In the last two years, I’ve participated in a lot of 5Ks, 10Ks, and miscellaneous other races. Doesn’t that make me sound like such a badass? I mean, only serious runners compete in races, right? The truth is, like lots of people, I struggle with the idea of calling myself a runner. Every time I check into a race on Facebook, I make the same self-deprecating joke: “Pay money, get up early, and run a race I have no chance of winning.” Lately I’ve just shortened it to: “Etcetera.”
I’ve only been running for a little over two years. It started as a rebound relationship when I broke up with roller derby and it just sort of stuck. I don't kid myself about being awesome at it. I am not a fast runner. I am not a disciplined runner. Despite those things, I like to run and I like to participate in races. I love the buzz of excitement waiting at the start line and the feelings of relief and accomplishment crossing the finish line. That’s why I keep showing up (the swag is also nice, but honestly I have enough fluorescent yellow tech shirts at this point).
As much as I enjoy these moments, I’m having some uncomfortable feelings about this Sunday that have nothing to do with the course or the distance. My excitement has been completely overshadowed by the fear of what other people will think of me. I’m embarrassed about how long it will take me to finish, how much of it I will have to walk, and how I let my training fell apart after traveling and being sick for the last two months. I'm embarrassed that my husband will cross the finish line more than an hour before me and then have to wait around. I'm embarrassed by my 12+ minute miles. And for those of you who are serious runners who actually win things or friends who have been fooled into thinking I’m some sort of fasty fast, I’m afraid of you thinking less of me or thinking I’m a fraud as a runner.
If I'm so embarrassed, why on earth would I tell you all of this? I’m telling you this so you can cheer for me, because I’m going to doubt myself at points on Sunday and a kind word from you will help more than you know. More importantly, though, I’m telling you to set myself free and stop worrying about you finding out. I’m also telling you because you may be just like me, and my words might give you permission to stop worrying and feeling like a fraud, too. We both deserve permission to not be perfect, and we deserve to feel proud of our accomplishments rather than embarrassed by them.
So as afraid as I am to tell you this, my bib number is 13017 if you’d like to follow me on race day.