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My Impostor Syndrome

Posted Mar 25 2013 4:00pm

I don't consider myself an imposter on the level of  Frank Abagnale played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie Catch Me if You Can , but I do often find myself wondering just exactly who I really am when it comes to my running personality.

This weekend I ran a 19.5 mile self-supported, training run which consisted of thirty degree temperatures, hard-frozen fire roads, muddy wet-lands and 2 inch ice/snow encrusted single-track trails. And yet I find myself questioning my abilities as a runner.

 I'll beat myself up over all kinds of things...

The run wasn't really 19.5 miles was it? No, my Garmin actually read 19.47 when I finished.

Seriously?...

So you couldn't just run around the parking lot one time to make it an even 19.5?

Or better yet... why not run back down the path a bit to even it up to an even 20 miles? Doesn't a 20 mile run sound a whole lot better?

Sure it does.

As I drove away from the trail-head with my feet throbbing and my body aching from the 4 hour effort, I think to myself that my eventual goal; of completing a 50 miler is 30 miles more than what I just did.

I feel like a moth drawn to the 50 mile flame.

How is it possible to run another 30 miles? Is it possible that I'm really just masquerading in these muddy trail shoes?

I often wonder if  I just like the idea of being an ultra runner and that I desire being a part of a community I don't really have the ability or credentials to justify?

My runs are typically longer (and have more elevation gain) than most people I know could ever complete. And yet, I still find myself wrapped in a cloak of doubt and uncertainty.

I don't worry about the typical things like pace or finishing times that I know torment most road runners because I no longer consider speed the challenge. I just want to run far.

I've turned my focus to trail running just over a year ago and I've since completed two 50k ultras and I'm training for my third. And yet... my mind processes and distorts this information just enough to translate it back to me; that a 50k is the shortest of all the ultra distances and until I run longer than a 50k I wont be a real ultra runner.

Until recently, I've kept the thoughts to myself and have always thought this was just my own running neurosis or idiosyncratic behavior. Over Sunday brunch I was describing some of the details of the 19.5 mile run to my wife and I told her how I often felt like an imposter, particularly after I finish a long training run.

She told me about a colleague who once told her about psychological phenomenon called The Imposter Syndrome , or Fraud Syndrome, where people feel their success or accomplishments have been due to luck  and not the result of their own ability and competence.

I found it fascinating (and somewhat reassuring) that the syndrome exists and others share the distorted perception of their hard work and accomplishments. I'm just grateful that it's not something more debilitating and maybe running is the perfect therapy.

So maybe there's Ultra Runner with an upper-case and ultra runner in lower-case, and maybe I'm just an ultra runner in the lower-case (for now).


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