I don’t understand closet runners.

I understand that they are runners who for some reason are ashamed to run and do it in secret, but that’s as far as I go. Someone sent me an article from Wednesday’s Globe and Mail that I thought might explain closet runners to me. But I still don’t get it.

I don’t consider myself an elite runner by any means (yet?), although I do drink protein shakes, as the article describes. I don’t travel in a pack with other Lycra-clothed runners; I instead run alone on secluded trails as the writer does, though never to hide.

I am intrigued by the comments that people are making about this piece. It would be unfortunate if the issues with closet runners came down to self-esteem, as some suggest. Especially if the runner happens to be female.

A woman’s body is probably the greatest thing to ever walk this earth. We’re strong. Resilient. We can take both pain and love in impressive doses. We’re soft in all the right places and curved to perfection. We can create life, or we can destroy it. When a woman moves athletically nobody mocks her. Of course people want to look. They stare because we’re temples. No woman, no matter what she looks like, should ever be ashamed to do something she loves.

But perhaps it’s not a matter of self-esteem at all. Maybe it’s about perspective. My personal experience has unfortunately led me to spend a lot of time in hospitals. My childhood memories consist of playing in waiting rooms, eating cafeteria food, watching my mom get diagnosed and treated for leukemia. My mom was the first person I ever raced against. She passed away at age 27. She never saw me run.

Three years ago my partner fell 20 feet in a workplace accident and landed on his head. What was left of his body was unrecognizable. Weeks later he came out of his coma. Months later he was learning to talk again. To eat. To stand. To walk. He is self sufficient now, but he will never run again.

If you are fortunate enough to run and lucky enough to love it… please run with pride. Not cowering in the dark or limiting yourself to enclosed spaces. Go outside. Breathe deeply. Run tall and be thankful.

I once heard a long time runner in his senior years speak of an era when you just didn’t see people running outside. As an outdoor runner he was yelled at, laughed at, and even had things thrown at him as he passed. These are the stories of those who forged our trails.

As runners, we have a legacy to live up to. We are not weak. We don’t hide. We lift our heads and tighten our laces. We run because we can’t stop. We run because we love it.