Barefoot Monologues

A Journey of the Sole

On Being a Poseur

7 Comments

If you have read this blog for more than thirty seconds, you have probably picked up on the fact that I really love running. For better or for worse, over the past three years or so running has become a HUGE part of my life. Most of my friends think of me as “the runner,” they come to me for advice on minimalist shoes, tease me about my penchant for going barefoot, and ask me when my next big race is. I spend a lot of time writing about running on this blog, or having my thoughts published elsewhere. I love being thought of as “the runner.” I also spend a lot of time running, too (strangely enough). For the last month or two my mileage has gone down, while I dedicate more of my free time and energy toward our cross-country move. And I am starting to feel the difference down to my bones.

I need to run. It’s my exercise, my escape, my reward, my alone time and my social hour. Running is where I learn the most about myself. It’s where I feel the most accomplished, and sometimes it’s where I fall the hardest. Running has renewed my self-confidence, and it has also broken my heart.

Last Sunday I lined up at the back of a pack of runners at a local 10-mile trail race, pumped full of nervous energy. The race started off really well, and for a trail run my pace was excellent. But in an unexpected turn of events, I couldn’t finish the race. At mile 7 I started to feel some pretty bad stomach cramps and I had to listen to my body and drop out. As I jogged uncomfortably toward the end of the third loop (and the porta-johns), I passed by a running friend of mine who had finished with an impressive personal record and was so kindly waiting to see me cross the finish line. It killed me to announce that I was dropping, because I wasn’t even tired yet….and also because I had spend the last year or two talking so much shop with him and others I’ve never met on Facebook, that it doubled my shame.

In my growing love for this sport, I have spent years waxing poetic with people about running, and it turns out it’s been enough to make them all believe I’m some kind of runner.

But right then I didn’t feel much like one. Instead I felt like a bit of a poseur. And I felt even more like a poseur later on that very afternoon, when I just happened to decide to sign up for my first marathon. The two events of the day were not even related in my mind. To me, a bad ten-miler today really has no bearing on a marathon that’s happening in five months. But, I can see how it may have looked sort of weird to someone else. If I couldn’t finish a ten miler today, what would motivate me to sign up for a marathon? Am I just digging myself a hole to fill with failures?

Perhaps this dude doesn’t even think of me as a poseur, who knows. But even if he does I don’t suppose it would make much of a difference to me anyway. Despite my wordy posts on the subject, at the end of the day I don’t really care what anyone thinks about me as a runner (hence my lack of hesitation in signing up for that marathon). I’m certainly not a great or talented runner, and I’ve never tried to make others think that I am. I just like to run, and that’s all the promises I’ve ever made to anyone.

But on the other hand, is signing up for something like a marathon or a 50K a promise? Is it a promise that I’ll have trained well enough to complete the race in a decent amount of time (preferably, well before the embarrassingly long cutoff time)? Are my shoe and swag reviews my promise that I’ll consistently be running 30-mile weeks? Is my signature at the bottom of an ultra-marathon application a contract that I’ll at least keep up with the runners in the middle of the pack, rather than closer to the back where I typically end up? Or am I letting my readers and my friends down if my pace is slower than 9:30, or if I drop out of a race or, god-forbid, wind up finishing dead-fucking-last?

What kind of expectation am I setting up for myself by writing an entire blog about training and signing up for all these big races? If I’m not all that great a runner in the end, is my influence on others essentially all smoke in mirrors?

Truth is, I never meant to be influential (nor do I really believe I am). It is amazing, however, whenever I hear that I’ve inspired somebody to start running, or that they became interested in barefoot running after they read an article in my blog. I’ve got nothing but confidence about my talents for writing. But all I’ve ever wanted to do was use that writing talent of mine to share my love for running (and geek out about running shoes) with my readers…whomever they are. I’ve never meant to fool anyone into thinking I’m a great ultra marathoner. I’m not. I’m a deeply flawed runner with much more will and drive than natural talent. And I happen to get a huge kick out of setting high goals and writing about how I work toward them. I make mistakes, I fall, and I write about that too. And then I set even higher goals. This blog is a documentation of my personal journey, not a sermon on great running.

So far I haven’t figured out how to turn off that feeling of fraudulence that happens every time I meet a talented runner who also happens to read my blog. Nor the feeling of injustice that comes with being reminded of how unskilled a runner I actually am, despite how much I know and love the sport. Yet none of this comes with an expectation that others should pity me or waste any time encouraging me to continue. I don’t really need encouragement to keep on running and signing up for races, and I think that’s what perplexes people the most.

I run because I want to get better at running, sure…but mostly I run just because. And whether I suck at it or not, because is enough of a reason.

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7 thoughts on “On Being a Poseur

  1. I don’t know about that dude Jason, but this dude Jason doesn’t consider you a poseur! But you are right, you shouldn’t give a frog’s fat ass what anyone thinks, if you want to run, run! You’re only a fraud if you are deceiving yourself.

  2. Trisha,
    You have inspired me to start running, which, I must add, was an event that I never loved or thought I would love. The way your face lights up about running makes me crave that emotion. That day at wellis sands beach will forever be in my memory as the first day I was able to feel a love and desire to run. And I just couldn’t stop running…. cause I went on to eventually over do it and hurt myself. Added to my misery of the pain in my feet was the fact that I had to wait until my body healed so my heart could run again (per Dr. Trisha orders).
    My definition of a runner is that of a person who embraces everything it has to offer both as a physical and mental challenge. It’s fuel for the mind, body and soul. Runners have endurance. And one thing that running has taught me in such a short time is that you can always get better but if you don’t, at least you’re out there doing it!
    So without any intention of being influential you have influenced and inspired me. I am sure that there have been plenty of “runners” that haven’t come close to doing what you have done for me. I know cause I tried loving running before and it didn’t work….. not until you! So give yourself some more credit girly!

    I’m so proud of you!
    Keep running
    Xo

  3. Hi Trisha
    I read your posts because they are beautifully written and make me think. You are as much a runner as everyone else. I write my barefoot blog for all sorts of reasons and so I get where you are coming from. I sometimes sit with an injury and carry on posting. It helps me feel like a runner even when I can’t run. Running defines us, it is who we are. We can’t help it.
    I auditioned for a choir recently. The standard was very high and the audition pretty public. I crashed and burned in front of everyone. It was one of the worst experiences of my life (really – no exaggeration). My body had a sort of physical reaction to the embarassment and I couldn’t focus on anything for almost a week afterwards. I have had similar but nowhere near as extreme experiences when pulling up in races injured in front of team mates. It is unpleasant, public and hard to deal with.

    p.s. I was once in the shape of my life and made it 3 miles into a half marathon before bailing out and searching for the nearest toilet.
    Chris

    • Thanks for your response, Chris. And for reading. I couldn’t imagine auditioning in front of people and bombing – I might have run from the room and, perhaps, continued running until I was at home. Kind of reminds me of my 8th grade graduation, when I tripped down the stairs in front of my entire class. It was so hard not to cry from embarrassment, that it hurt. Ahh, the memories. Haha.

      Better luck at your next audition, dude.

  4. It’s possible to have an incomplete 10 miler right before signing up for a marthon 5 months away because you have learned that a single day does not determine your success.

    If you feel great and talented in your own mind then thats all that matters.

    Also, if you’re not running then I have noone to live vicariously through.

  5. RIP Gary, your contribution to the joy of games has been undeniable and timeless.

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