Once upon a time a popular Women’s wellness magazine mocked runners in tutus. I was going to respond to them about that until some beat me to it. But I’m still very worried that some new runner donning a tutu for her first race (BECAUSE IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN!) will see that bit in that stupid magazine and will be shunned from running again.
It’s just so easy to be intimidated by other runners. Especially when they snark in magazines about what you’re wearing. I’ve had bad experiences too…the under-the-breath comments about how people like me, “Think they’re trail runners after running the white loop once.” (If you’re not local, the “White Loop” is a 3’ish mile “easy” trail on our local mountain.) I’ve had people grumble about being behind me on a trail. I’ve had people scoff at the wings on my shoes.
But luckily none of this stuff stopped me because it has been LARGELY outnumbered by support in my community. And I want to share that with newbie runners. I’ll give you DIFFERENT stories to counterbalance the mocking of tutus. I’ll tell you all the stories I heard/saw/experienced in my early stages of running that inspired me to STICK WITH IT. Hell…some of these stories I’ve heard in the last month! Stories from runners and triathletes who kick my ass in every way, yet still shared with me their failures or stories of not taking themselves too seriously. Because – in the end – they all wanted me to stay the course and not give up. And if their stories of silliness, or their stories of failure, helped me feel more comfortable? They were going to share them.
And that’s what the community does, for the most part. We have fun. We jump in the air for local race photographers, or pretend like we’re blowing snot rockets. We give each other nicknames and wear wings on our shoes. The runners in my community have shared their stories of failure with me to help me calm my nerves. They’ve told me about times when THEY were terrified, even though I see their awesomeness now and wonder how in the HELL they used to be like me.
These are the stories I want new runners to hear and see, because racing is intimidating. You’re surrounded by people you are CONVINCED belong there more than you do. You convince yourself that they’re all judging you. You constantly say, “I’m not a real runner.” I know because I still do all of that. But these stories from people in my community have helped remind me that we’re all the same. (That entry is written by the winner of the race I did this last weekend.)
- I saw a super-fast runner wearing socks with CAPES on them at a race I did once. It makes people feel less intimidating when their socks are superheroes.
- I saw a top-10 finisher at a marathon running in crocs. CROCS.
- I was passed at a Disney race by two grown men in FULL female costumes. Dresses…makeup…wigs…ALL of it.
- A triathlon coach told me after a race that he accidentally racked his bike on the wrong spot and didn’t realize it until he tried to put on someone else’s running shoes.
- An Ironwoman friend of mine told me she had a panic attack in her first triathlon. Which was in a pool.
- A local running mentor ran a half-marathon in a kilt. I saw that and thought, “Wait. We don’t HAVE to wear boring running gear? SWEET.”
- The winner of a 50K I did apologized when I got out of his way. THE WINNER. Apologized to ME. The girl who has come in LAST before.
- An ultra runner who has done the Western States 100 and Badwater told me her PW (personal worst) marathon time was FOURTEEN HOURS. My marathon PW is just a bit under 8 hours.
- A local member of the FF racing team who has won several of the races I’ve participated in has been at the finish line of races I’ve done TWICE…still there even hours after he’s finished…and helped cheer me across.
- Another ultra runner told me he felt so awful during a trail marathon he actually stopped and napped on the side of the course. Bringing his final time in around 9 hours.
- An ultra runner who has done all the toughest US races said, “My favorite ultra food is snowballs.” Knocked my assumption that all badass ultra runners treat their bodies like temples TOTALLY out of the water.
- I ran with a girl who has done Badwater and she wore flowers in her sun visor. She is a total badass who has FUN with running because – isn’t that the point?
- Several of my running friends have shared with me their stories of DNFs – not finishing a race they started – and it’s a reminder that EVERYONE has a bad day and not to give up.