Running When You Don't Look Like A Runner

by Elizabeth Ewens
Originally Published: 

It has been a physically transformative year for my husband, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed (by anyone). His hours of training and focus have paid off, big time, and I couldn’t be more proud. But here’s the deal: He now looks like a runner. Me, not so much. This has led to a number of interesting (read: awkward) conversations with family, friends and relative strangers (RS). They go something like this:

RS (to husband): You look amazing! You must be running!

Husband: Yeah, I’ve been running a bit…

RS: That’s fantastic!

Me (silently standing by, unnoticed) thinking to myself: Go ahead, ask him who started him running again. Yep, that was me, dammit.


RS (to husband): Have you been racing?

Husband: We’ve run a couple of halfs…

RS: Wasn’t it raining during the last one?

Husband: Yep, rains every time we run a half—cure for the drought. Elizabeth ran it with me.

RS (surprised, to me): Oh. You ran it too?

Me: Sure did! (Silently: Damn straight, every freakin’ step of the 13.1 miles, and did we mention the pouring rain?)

We meet similar reactions when my entry into the New York City Marathon enters a conversation, a mix of surprise and disbelief that it is me, and not my husband, who is training for the big event.

I know it sounds like I am bitter, but truly I’m not. I get it—I’m not the obvious choice. No one is going to look at me for the first time and think “runner,” and more to the point, no one is going to naturally associate my name with “marathon” unless, possibly, they are referring to marathon binge-watching House of Cards after the full season has been released.

Though counterintuitive, I actually draw strength from people’s doubts. I’m not sure what this says about me or my chosen profession, but I view being underestimated as a tactical advantage. It forces me to work more, try harder, dig deeper, for the reward of catching them by surprise and proving that they were wrong.

At the end of the day, though, I know it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks; it matters what I believe about myself. There will be and have been nagging doubts about whether I can accomplish what I’ve set out to do. But I also know that every time I silence my own inner doubts, every time I accomplish something I didn’t really think that I could do, it builds me up. This is what makes me stronger. This is what girds me for what’s next.

The bottom line is, even if you have family, friends or even two million race spectators cheering you on and believing in your ability to get to the finish, it means nothing if you don’t believe it yourself.

And if you forget along the way, there are always motivational T-shirts to remind you.

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