What makes a real runner? We tell new runners that simply running makes one a runner. We tell them that pace and distance don’t matter, that once they’ve gone left foot, right foot, repeat, that they are runners. Simultaneously, however, seasoned runners start making checklists for themselves on what is required to be a real runner. Mostly, we have this checklist for ourselves, to keep us under the thumb of our own impostor syndrome. I should know.
My own checklist has included things like run a 5k without walking, run a 10k without walking, finish a half-marathon, finish a full marathon, finish multiple full marathons, finish a 50k race, finish multiple 50k races, run at elevation, et cetera, ad nauseum.
I feel like an impostor because I run with men who can run twice as fast as me, and some twice as far. I feel like an impostor, because, while making my way up the trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, I could only run the flats and downhills. I feel like an impostor when my husband talks about his sluggish runs, and they are minutes per mile faster than my PRs. But, I feel honored to be in the middle-to-bottom of this giant ocean of talent that surrounds me.
My dad always says, “A good man knows something about everything, and everything about something”. I’ve taken those words to heart my entire life, and tried to surround myself with a myriad of experts in a variety of fields. It’s because of this that I am only middle of the pack at everything I do, but it’s also why I know how to weld (kinda), work on cars, run radio-immuno assays, perform surgery on rats, ride a horse, write essays, articles, stories, and grant proposals. I can drive a stick shift and set a formal dinner table, I can sew and mow, and grow vegetables and kids.
Sometimes, my impostor syndrome follows me to all areas of my life, and I have to remind myself the blessing it is to be a little fish in the big pond. I get to witness the mind-blowing success of my friends and family, and their light guides me and helps me grow. I’m both very- and not-competitive by nature. I’m competitive in a reaching manner, not a winning one. Beating others doesn’t matter to me; I just like being on the heels of the person just ahead.
I am so grateful for the experts that surround me, and, if I’m being honest with myself, I’m grateful for my impostor syndrome, because it forces me to become better every day. I may never catch the fireflies in my life, but I know I have the grit to keep after them.