It’s not easy admitting that I feel like a fraud doing his damnedest to keep others from realizing it. I’ve spent the last several years of my life wondering when I would have achieved enough miles, enough trails, enough peaks and valleys to wash away that inequitable stain of insecurity. But, to little or no degree, has the feeling changed.
When I simply ran road races at a 5k distance, I never felt like I was a real runner like the rest of them. I was just the guy who thought he could stumble across the finish line without others noticing or caring. Stepping up from there into hiking, long distance road running, and later into trail and ultra running, I rarely feel that overwhelming sense of satisfaction around a large group of runners, because somewhere in that group, hidden to me, will be that one person who sees through my gear, my sweat, and my medals to see the fraud.
Thankfully, this dreadful feeling has never kept me from toeing a line at a race, or offering help and words of wisdom to people I meet interested in running. And as long as I have full control over my mental faculties, it never will. The hard thing right now is the escalation of my desire in distance running, as well as directing trail running events alongside my brother. No matter the number of miles I’ve clocked under my feet through these past several years, I don’t think there will ever be enough for me to shake this.
It’s hard to try new things. It’s hard to break out of a comfort zone your body and mind have been building together since they first linked up and decided they preferred predictability over randomization. I reveled in the static nature of existence until I realized I didn’t like it anymore. I had given up many of the things I had enjoyed as a kid to try and appear as adult like as possible, to which I also felt like a fraud (still do some days).
I don’t know how to get over this feeling, or if there even is a way. I don’t know if any of the other runners I’ve had the privilege of spending time on the roads or in the woods feel the same. I’ve always been too afraid to ask. But, I don’t want to be anymore, which is why I’m writing this. I may be nervous every time I cross the start line knowing I won’t reach the finish line for several hours, but I’m always happy to try. I want to have that same courage in openly talking to runners as well. It may take me a little while to get there, but I’m willing to try.