It was after listening to Run to the Top‘s latest Podcast called “What Makes you a “Real” Runner” an interview with Jill Angie, who hosts her own Podcast called “Not Your Average Runner” – Jill said something that inspired this week’s post. She got done telling a story about how she used to train in the dark, because she felt insecure not fitting into the “typical” the runner’s mold. Her story revolved around the sense of community she started to feel as a runner and the level of support that eventually helped her shed her insecurities and have confidence.
As easy as it is for me to say, we as runners, athletes, humans, should (by now) know that there is no one “right” ideal. It’s a rainbow of experience levels, body types, genders, ages, sneaker sizes, watch preferences, and hydration techniques.
Until this week, I felt very strongly that I left these feelings of imperfection or insecurity well within the confines of my late teen years, but as I ran, for the first time this Spring in shorts, I suddenly felt this wave of self-doubt rising up from my feet through my knees, up through my stomach and suddenly it had enveloped my entire body.
It’s incredible that after all of these years of personal and professional successes, new hobbies, amazing friends, and a supportive family – that I would still have anxiety lurking in the background. I have dealt with anxiety on and off for as along as I can remember – it’s a constant battle expelling negative thoughts out of my head and reassuring myself that I can and I will conquer this. Running has certainly become an outlet to help pacify these jittery feelings but some days, I’ve got to throw my hands up and admit – shit gets hard.
Sure, I’m not the fastest, fittest, most fashion-forward runner on the road and sometimes my runs consist of me pushing my inner insecure, teenage voice deep down and what occurred to me this week is that this supportive, enthusiastic community called running makes it so much easier to power past whatever demons, shin splints, or bad weather each run throws my way.
In the last few years, I have met some of the most inspirational, wacky, and seriously incredible friends through the running community. Everyone understands the love/hate relationship with ice, ibuprofen, porta potties, race day jitters, gu (yes this is a real thing) and all things reflective (I still marvel at the number of garments in my closet that contain reflective components). These friends have seen my highs and lows – everything from my total breakdown after finishing the Marine Corp Marathon to the first time I ran more than 10 miles (and in the snow).
As in team sports, tough lessons in running have shown me how encouraging fellow runners have been in those moments of weakness and anxiety. They all have one particular trait in common – they lift each other up. In the spirit of inclusion, community, and kindness, these folks pay it forward because, just like life, some days are downright tough and we can’t necessarily do it all on our own. At some point in running, we’ve all hit rock bottom and needed that friend or teammate to help pull us out of that dark hole.
With this stressful, anxiety-ridden week in the rear view, I’m thankful I have this amazing community of fellow runners there to support and lift me up. With a second marathon 6 months away and my first triathlon 3 months away, I cannot help but feel perfectly poised to conquer these events for myself BUT with my friends.
Pay it forward – let’s spend time focusing on lifting each other up.