By Staff Columnist Christopher Mellott
I am an ultra-runner, I am, I promise, I have the medals and ultrasignup.com receipts to prove it.
I don’t always believe that I belong in the fellowship of ultra-runners. How can I call myself an ultra-runner and be in the same company as people like Camille Herron, Kilian Jornet, and Michael Wardian? Incredible athletes who have completed monumental feats of endurance. Do my two 50K races make me part of this group? Damn right they do! I am an ultra-runner and I may not have the resume, the distances, or the same ability as these runners, but if the definition of an ultra-runner is someone who has ran more than a marathon in distance at one time and finds joy in the adverse, then I AM AN ULTRA RUNNER.
Impostor syndrome is the concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud” according to Wikipedia. I feel that many runners have a case of impostor syndrome. Could we all be impostors? Unlikely.
When I read accounts of incredible athletes like Kilian summiting Everest not once, but twice without oxygen or Wardian running the Leadville 100 and then following it up with the Pikes Peak Marathon the next day, I feel like an impostor. I feel like any moment someone is going to come to me and say “you said you were a runner, an ultra-runner but you aren’t, this other athlete is”. How many of us have had this debilitating worry? We read about these herculean efforts of mere mortals and suddenly our accomplishments seem insignificant and we feel unworthy.
Yes, we should be inspired and humbled by the incredible ventures these athletes accomplish but let’s also reflect on our accomplishments. We do incredible things that most the human population can barely fathom. We run, we run incredible distances, spend hours, sometimes days on our feet propelling ourselves to a finish line that is not guaranteed. We are all runners whether it’s a 5K or 100 miles or more. We are runners. We do hard things!
The next time we read about a runner who accomplishes something incredible the doubt will start to creep in, we will have a moment when we feel like we don’t deserve to be called ultrarunners. Rebel and rage against those feelings of being exposed. Remember you are a runner, an ultrarunner in fact, and we earned the right to carry that title.
When the feelings of doubt slither into the back of my mind I promise to remember. I promise to remember that I am a runner. I promise to remember that I ran to the top of a fucking mountain for the Pikes Peak Ascent. I promise to remember the 31 miles and the training miles it took to transform myself into an ultra-runner.
The feeling of not belonging, of being an impostor may well never leave us completely, but if we remember the hours of training, the miles logged, finish lines crossed, and starting lines toed, we will once again remember we are runners and we belong.