How many new runners say they’re not “real runners”? And continue saying this for years?
It can take a while for us, as runners, to feel like we belong. We look at people faster than us, people with more experience, people who have run X number of races or can cover seemingly huge distances effortlessly. Sooner or later, though – hopefully sooner! – something shifts. Maybe it’s on the starting line of a race, or in the middle of a race, or not a race at all – maybe it’s when we lace up the day after a rough workout, not having been conquered by it. We realize we’ve been wrong. We realize we are most definitely “real” runners, because…we run. So simple, but sometimes so hard to discover.
A lot of new mothers go through the same thing. After almost six months (!) as a mom, it still feels surreal to me to say “I’m a mom.” It feels strange, and…false. I’ve experienced labor, I’ve done middle-of-the-night feedings and diapers and refusals to nap, I’ve done things that are hard in the moment to hopefully spare my baby more discomfort down the road, I deal with my share of new-mom anxiety and hormones and…the list goes on. But still, somehow, I don’t feel like a real mom. I feel like an impostor, like someone will sweep through the door any day now, chuckle at me, and whisk my daughter away. Poof!
The big thing that makes a difference in this situation, both for runners and moms? I believe it’s community.
As a new runner, being part of a team or running group helps enormously. So does having friends who are runners, or having a good local running shop. These people help us shut down those doubts in our heads. They help us see that there’s no point in talking ourselves down. They say “Not a real runner?” Then they’ll point to our worn-in running shoes, and the muscles in our legs, and the new….something about us. Confidence. Tenacity. They’ll cheer us on, give us advice and encouragement, until we see the truth. And the best part? One day we’ll realize that we can do the same for them and for others, so we do. And it’s beautiful, and powerful.
The same thing, so far, seems to be true of motherhood. The moms in my life have helped immeasurably – immeasurably – in helping me see the truth: that I am a “real mom” and that I am doing just fine. They point out the new…something about me. Confidence. Tenacity. No one will bounce into the house and whisk my girl away, because she is my daughter, and I am her mother. Period. There’s nothing false about it.
In running, we have aid stations. In motherhood, there are quick text messages, phone calls, emails, get-togethers, kind words from strangers, other blogs…it’s these things that save us, as new moms. These things are our aid stations and cowbells and clever signs and high-fives along the course.
I can only hope that as my journey through motherhood, and running, progresses, I can give back at least a little of what I have received.
Happy Mother’s Day, and Happy Running, everyone.