It took two years, approximately 400 miles, a half-dozen running shoes, one 5k, one 15K, and four half-marathons (well, three and one-thirteenth half-marathons) before I finally said to myself, "Wow, I'm actually a runner!"
Reading that back to myself, I realize how ridiculous it sounds — but that's the honest to goodness truth. I've been putting up absurd blocks and making excuses as to why "I'm not really a runner."
"I'm not fast enough." "I only run half-marathons, not full ones!" "People are way better than me." "I don't even have good form." "I don't wear 'serious' running shoes." "I'm not competitive." "I could never qualify for a 'real' race." "I don't even have a runner's body." "I'm not good at sports, and I'm technically not an athlete."
The reasons were endless. I remember hearing the famous Bill Bowerman quote, "If you have a body, you're an athlete," and thinking, that absolutely does not apply to me. I've never been good at sports, I was too intimidated to try out for cheer or dance in high school (I never had lessons, so how could I possibly be good enough?), and I'm completely noncompetitive. Slow, out of shape, uncoordinated, with zero interest in watching sports — compound all that with exercise-induced asthma, and you have yourself an actual antithesis of an athlete. Or so I thought.
As it turns out, you don't need to meet any sort of expectation to just be a runner. Spoiler alert: all you have to do is RUN. Those first steps? You're a runner. It doesn't matter how fast you go, or how far you go . . . you just have to GO!
Honestly, I can't believe it took me so long to realize it. Yesterday I ran my fourth half-marathon, and somewhere along mile one, the past two years of memories, training, races, and hard work (and possibly runner's high) flooded in and it hit me — "Wow, I'm actually a runner!"
It's just like the idea of having a "bikini body." All you need is a bikini and a body, and then, boom: bikini body. Want to be a runner? Go for a run. That's it. That's all there is.
Have you been in this situation? Holding yourself back, denying your abilities? For me, the block was entirely mental: no one needed to tell me I was a runner, I didn't need to hit some mark, or set some record, or qualify for Boston — I just needed to believe I was a runner. Or rather, believe I AM a runner. I've been a runner this whole time! Feels pretty amazing to say that and mean it for the first time.
At the risk of sounding like an inspirational cat poster, you've gotta believe in yourself! You ARE a runner and you ARE an athlete, no matter what your level! Love yourself and embrace your abilities, regardless of where you are in your journey.