"But I don’t look like a runner"

I hear this phrase quite a lot, particularly from those who are relatively new to running or lacking a bit of confidence.  It is usually said in the same sentence as “but I’m not a runner.”  This (as you are about to find out) frustrates me!  I believe that if you run, you are a runner, you can be a good runner and you should think of yourself as one, no matter what your shape or size.

I think part of the problem is that we are led to believe there is a certain shape that we should all be aspiring to look like in order to become the perfect runner.   Yeah sure, the guys and girls who are in the top 10 finishers of the marathon are usually pretty much the same shape (small, skinny, run / fly effortlessly and weigh about 50kgs) but after that, the similarities end.  I know guys who are 90+ kilos and run a 3 hour marathon and well as girls who are 5 feet tall and run a sub 20 minute 5km.  Go figure.  

Most of us are not in that elite category of runners and training for the upcoming Rio Olympics, nor will we ever be, so why do we need to adopt the same shape, weight, height, cadence and posture as these guys?  The answer is that we don’t.

I can tell you now, at 10km, half marathon, marathon or any other type of event you can think of, there are SO MANY different shapes, sizes and styles of runners, who not only compete, but do really, really well.  Amongst the runners I coach, there are people who are training for all sorts of different distances and types of event.  None of them are the same.  They are all runners in my eyes. 

So, what DO we think a runner looks like?   This question is one I tend to ask runners at the beginning of our one on one or group training sessions.  The answers are really interesting. Here are some of the words and phrases that seem to come up time and time again….

strong

easy

light on their feet

lean

long stride

relaxed

skinny

effortless

defined muscles

in control

Would you add any others?

 

Here is an example where runners looks' are not what they seem……Here I am dressed as a giant pineapple.  

Clearly in this picture I could say, “but I don’t look like a runner.”  To start with, I didn’t exhibit any of the words in the list above, secondly I am a giant pineapple, thirdly I am a little top heavy.  Now, on a more serious note, I am sure that on this day I made a few people feel a little disappointed and / or p*ssed off because they were being passed by a giant sweaty pineapple.  But why would they be disappointed?  I am a running coach, sub 3 hour marathon runner and Ironman (albeit disguised as a pineapple), but its just that on that day i didn’t look like a ‘typical runner.'    If they saw me as me, would their feelings have been any different? My guess is that they probably would have been.

Yes this is a silly example, but the point is that we are 'judging the book by its covers' as my mum used to say and looking for the wrong things.  We are valuing obvious looks (the six pack, being skinny etc) over physical and mental strength.  This is where we are going wrong and where the real value is. Just because you don’t think you look like a runner, doesn’t mean you can’t be a good runner.  In fact, in my example, I now hold the record for the fastest giant pineapple around Albert Melbourne parkrun!  Not even ‘typical runners’ Mo Farah and Haile Gebrselassie can claim that one...

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