This week someone told me that I’m not a runner. It upset me.
For me the label “runner” was hard won. I’m not a natural athlete, was never sporty; I started running 10 years ago overweight and slow, a dumpy, frumpy housewife. I had to doggedly get through 2 years of injury before I felt comfortable and found my niche.
I run in the middle of the pack. I will never win a race. I talk my way around a Parkrun and goof for the camera. I run solo because I don’t like the pressure of feeling I can’t keep up in a group.
I am married to a speedster who finishes races sometimes an hour ahead of me. Which is great for having your jumper and a cup of tea waiting at the finish line but not always so great for the ego. Sometimes when he’s chatting with his peers I feel excluded as their race experience is significantly different to mine.
I waited a long time to join a running club because I didn’t feel I was good enough. When I did, I went against the grain to find a club that suited me and has a real inclusive, fun ethos. I rarely go on the group runs because I feel like it’s a race and hate it when charitable people drop their pace to match mine. When I dabble at speed training I’m thoroughly unpleasant because I’m terrible at it. I have sworn never to run a team relay again because I hate the pressure of feeling I’m the elephant letting the team down.
I hold my hands up and admit I have low self-esteem when it comes to my running. The flip side is that I’ve found my niche in ultra running. Whilst I’m still not a contender I’m certainly higher in the percentiles than in the shorter stuff. More importantly running long makes me happy.
The comment that I’m not a runner was not malicious. It was intended to convey that I train differently to my club mates as my focus is triathlon. Hey, if you think I’ve confidence issues about running then swimming and cycling are a whole different kettle of fish. I’ve definitely NOT given myself either of those labels yet! Triathlete? Hmm. I only did 2 triathlons last year, compared to 3 ultras, 2 marathons and a load more running. I’m no triathlete.
Being told I’m not a runner felt like being in the school yard and being told I’m not part of the gang. It felt like however hard I try, I’ll never be good enough to be accepted. I felt ridiculous that I put my training anecdotally on social media for people to snigger that I think I’m something I’m not.
A little introspection and it was obvious that I probably need counselling. Who actually wants to walk around with a label around their neck? Who wants to be put in a box? Is this actually worth getting upset about? Of course, the answer is a resounding “get a grip girl!”
As if to hammer the point home, in a room full of awesome RUNNERS and in the presence of the legendary ultra RUNNER Nicky Spinks, I was awarded the Crazy Frog Award. I’m still slightly puzzled as to what this means. I think it’s something to do with being willing to tackle the races that others think are bonkers and certainly becoming slightly amphibious. Importantly to me, it meant I’m part of the gang. Even if I’m the quirky one.