I made an offhand remark to a friend the other night that I thought later was both dishonest and unintentionally very insulting to many runners, including myself. He knows that I'm coming back from an injury, so he asked me how my run last Saturday went. I replied:
"Oh, it went ok. I'm trying for 5 miles this weekend. Then I'll feel like a real runner again."
Later on, I felt bad about this. I realized that this was bullcrap and that I was being an elitist jerk. I remember how, when I was doing Couch to 5K, how awesome it felt to run for 5-minutes without a walk break or feeling like I was going to die, and then one mile, etc. During my first two years of running, I ran 3-4 times a week, but never attempted any distance over a 5K. Still, I definitely thought of myself as a runner during those years. I think the joy and pride I felt finishing my first 5K was approximately equal to that I felt finishing my first marathon. (Quite a bit more relief at the marathon finish, though, since I was in quite a bit of discomfort.)
I do remember the first time I ran 5 miles. Even though it's not a common racing distance for me (I've only ran one 8K and one 5-miler, both long after I was running longer distances), it still seemed like a milestone at the time, but was completely arbitrary to throw out in this conversation.
So I'm just curious about what people here would say about your experiences. How long or how much did you have to run before you thought of yourself as a runner? I don't think there's a right or wrong answer to this.