So class, when is a runner not a runner? Discuss.

This is a conversation I have with Aimee quite a lot. She says, quite rightly, that anyone who isn’t walking is running. There are no rules, it’s not cheating to walk part of the way and there is no such thing as the fitness police to tell you off.

But I still can’t convince myself that I am a runner. I’m training regularly now, I’m hitting the 4k mark without needing to stop and walk but I still don’t feel as though I’ve earned my place on that mythical podium with the other Lycra-clad joggers.

Up until now, all my training has been on the treadmill so maybe if I jog outside, it will feel like proper running? 

Husband is a frequent jogger so he very kindly offers to come with me on my first foray outdoors. And the first thing I notice is – in his words – the “gentle slope”. It doesn’t look gentle. It looks like a whacking great hill.

And that’s my problem with running outdoors. In Sheffield, you live on a permanent semi-horizontal tilt. Hills look daunting and bloody hard work and then there’s ice, and crappy patched-up pavements and dog poo to negotiate.

My second issue with running outside is all of a sudden I have to think about what to wear. Do I wear a bodywarmer, fleece or thin jacket? What about a hat and gloves? Do I carry a water bottle? If I felt self-conscious at the gym, I feel even more so chugging along a road with a steady stream of motorists.

And finally, where do you wee?? Ok, so I can quite comfortably run 4k without needing the loo but that’s because I have the reassurance of the gym toilet. What do I do if I get caught short while running outdoors?!

With all these thoughts whirling around, we set off. And it’s really tough. I knew it would be simply because of the hills and the weather but I’m struggling. I manage to do 4k but it hasn’t been enjoyable.

I miss my flat treadmill and the warmth of the gym and I miss being able to see how far, how fast and how long I’ve run. If I never ran outdoors again, and only ever ran on a treadmill, would that mean I’m not a proper runner? Answers on a postcard please (or leave me a comment below….)

Love #jigglingjugs

Published by Aimee Pearce

Fitness sessions, personal training sessions and online training options for busy women and mums. Helping women to find the time, commitment and passion for exercise and adventure in Sheffield.

Join the Conversation


  1. I’m Aimee’s friend from up north, and I hated running, I was doing it all wrong, pacing it incorrectly and wearing the wrong shoes. I started doing park runs with my friend and have done 5 now, I paced myself with her and can run all the way. With this new found confidence I’ve been running before my little boy gets up in the morning, in Aldi leggings, a sports bra, top and pullover. The feeling that you get from fresh air and the freedom of running is amazing, sprint your last 200m or down your street at the end of your run, it makes you feel alive and gives you energy for the rest of your day. Good luck xxx ps if you need a virtual running buddy let me know

    1. Hi Laura,

      Thank you lovely for taking the time to reply! Oooh Park Run! Those words strike fear in my heart. I still don’t feel confident enough to tackle one of those, despite all my training but I have a friend who is coming all the way from London to do one with me soon. The fact she’s driving 100 miles means there’s no excuse for me not to travel 10 minutes to the park.

      Thank you for the clothing advice, good to know I don’t need to shell out on some Nike super-fly outfit. And thank you for the offer of a virtual buddy! I love that idea xx

  2. I’m not going to lie, I only like to run outside in the summer! So stick to the treadmill when it’s cold/ wet and venture outside, say, May time? 🙂 And you are a real runner, 4k is awesome xxx

    1. Ahh Hannah, a woman after my own heart! The Great British “goddamn you ice, wind and rain” Weather is another reason for putting me off going outside. I like the idea of trying again in spring, when I can watch blossom and buds and little lambs and not worry about running on a skating rink or being hit by a bus in the fog.

      And thank you honey for your lovely comment about 4k, that is much appreciated xx

  3. I find running outside harder so it pushes me to do it more, running on a treadmill you’re looking at the same thing so 4K on a treadmill can feel like 10 miles outside!
    Everyone has gone from treadmill to outdoors and wondered if they will look right doing it.. but didn’t you think the same about the treadmill and now you’ve overcome it.
    As for distance most smart phones have apps you can download and will announce over your music how far you have ran. Give it a go, I think you’ll enjoy it

    1. Hi Becci! Thank you for your good words of wisdom. Yep, a few weeks ago there was no way on this earth I would have got on a treadmill – I clearly remember telling Aimee that I “didn’t do treadmills” – and now look at me. I love the darn thing. So an excellent point about overcoming that outdoors fear (and it’s good to know everyone has those nerves).

      And it’s good to know 4k can feel like 10 miles outside – not just me who feels like that then! Thanks for for the brilliant tip about the apps – I had no idea these marvellous things existed! They sound ideal, am off to peruse the app store now xx

  4. I can totally appreciate that it feels daunting moving from the gym to the outdoors. I think chosing a nice route will help, try getting off road, hit the trails and head for beautiful quiet places. No cars or people, just you and nature, you’ll be amazed at the headspace it gives you from the madness of daily life. And hills are a work in progress, walking them is allowed! Be kind to yourself, its new it will be hard for a while. Give yourself chance to get stronger, to learn to pace yourself instead of letting a machine do it for you and embrace the freedom that gives you. Running in a group makes things so much easier too, lots of chatting seems to help the meters slip by and there will always be someone going at your pace. Strideout is a wondedful place to start out, lots of complete beginners all supporting each other and celebrating each others achievements. Stick with it if you can, you might just learn to love it and meet some wonderful new friends along the way x x

    1. Hi Rebecca, thank you for your sound advice! My mantra really needs to be “walking is not cheating, walking is not cheating” Your comment about learning to pace rather than running to a machine’s pace has really made me think as well. I never thought that I might have my own speed and technique – I do need to find that out and view it all as a learning curve.

      Thank you too for mentioning Strideout, I did think these clubs were for proper runners not beginners and that having someone like me join would just hold everyone back. Talking to someone will stop me from internalising and brooding over every flippin aspect of running too! xx

  5. I came on to mention strideout too! They are a great bunch, super caring and friendly and have good advice. I’ve only been out with them a few times in the last year as I have a baby and timings are tricky but need to get back on it soon! Good luck.

  6. Listen to everyone – you daft cow! (Girls, I’m the aforementioned friend in London….) There are no police. There are no rules. There is no cheating. You do it your way, in your time, or your own terms.
    If you run inside 3 times a week and just go outside for Park Run, then that’s ok – remember there’s no rules.
    If you run outside 3 times a week and once inside, then that’s ok – remember there’s no rules.
    If you never run outside again, then that’s ok – remember there are no rules (although, I will come and slap you if you don’t do park run with me when I come up in 2 weeks!!!).

    But I totally get where you’re coming from. I think PR is a brilliant thing. You worry about toilets – most venues have a toilet facility somewhere near by. You worry about knowing how far you’ve gone – it’s a measured distance, so you know you’ll be doing 5k by the end, and some PR’s have marker posts at each Km. You worry about others judging you – you will most definitely not be the first to finish, but you sure as hell won’t be the last; I can guarantee that.
    You worry about hills – seriously? You live in Sheffield, have you not learnt to love them yet….but remember what goes up, must come down. You can’t have the whizz of coming down if you don’t go up! Embrace it, do it slowly and walk if you need to. But on the (tiny) hills here I just count to 10, 10 times – it takes my mind off the pain in my legs and before I know it, I’ve done it!
    And if you seriously are worried about what you look like – no-one cares (and I mean that in the nicest way!).
    Plus you get an email after you’ve finished with your results on it – time, position etc.

    What I’m trying to say, if you haven’t got the message, is that there just aren’t any rules. There isn’t a book that says “in order to be defined as a runner you must wear Lycra, have a gizmo watch, only run outside and do 5k non stop”.
    You ARE a runner. End of discussion.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s