When I talk about running, I feel like a fraud.
I love it. It's accessible. It's popular. It's everywhere. Running is for everyone and there are dozens of ways to get into it. You can run any distance; do OCRs, Marathons, Ultras, Parkruns. There is someone out there for everyone.
But I'm not a Proper Runner.
Some days it feels like too much of a statement to run. You lace up, get your shameful kit on, and stand outside your front door, waiting for your watch to find GPS (is it just me who has to wait 10 minutes?). Everyone can see, because you stand out. And while I'm not as embarrassed as when I first started, the whole thing can still make you feel very vulnerable.
The appeal of a Running Club is clear. Safety in numbers can be literal (attacks on lone runners are a sad reality) but it can also be a kind of solidarity. You're not the only one wondering how much of your underwear is visible through Lycra - there's two dozen just like you coming down the path.
But Trail Running is where my heart lies. Open spaces, and mud, and lots of green - no nosey villagers, or pedestrians to dodge. I've even signed up for my first UltraMarathon in July, along the Ridgeway. I like the blank slate of the trail, the freedom to leap up a muddy slope to see what's at the top. And also just being alone! Having two toddlers makes me-time very precious indeed.
So what makes me feel like a fraud? Quite simply, because everyone seems to know more than I do. Long ago I accepted that I am not fast - not slow (whatever that means), but certainly not winning anything. I don't go to a club, or enter many races. I don't know what I'm doing.
I'm not completely clueless! I workout 5/6 days a week. Basic nutrition isn't news to me, I know what negative splits are, even what words like 'cadence' and 'pronation' mean. Training has added a whole new dimension to my food shopping, as I buy flapjacks and masses of chicken and actually give a damn about protein.
But there's a lot I don't know. Like,what is my VO2 Max? What does that mean? Do I need to get a gait analysis? My hydration-pack was not researched or evaluated, it was bought on eBay. Carb-loading is a mystery, I've never had a gym membership, I don't even read books about running. The word Fartlek makes me giggle.
So, again - not a Proper Runner.
Recently I find myself apologising when people ask me about my training, or want to to talk about their runs. Now, I could talk for hours about the funny side of it all - how many times I've need a wee on a long run, why my sports bra keeps trying to kill me, singing Scissor Sisters during a thunderstorm to keep myself moving. But I'm always slightly panicked that someone might ask a Proper Runner question and find out the terrible truth - that I have no idea what I'm doing.
All I can do is share my own experiences. A formerly overweight, constantly exhausted Mum of Two, who gets up at 6am not to do her hair, but to do burpees in the living room. Whose main health concerns about exercise are her pelvic floor, her dodgy knee, and why her bum isn't toned yet (in that order).
Perhaps after I've run 100km and can officially call myself an UltraRunner, I will feel a little less fraudulent. For now, if you want nutritional advice, training tips, or a running buddy - ask a Proper Runner. If you want to talk about the time I got lost and ran around a housing estate for 30 minutes looking for the way out, or why you should fully rinse the bicarb out of a hydration pack you're cleaning (hint: fizzy water), or why running downhill is terrifying with a full bladder? Talk to me. And talk to runners just like me! I'm sure there are a lot of us - and we've got some great stories to tell.
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