I think most people who know me from high school and college would label me as a runner. One of the insane who seemingly tortures himself in order to... well as far as the majority goes they have no idea why we do it. To merely grasp the idea of tempos, track workouts, long runs, and the such in order to be able to just run more is far from their reach. They have nothing to compare it to, and we all look like fools to them.
I don't know where things really changed, but I am finding myself more and more sympathetic towards the Andy of senior year of college. The one burnt out from years of running competitively and rarely compiling the expected results. I have been battling lower back issues for awhile, and these pains usually take over after only a mile of running. The lower portion of my back seizes and it becomes impossible to run. I have recently begun a series of specific abdominal exercises in hopes to alleviate this debilitating pain I have been recently experiencing. Maybe they will help immensely, and I can return to some form of running in the near future, but I'm guessing it will be awhile.
I don't know that I will ever return to the marathon courses as a competitor, but I feel my days labeled as a "runner" are numbered. I tried to run 5-6 miles of the Rock n Roll Marathon here in SD and I couldn't even get past a mile. It's weird to sort of transition in your identity. I thought of myself and was labeled by others as a "runner" for such a long time that it will be interesting to see how I begin to perceive myself in the near future.
Processing this has lead me to consider the importance of labels. I don't think they are very important or necessary, but it is an inevitable part of life. You will label people, be labeled by others, and label yourself in varying ways, and most of the time you probably won't even be aware of it. Do we feel more comfortable having a known identity? Do we feel more comfortable knowing what to expect from others based on how people with similar identities or labels act and react to things? I think it's an interesting facet of human behavior, and the reality is that it's inescapable. You may refuse to label yourself, but you can never keep others from doing it for you.