When You Struggle To Call Yourself a Runner / Athlete

New Runner Struggle

Letting something that feels foreign become a part of who you are, it's one of the hardest parts about running. I don't think anyone would argue that going from feeling like you're going to die trying to run down your street to building the endurance to run your first 5K is hard. But being able to call yourself a runner? Or an athlete? It's really, really f*ckin hard.

For every person who admits that they don't think they're a runner, they're inundated with comments and passionate cries of, "IF YOU RUN, YOU'RE A RUNNER." And I wholeheartedly agree. It's incredibly important that whenever we see someone in our community struggle, to remind them that they belong. But it's important to remember that everyone's journey is different.

It's not about how fast or slow you are, how far you can go, or whether or not you cling to the protective labels of "jogger" or "run walker". 

It's all irrelevant. Being a runner is an identity and there's no prerequisite required.

But being able to embrace the identity of a runner or an athlete? That takes time.

The truth is, the hardest part of the entire journey is giving yourself permission to see yourself for what you are. For me, every time someone calls me an athlete, I still fight the urge to explain myself or make myself small. The same thing happened when I struggled to call myself a runner. I remember how uncomfortable I'd feel whenever anyone wanted to talk about my first marathon. They'd exclaim. "I can't believe you're a runner now!", and uncomfortable and insecure, I would respond with, "(awkward and uncomfortable laugh) Oh, I'm not a real runner though. I walked!"

You know you're a runner when you know how much it hurts, but you just can't stop.

You know you're a runner when you know how much it hurts, but you just can't stop.

I decided that I needed to prove to myself that I was a runner before I could call myself one. The only problem was that I never specified what that looked like. So I ran and I ran and eventually, over time, I came to terms with the fact that I was, in fact, invited to the "I'm a runner" party.  

The only reason I struggled was that I let my own insecurities make me feel like the other. It's the reason why whenever I'm lumped in with a bunch of athletes, I still feel like I need to explain myself. I'm always afraid that someone will voice the cruel things I say to myself when I'm feeling down. That I'm not good enough, strong enough, or fast enough to be an athlete. 

That's why it's important that you spend the same amount of time that you do working towards a goal or a finish line to work on your self-confidence. "I'm not good enough" is a knife that we pull on ourselves whenever we're not feeling worthy and it hurts a hell of a lot more when we don't feel confident or strong. 

Change happens when you let go of expectations and you give yourself permission to succeed. 

The way we see and talk to ourselves is a huge piece of the puzzle. Every day, we're out there pounding the pavement and working towards putting our strongest foot forward. Yet despite the fact that we spend all this time building fitness and strength, we don't put the same amount of time into building our self-confidence. Imagine what would happen if we said to ourselves, "I'm doing this" instead of, "I don't think I can do this"? We'd be unstoppable!

I know what it's like to wait until nightfall to run or show up to a starting line and wish you had an invisibility cloak. But you have to know that you have nothing to prove. The best way to work towards being able to confidently proclaim that you're a runner or an athlete is to give yourself time. Remind yourself that you deserve to be out there and that even though it feels like you're struggling a hell of a lot more than everyone else, everyone struggles. 

Start telling yourself that you're strong, you're capable, and that you're a badass. Whenever you catch yourself looking in the mirror drawing a circle around a "flaw", name three things you love or that make you proud. Remind yourself that you aren't just enough, but that you're more than enough. And then remember to tell yourself that you're a runner.

I know it feels weird, but give it a try for four weeks. If you don't notice a change after a month, feel free to let me know that I was wrong. What do you have to lose?

Do not give up. 

You can do this.


Run Meme

Until next time, #RunSelfieRepeat.

1 Comment

Kelly Roberts

It all started when a silly joke made headlines back in 2014 when I took selfies with hot guys “hottie hunting” my way through the New York City Half Marathon. But ironically enough, I haven't always been a runner. As the self-proclaimed former President of the "I f*cking hate running club", I spent most of my life finding ways to avoid physical activity. Growing up, I missed over 70 days of PE my senior year. Working out was something I thought I had to suffer through in order to lose weight. 

Then, in 2009, my younger brother passed away unexpectedly and struggling to manage my grief, I gained more than 75 pounds. With the weight gain came a new fight to regain my sense of self and learn to love the body I saw when I looked in the mirror. Then one Thanksgiving morning, drowning in grief and self doubt, I decided to go for a run. I didn't make it half way down my street before I had to stop to walk but for some reason, struggling forward made more sense than getting back into bed. It turns out that running is a lot like grief, neither ever really get easier, you just get stronger. 

Over time, I realized that while some people are in fact born runners, others are made. I created this blog Run, Selfie, Repeat and my new podcast by the same name with the hopes to inspire others to say yes to themselves while making them laugh hysterically because laughing, in my opinion, is the solution to everything. 

Named by Women's Running as one of twenty women who are changing the sport of running and by Competitor Magazine as one of 12 Influential and inspiring runners under 30, my mission is to inspire others to get embrace a healthy lifestyle and pursue the strongest version of themselves possible.