No One Deserves To Feel Like An Outsider
I, like so many others, used to believe that in order to be a runner, you had to be born a runner.
Truthfully, I wanted to be a runner because I thought that running made you skinny. I remember when I saw the movie The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants, I thought that if I could run like Bridget (the tall, slender, strong blonde who races her foxy soccer coach on a beach in Mexico), then I would look like Blake Lively and I might finally feel beautiful. So that summer, I decided that I was going to become a runner so that I could look like Blake Lively.
Every day of the following week, I’d try to run around my parent’s neighborhood and after a few minutes, I’d slow to a walk and spend the rest of the mile tearing myself apart because I knew that I would never become a runner.
Different forms of the same scenario played out every summer until I graduated from college, some ten years later. Honestly, I can’t help but wonder why, after a decade of attempts, I finally came to terms with the fact that running is a struggle regardless of your athletic level. I always joke that I was “just desperate enough” to become a runner but truthfully, I think I was desperate for something to work towards and feel proud of. But despite the fact that there were days that felt insurmountable as a new runner, I loved how each milestone made me feel.
But running has always been and continues to be a struggle.
I don't run because it's always this fun and easy way for me to keep my cupcake habit in check or to blow off steam. I continue to run and set intimidating goals because running has taught me more about grit, dedication, and overcoming self-doubt than I ever thought possible. And I hear you, it's just running. How can running change your life?
Well, turns out the magic isn't just in the running. It's in the running community as well.
For an entire year, I ran alone. The story I made up in my head was that runners were an exclusive, cliquey group of people who could smell an imposter in synthetic spandos a mile away. But truth be told, the running community isn’t an exclusive one, it’s the antithesis.
One of the reasons I started a blog was because I felt like there was a portion of the community that wasn’t being celebrated. I wanted to give the gift of running to people who were convinced like I was that they’d never be able to enjoy being active or feel like they belonged in the running world. So I wrote about the struggles and the crazier elements of running that made me laugh. I set out to validate their struggles, set backs, and fears. And most importantly, I tried to spread the word that the only way you’ll fail is if you fail to try because speaking from my own experience, I'd tried and failed so many times that I was incapable even entertaining the idea of success.
But there will always be people who don’t get it. And while the running community is an incredibly supportive and inclusive one, there will always be a few rotten apples.
Example: "When did mediocrity become something we celebrate. I understand she’s relatable to the hordes of medal chasers, but come on."
This comment that was made by one the bad apples about me is the reason I started my blog. (And it’s important to note that the small, exclusive group of our incredible community, isn't the majority.) But what they define as mediocrity, I define as success. Because not everyone runs to be the best, some of us are running to survive. Whether that means finishing four hours after an official cut off time or breaking two hours in a half marathon, there’s nothing mediocre about having the courage to show up.
I haven’t felt like an outsider in the running community for years but a few months ago, I found myself retreating and fighting the urge to wave my white flag and throw in the towel. I was already struggling post-London Marathon and reading some of the things that were being written about me and my family was enough to throw me into a tailspin. That’s when the badass lady gang showed up for me. My inbox blew up with heartfelt, encouraging, vulnerable, brave, and selfless emails from all of you along with emails from my Oiselle Volee teammates, most of whom I'd never met, who wanted me to know that they had my back.
For most of my life, I built walls. I was ashamed of what I'd been through and even though I was incredibly lucky to be surrounded by a fierce family and community of women who fought to give me laughter, resources, and a future, I fought tirelessly to control what people outside of my family knew about me. I thought it was safer to be alone than it was to trust my friends with my past.
It’s always painful when someone tries to diminish your voice, speak for you, define you, or make you feel small and ashamed. But here’s a gift that the badass lady gang gave me: No matter how hard you fall, there will always be someone there, willing to lend a hand, help you through, and remind you that you matter.
It doesn’t matter if you win races or if you never cross a finish line in your life, running is an individual journey that should be free from judgment. It’s open to people of all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life. Running is a source of empowerment and if you’re willing to stick with it long enough, it can teach you how to love who you are.
The running community isn’t a perfect one but magical things happen when we build the sisterhood. We all come from different pasts, athletic backgrounds, and walks of life. Regardless of what motivates you to pull on your sports bra, we’re all running towards the strongest versions of ourselves possible and we’re a hell of a lot stronger when we’re flying together.
A four-minute mile or a twenty-four-minute mile, as long as you have the courage to come as you are, there will always be a place for you in our badass lady gang. I wanted to step back and open up about feeling like an outsider because I know I'm not alone. And without your words and support, I'm not sure what would have happened. No one deserves to feel like an outsider or feel alone.
And that right there is the power of the #BadassLadyGang. An incredible tribe and sisterhood of women who not only showed up for me but continues to show up for one another in a huge way. We all need a team, a support system, and a badass lady gang.
Thank you for being there to prop me up. It means so much to know that you all are right beside me every step of the way.