’m happy to hear you are running. I didn’t run much in my school years but running is now the only thing I do. When you look at progress, it’s just amazing what you can achieve. For you, it’s being able to run non-stop for 25 minutes! For me it’s going from barely running 10km to running a full marathon in 9 months. That was 9 1/2 years ago. I’m about to run my second marathon this October. I just blogged about my training today!


    Thanks for sharing and keep up the great work :)

  16. YOU ARE A RUNNER! Forget those bullies – they are not worth one second of your time. What you have done takes courage, determination and some serious chutzpah. You are an inspiration, Amy!

  17. I’m proud of all the #RFR5K people, but for some reason your story has really held on and inspired me in so many ways… now that I know your history, even more.

    I remember tests like that and cringe to think about my kids experiencing the same kind of torment. I was never fast, always very slow and not athletic. I dreaded PE and those tests.

    I wish your old PE teacher could see you now… and we could change his ways. Seriously. How awful.

  18. CONGRATS!!! This is such an awesome post!

    I never know when you call yourself a runner. I started “running” 4 years ago. I have trained for 2 half marathons and 1 15k, but I still am not sure if I am a runner. I am slow, and still kind of fell like an imposter. But I am pretty sure that if you go out and run on any kind of regular basis – you are a runner :)

  19. This post made me weepy. Seriously, when you related your childhood and middle school experience I was nodding my head, yes. I was always the fat one. The slow one. The one who couldn’t run the mile in 12 minutes. And now? Now I can run a 5k without stopping. I finally let go of all that..that hate we were given as kids. You go girl! You are most certainly a runner. Congratulations! :)

  20. Terri A. says:

    A runner you are! Congratulations! I am starting again after taking some time off of running and you are kicking my butt! You’ve now inspired me to keep going.

  21. Yes, you are a runner! (So am I now, but don’t tell anyone! LOL) I think we are on the same week of C25K and I love knowing that we’re in it together. You are awesome!

  22. Girl, if one foot is stepping in front of the other and your knee is bending at more than a 45-degree angle than you are performing a physical movement called running and therefore…you’re a runner!!! Congrats, that is a huge accomplishment.

    And as a current PE teacher also getting a doctorate in the field, I would just like to personally apologize in behalf of my profession for your atrocious PE experience :(

  23. You are a runner! Wow. I’m in my 4th week and barely moving when I do my 5 minute runs but I figure as long as I’m still moving and not stopped it counts right. You are so inspiring.

  24. One of my favorite quotes: “I often hear someone say I’m not a real runner. We are all runners, some just run faster than others. I never met a fake runner.” -Bart Yasso
    Welcome to being a runner!

  25. You, my dear, are a runner. You are busting your ass and fighting every fiber in your body that says “walk, it’ll be okay” and overcoming it with every step!

  26. Ditto what Bridget said! Thank you so much for sharing your story, you are absolutely a runner AND an inspiration!

  27. Good for you girl! Your drive, determination, and story is so inspiring. Keep it up! I’m so happy for you :)

  28. You are amazing! It makes me so mad that a teacher would allow a student to feel like a failure. You win today. You win in every way. I am so darn inspired by you!

  29. You are awesome. You are a runner.


  30. I was always the slowest kid in the class. Overweight and not into running. I just did my 20 minute run on Saturday and it’s incredible how proud of yourself you become when you accomplish something you didn’t think was possible. You’re a rockstar in my books!!!!

  31. I cannot believe that a teacher stood by and watched a student get bullied. It makes me SO MAD. Never mind how wrong it is to have your grade based purely on physical performance.

    Running 25 minutes at a time…that’s so hard core! I hope it feels awesome to prove those middle school jerks wrong.

  32. You are definitely a runner! Congratulations on your success and thank you so much for sharing your story! You have no idea how much you inspire others :)

  33. christi in ma says:

    your story is so inspiring! I use the same Couch 2 5K app. Keep up the great work! You are most definitely a runner!!!


  1. […] wrote a heart wrenching, yet extremely inspiring post the other day. In the post, “When Are You a Runner?“, Amy chronicles her journey to becoming a runner and shares the challenges and obstacles she […]

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