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"I'm Not a REAL Runner"- Imposter Syndrome

Written by Charlotte Powers

If I had a dollar for every time I have heard someone say “I’m not a REAL Runner”, or “I’m slow, so I’m not a runner”, I would be rich. However, Bart Yasso, the mayor of running, said it best: “I often hear someone say I’m not a real runner. We are all runners, some just run faster than others. I never met a fake runner”. So why are we all so quick to feel like we don’t belong with the “real runners”, and have to explain our pace to people.

The definition of imposter syndrome is the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved because of one’s own efforts or skills. (Oxford Dictionary) It has also been found that people who suffer from imposter syndrome are more likely to experience anxiety. Well great, I already have general anxiety, so now I have anxiety about being a runner, and anxiety about being an imposter, and anxiety about how slow I run, and now I’m exhausted a mile into my race, and having a small existential crisis.

I think the imposter syndrome happens more with slower runners, but I’ve also heard friends with much faster finish times discuss it. I have been running for seven years now, and there have been many times, mid race, that the thought has crossed my mind that I don’t belong there, and I just know that everyone is talking about me and how I don’t fit in. Some of this is just regular anxiety, but some of it is imposter syndrome. A friend who has accomplished many 50K’s, and is training for her first 100 miler told me once that it takes her about three miles into a race before she feels like she belongs. It’s often once the field has thinned out and she finds her rhythm that her brain allows her to think “I know what I’m doing. We’ve done this before”.

Some people say to overcome imposter syndrome is to use it as your fuel. Use it as a motivator to become the person you feel that you are the fraud of. I think we need to encourage people of all paces and abilities to call themselves a runner, and to correct people when they use the word “just” when describing the race or distance they are doing. I know when races offer multiple distances, those doing the lower distances often say “I’m just doing the half marathon”. Since when was running/walking/completing 13.1 miles on foot something to not be proud AF about?! Thanks to the media we are constantly bombarded with someone or something better, and that causes us to view our accomplishments as not as worthy. Comparison is the thief of joy, and I will be just as proud of a friend who walked a mile, than the one who ran 100 miles. We all should strive to be the best we can, every day, and realize that your best will differ from day to day. You know you best.

Charlotte Powers (aka Brooks' mom) is our awesome manager. Charlotte is an accomplished athlete having completed many endurance events as well as celebrating others who are just starting their fitness journey. Charlotte is passionate about serving our community in many ways, from running with and supporting her Meg's Miles, Still I Run, and Wear Blue Run to Remember friends, to petting all the dogs in her line of sight and rescuing injured animals she may encounter on her runs. Charlotte brings a wealth of retail and management experience to our shop and we are thrilled to have her on board with us!

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