Overcoming My Running Insecurities

Indianapolis Marathon 2010
Indianapolis Marathon 2010.

 

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?”

Nike Women's Half Marathon, 2014
Nike Women’s Half Marathon, 2014

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.

See, races do look like huge parties! The Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco 2014. Photo courtesy of Nike
See, races do look like huge parties! The Nike Women’s Half Marathon San Francisco 2014. Photo courtesy of Nike

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.

Indianapolis Marathon, 2011.
Indianapolis Marathon, 2011.

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.

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27 thoughts on “Overcoming My Running Insecurities

  1. Thanks for sharing! I definitely struggled with that too. When I started running, I was hanging around a lot of guys that ran cross country, so my definition of “running” was 100 mile weeks at a sub-6 pace. Not at ALL something I could relate to. It took me a long time to believe I was a runner too!

  2. Enjoyed this post. Thank you. Struggle with the same occasionally… And …you do look like a runner….look at those legs!

  3. Yes! So true. I would struggle with often comparing my pace, my 5k time, my body shape, my running clothes style to other people, and it never helped me. Now, I am learning to appreciate the individuality of runners and how neat it is to see different paces, people, and backgrounds. I ❀ it.

  4. Great post!!! I didn’t start running until I was almost 30 and I was so slow. I refused to call myself a runner and actually googled “what pace is jogging vs running?”…so silly! Anyways I can completely relate to the insecurities!

  5. I don’t do insecurities, or more correctly stated, I don’t let them fester much. I was a slow runner, 8 minute mile, right up until I started cycling. Then I dropped into the sixes. I did have a runners body and my wife hated it. So I put some weight back on, slowed down just a touch because of it, but am still quite happy. What is most important to me is that when I look in the mirror, I am truly pleased with where I am. I look decent but I’m thick for a true cyclist but to me, happiness and balance comes way before speed and an ultra-thin Chris Froome body. I am happy, my wife thinks I’m smokin’ and I have balance. The rest is just bs.

    You look fantastic in every one of those photos. Call it good and let the whirling dervishes whirl. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

      1. Exactly. I have two people out of seven billion to impress. I’m one and I’m married to the other. It’s a walk in the park. 😎

    1. Slow runner at an 8-min/mile pace? I must be a walker. I know it’s all relative, and your slow is just that–YOUR slow; but it’s certainly hard to let go of insecurities when reading stuff like “slow runner, 8 minute mile” when we KNOW we cannot even break 8 minutes yet… =( And it probably pumps you up to read this too! Oh well, the things about insecurities is you gotta just focus on yourself and not make comparisons. But, I’ll say it is good to know that cycling helped improve your pace. I will try that!

      1. No, it doesn’t pump me up to read that I made you feel bad about your pace. The guys I run with run a 5k in 16-19 minutes… Best I ever did was 22 and change, so I was slow – or as you said, my estimation of slow.

        I apologize for my presumptuous comment earlier.

  6. I think we all have insecurities with running, and I’m really bad about not giving myself enough credit. When people will announce that I’m a runner or that I’m training for a marathon, I’ll always add “it’s no big deal I’m not that fast” as a disclaimer. For some reason I have trouble owning the fact that I am a runner, but reading about other people going through the same experiences definitely helps!!! Thanks for sharing this πŸ™‚

  7. Feel the same way! I linger between 11-12 min miles and I am sometimes embarrassed by my half marathon times but I remind myself that at least I am out there. One mile at 6 mins is the same distance at 12 mins, I just get to enjoy more scenery πŸ˜‰

  8. You are right – it doesn’t matter how slow you are, you are still a runner! When I was younger I could do 2 miles in 2 weeks after a break from running. This time it took me two years to get to a 25 minute run with no walking breaks. At my best, in college I ran a 7 minute mile. Unfortunately, my miles are a little longer now! At least I’m running, though! πŸ™‚

  9. You know that everyone in a race is running the same distance so they are most definitely a runner! I remember in my first couple of races I would see all of these “runner” types at the expo. Leggy, skinny girls who looked so much fitter than me and I worried about how I would do in the race against them all. But what I’ve learned is that it is actually pretty hard to judge how fast someone is just be looking at them!

  10. you know, without reading this, I would have never known about your insecurity. To me, you look like a runner.!!! For reals. Glad you posted this, probably helps get it off your back a little. but rally you shouldn’t worry. We are all runners no matter what the pace or how we look πŸ™‚ love the running community.!

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