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Back in 1992 when i done my very first run, that out-of-breath feeling of 7 laps of the football field in galway is still seared in my memory. The cotton shirt that rubbed in the wrong places and the shorts that I quickly realized were not made to handle sweat are not a distant memory.

As a new runner, I knew that I looked nothing like what I saw in magazines. I didn’t dress like those runners, my body didn’t look like theirs, and I certainly wouldn’t be able to keep up with them for even a mile. With what I saw in magazines and books as my examples of what a runner looked like, I set out to try to look like a runner. I figured I would then be able to consider myself one and no one would know that I was new. I desperately wanted to fit in and feel a sense of belonging. I felt my novice abilities made me stand out.

Mad colour running shorts were all the rage

In those days, mad colour running shorts were all the rage—so I bought them. I saw runners commonly noshing on “bars” so I purchased every flavor I could get my hand on and replaced my mid-afternoon snack of an apple with a bar. Food wasn’t just food anymore—I had to refer to it as fuel. Instead of drinking water, I needed to hydrate. Even the language I spoke was important in making sure no one knew I had only started running a few weeks or months prior. I decided to tackle my first half marathon, a distance I thought sounded respectable and hard. No one would think I was new if I am running 13.1 miles. Insecurity drove many of my decisions in those days.

I wasn’t a veteran

I know now that I should have embraced the fact that I wasn’t a veteran. There is beauty in loving where you are at in your journey. A beauty that has nothing to do with comparisons. I was a runner the moment I decided I was one and a runner’s body looks just like mine and yours.

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