Running down my imposter syndrome

Written by DBR Ambassador Yamina Pressler It doesn’t take more than a few minutes with me to notice that I’m an extrovert. I am energized…


Written by DBR Ambassador Yamina Pressler

It doesn’t take more than a few minutes with me to notice that I’m an extrovert. I am energized around people, good friends especially.

Running, however, can be a lonely sport. In the two years since I started running, I’ve spent about 90% of my 320 runs alone. I love this time alone to think, rework ideas in my head, push myself to new and uncharted territory, and relax into the basic movements of running. I wouldn’t trade these runs for anything.

Still, running with others brings a different kind of joy and connection that adds so much value to my training. Just this weekend I ran the last long run of my spring marathon training cycle with a good friend, and it was probably one of the most successful runs I’ve had in a while. We were so deep in conversation that I went 7 miles without checking my watch. This has never happened running alone.

I left that experience elated, and inspired by our connection through running. As a result, I made the leap as DBR Ambassador that I had previously been too shy, intimidated, and fraught with imposter syndrome to do: I organized a group run.

I can imagine that for an experienced runner that grew up on track and cross country teams and has always felt embedded in the running community, organizing a group run is no big deal. For me, relatively new to running (and sports for that matter), I found the idea of being the nucleus of someone else’s running experience intimidating.

I’m no stranger to the feeling that everyone is more qualified and smarter than me. The feeling where you’re just waiting for someone to find out they made a mistake choosing you to do “x.” Here, it’s running, or more specifically, being an ambassador for an inspiring company that is all about cultivating a positive, encouraging trail running community. I even alluded to my imposter syndrome it in my ambassador application:

“I’m not fast, I’m sure as hell not experienced, but I’m motivated and energized just to keep on running — so much so, that I’m naive enough to think you all might give me a chance at this ambassador thing.”

trail running, dirtbag runners

In other arenas of my life  (science, being a graduate student, teaching courses) I still, after seven years of studying soils, feel unqualified and self-conscious about my intelligence and worth. It’s even to the point where I wonder when I’m going to mess it all up. When are they going to realize their mistake and kick me out?

Imposter syndrome plagues science. I have yet to really understand why so many of us feel this way, but it can’t possibly be productive. Jacquelyn Gill, a prominent paleoecologist of science twitter fame, once put it best for me when asked to share a photo of the heaviest thing she carries around on a day to day basis.

So that’s where I’ve been the last three months: sitting under the weight of my imposter syndrome, too timid to organize a group run with runners I don’t already know. Friends and family reading this will probably be surprised that I’ve used the word timid to describe myself, because to most people, I’m anything but. It’s important for those to remember, though, that running is already stepping outside my comfort zone.

Calling myself a marathoner is still something I cannot believe I can legitimately do. I spend hours running each week. I cover mileage that I’m proud of. I continue to push the limits of what I can convince my brain to let my body do.

I’m a trail runner, that’s for sure. But sometimes there’s a part of me that still doesn’t feel like a true runner because I didn’t grow up in the sport and I haven’t been doing it for very long. Some days, I still feel like an imposter. That same part of my brain is the source of a little voice in my head that says,

“who am I to organize this group run?”

I expressed this illogical fear on the phone with my sister not long ago. In the last few years, she changed career and life goals. She went against all previous notions of what her life “should be” and is now a successful (and happy) yoga instructor in the Bay Area of California. She’s no stranger to imposter syndrome, either. She responded quickly and simply:

“But who is anyone?”

She’s right — who is anyone? Other runners have more experience than I do, I’ll be the first one to admit that. But here’s the thing… we are all seeking community.

Community in running; community in life.

Organizing this run isn’t about me as a runner. It is about community: building a community of runners who support each other out on the trails; creating friendships that wouldn’t exist in the absence of running; and cultivating moments where you forget to look at your watch because the conversation you’re having with a fellow runner is enough.

That is what being a dirtbag runner is all about.

If you’ve ever contemplated joining an organized group run, but your imposter syndrome has held you back, know that you are not alone and that I am right there with you. I hope you join me in taking one small step outside your comfort zone this summer. One small step for the sake of your running, for the sake of your community, and for the sake of human connection.

For all those things, I’m willing to face my imposter syndrome head-on, organize group runs, and remind myself that I am enough.

dirtbag runners, trail running, imposter syndrome

Check it out: Yamina also wrote about the Power of Deep Experiences in Nature. And keep an eye out, the DBR store will be opening up again soon!