How I Dealt with Runner Imposter Syndrome

Written by: Krystle Hodge, Houston Marathon Committee RunHou Ambassador

Have you ever experienced Runner Imposter Syndrome? Some of us might have encountered this feeling during our running journey, unsure of whether we truly qualify as “runners.” As someone who started running long distances in their mid-30s, this is something I personally experienced during the first two years of my running journey. My hope is that my story will inspire you to recognize and embrace the runner within yourself.

Embracing the Beginning: In the summer of 2019, I started my running journey with the ZFT run group in Houston. Having never played sports in high school or college, long-distance running was a new and exciting endeavor for me. We began with 5Ks and 10Ks, eventually working our way up to half marathons. However, despite the encouragement from those around me, I struggled to call myself a runner. In my mind, a runner was someone who had run numerous marathons, an elite athlete, or someone with years of running experience from high school or college. Since I didn’t meet those criteria, I felt inadequate and hesitated to identify as a true runner.

Doubts and Insecurities: During my first two years of running with my writing group, I struggled with self-doubt and constantly questioned my ability to achieve certain goals. Falling into the comparison trap, I found myself constantly measuring my progress against more experienced runners or those showcasing their achievements on social media. Seeing others’ successes compared to my own made me feel inadequate and far from where I wanted to be. As a result, I ended up overtraining, leading to significant burnout at an early stage in my running journey. Despite the encouragement and cheers from my friends and those around me, I still couldn’t fully embrace the title of a “runner” in my own eyes even though everyone else around me saw it. I believed I needed more experience before I could claim that title for myself.

Recognizing the Value of Running: After some time, I began to build my confidence and redefine what I considered a runner. The positive motivation from others around me in the running community, friends and family, and my ZFT run group, taught me to embrace the journey and to focus on running my own race.  Running, regardless of distance or pace, is a significant achievement. It takes great discipline and determination to co

mmit to this sport. I was able to set my own realistic goals, build my confidence in calling myself a runner, achieve new running goals, and celebrate my successes. It came down to a shift in mindset. Whether it’s one mile, five miles, or 20 miles, every step is worth celebrating. We need to grant ourselves more

credit, grace and acknowledge the hard work we put into achieving our goals.

Lessons Learned: It’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others, but we must resist it. Each of us has our unique journey in running and in life. Instead of measuring ourselves against someone else’s standards, we should focus on our progress and growth. Additionally, during my struggle with imposter syndrome, I would sometimes over trained to prove myself as a runner which lead to early mental burnout. Eventually, I learned being a smart runner means understanding our limits and pacing ourselves.

Redefining What It Means to be a Runner: I came to redefine what being a runner meant for me. It’s not about external achievements but rather the joy of the journey and the process of becoming a better version of oneself. Running is a personal journey, and we have the power to shape our definition of it.

In conclusion, if you find yourself dealing with imposter syndrome, remember that you are not alone. Embrace the fact that if you’re out there running, you are a runner. Acknowledge your achievements, big or small, and support others on their running journeys too. Let’s build a welcoming and inclusive community where we celebrate each other’s successes and take each day one run at a time. Remember, being a runner requires strength and determination, so always grant yourself the grace you deserve. Be proud to call yourself a runner, for you have earned that title through your dedication and hard work!

Happy running!

Krystle Hodge