I am a runner.
It took me so long to be able to say those words out loud to anyone. I still have some trouble with them, because for so long I’ve been insecure about my running abilities and my body not being (in my mind) what a typical runner’s body looks like.
I started running distance when I was 18 and starting college. I was really struggling with body image and personal insecurities and getting over a very difficult few years of my life. Running felt so good. It helped to give me a natural endorphin high. It gave me a chance to process my thoughts and deal with all of the shit going on in my life without any outside noise.
In short, it gave me an outlet and it basically saved me when I was in danger of going off the rails.
And then the running bug bit me hard. I started increasing my distance. I joined a gym so I could still run even when it was thunder storming, spewing ice or a blizzard was going on.I loved it.
But I still didn’t believe I was a runner.
This is mostly because, in my mind I didn’t “look” like a runner. I wasn’t one of the sinewy elites. I wasn’t even super thin. I was putting in 35-40 miles per week, but I didn’t want to tell anyone other than family and close friends, because I thought others wouldn’t believe me.
I thought people would think, “But she has boobs. She’s not a size 0. How can she be a runner?”
I was also insecure about it because I was “slow.” Slow is obviously a relative term, but all I knew is what I saw in the media about running, and what I saw other people at the gym running. I was a snail compared to all of them.
Because of my body image and pace insecurities, I was terrified to sign up for races. I live in Indianapolis, where the largest half marathon in the country is held every May. The Mini is a big deal around here, plus we have tons of other races. I felt like I wouldn’t fit in at any of them, and yet a nagging voice at the back of my mind encouraged me to race. It was a natural progression to start racing, and I needed a challenge and more of a purpose to my running. But I was terrified.
I finally decided to sign up for a race after I opened my eyes a little more and saw that everyday people like me were racing. Close friends and family were doing races and encouraging me to try it. I started reading Runner’s World and saw that regular people were running, too. Maybe I could do it?
When I finally made it to the starting line of my first race, I was blown away. Sure there were the traditional elite racing types, but the vast majority of the people there were just everyday people of all shapes and sizes. It was a party atmosphere and I was a part of it. I felt as if I belonged. I certainly wasn’t the fastest, but I wasn’t the slowest either. But my pace and how I looked didn’t matter. The race was about bringing people who loved to run together. It was amazing.
I still struggle with telling people initially that I run marathons. I sometimes add the line, “but I’m not fast or anything.” I still have trouble believing, even after 6 half marathons and 7 full marathons, that others will believe I am a runner. And when I talk to people who are way faster than me, I’m scared to tell them my times.
But no matter what my pace or what size shorts I wear, I am a runner.
I have to remind myself daily and I think that this blog has helped already, because I’m telling the world.
I hope that speaking about my insecurities can help anyone else that is apprehensive about their running or other sport. You are an athlete regardless of whatever pace you run or whatever body type you have. Sign up for a race and you will see how inclusive the running community is. Everyone is welcome. Everyone can be a runner.