At the end of 2017, I was toying around with the idea that I could be a runner. I had run my first 5k the year before and had discovered that I really enjoyed the sport. I knew that my city had a very active running club, as they had a large presence in the race that I ran. With enthusiasm, I paid the annual fee and joined the club and ultimately did absolutely nothing with it. The membership was for a year and even though I spent the first half of 2018 practicing running, I was very self-conscious of my weight. I read over and over that they were very welcoming to members of all ability levels. But as I looked at their posts on Facebook of the meetups I was tempted to join, I realized that I did not look like any of the runners I saw in the pictures. While I was able to run continuously over an extended period of time, I was still very slow and very heavy. I did, however, run the 4-mile race they sponsored on the 4th of July each year, but ultimately, my insecurity kept me from actively participating in the club. I never even made it to a monthly membership meeting to pick up my free t-shirt for new members. I let my membership expire at the end of 2018.
I unfollowed the ‘insiders’ group on Facebook but still periodically saw posts from their general group and kept the idea of the running club in the back of my mind. Fast forward to this month that had me running two local races on two back-to-back weekends. It was at these events, milling around before the start, that I again saw familiar faces wearing matching shirts and gathering for a group picture. I knew these people, if only from seeing them in two-dimensions in Facebook pictures. I began to wonder if it was perhaps time to reconsider joining the club.
As the end of the year is now approaching, I remember that this is around the time that I had signed up for a membership in 2017. On a whim, this morning I scoped out the running club’s website and immediately saw the option for renewing memberships. I didn’t even hesitate. I paid the yearly dues and signed back up. After that, I perused their schedule of weekly meetups and found a group run that will be held at a time that I can make it after work. Without a second thought, I clicked on the button to say that I would be attending. The options for that practice run are 3.3, 4, or 5 miles. When I saw that, I almost smiled because those distances are no longer a problem for me. At a minimum, I go 3 miles each time I run. I’m also not nearly as slow as I was a year ago. I feel pretty confident that my 11-12 minute mile pace can keep up with the other runners.
Soon after getting the membership renewal confirmation email, I posted in the “insiders” Facebook group and expressed my joy at having joined the group again. I briefly mentioned about my inactive membership in 2018 and how much of an improved runner I am. There was also mention of my half-marathon goal. The amount of positive feedback I got from the group on my post reaffirmed for me that I had made the right decision.
The right decision indeed. When I think of going to that meetup on Wednesday, I am filled with eagerness to meet these long-awaited running partners that I hope to call my friends soon. There is a feeling of accomplishment and self-confidence that I definitely did not possess last year. I still don’t think I look like a typical runner. I do have some more weight to lose. But now more than ever, I know with 100% certainty that since I can run for a sustained amount of time without feeling like I’m going to suffocate and die afterwards, I AM a runner whether I look like what I think a runner should look like or not. I am also certain that what I look like will not matter to this community of runners I have just rejoined. I can run with these people and know that I have come to the right place–the place for running tips and advice, for encouragement and motivation, and most importantly of all, the place for acceptance.