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Running is a sport of with an empowering effectAnn Forshee-CraneFor the Lansing State Journal

Long before I became a wife, a mother, or a coach, I was a runner. As a gangly 12-year-old, doing the first workout of my life, I connected with running. Three quarter-mile repeats on the cross country course in my white Keds sneakers and I was hooked.

Running immediately gave me something back. I felt strong and powerful. I felt free. Although I was a part of a team, I owned my running. From that first day, I understood what it meant to be a runner.

Almost 40 years have passed. My body has changed in many ways. My personal records are distant memories. I'm past the half-century mark, but running still defines me. While my other roles in life are very much a part of who I am, I wear those labels because of my relationship to other people. To be a wife, you have to have a husband. To be a mother, you have to have children. And to be a coach, you have to have runners who'll follow you.

Being a runner is all mine.

Other runners get it. They know running isn't just a hobby, such as stamp collecting or being a jigsaw puzzle junkie. Being a runner lies at the very core of who we are as people.

Being a runner means knowledge of the sports' basics, such as knowing a marathon isn't just any long distance - it's precisely 26.2 miles.

Being a runner means losing a toenail after a long run and knowing it's not a big problem but a rite of passage.

Being a runner also means possessing a certain stubbornness. We fall on the trail, wipe up the blood with a wad of toilet paper and keep on running. Being a runner means you don't take shortcuts.

Runners know it's impossible to explain to a non-runner why we'd head out the door in a driving rain to get in our run, just because.

We know that when we run into someone we haven't seen in awhile and they say, "So, are you still running?" it's best to answer with a simple yes because there's no point in trying to explain that running isn't something we could quit.

Being a runner means we embrace physical challenge in a world of adults who are focused on other earmarks of a successful life. While we are all for education, getting a job, getting married, buying a house, having children and planning for retirement, we also strive to run that first 5K or first marathon, or first 50-miler.

It's these running-related goals that help us get up in the morning. Reaching the finish line is what enriches us and empowers us in other areas of our lives. Once I'd run a marathon, I was sure I could do anything.

Being a runner means we take the time in our drive-through world to move our bodies. It also helps us move our minds. I've solved many problems while on a run. And while sometimes running lends clarity to life, other times it's a simple breather during a busy day.

Being a runner means you're a member of a club - one in which membership is not based on age, race, body type or socioeconomics. Anyone is welcome in this club. All you need to join is a spirit of adventure, dedication and a positive attitude.

The club benefits are too numerous to mention. Call yourself a runner, and you'll feel strong and powerful. You'll feel free. You'll set goals, reach them and set new ones. You'll share running with other runners, but yet you'll still have something all your own.

Being a runner means a lot of things. Running isn't just something I do, it's who I am. I am a runner.

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