Hello runner friends! Welcome to episode 29 of Runs on Espresso, Charlatan Charlie. I dunno, I just like alliteration. 

I don’t have anything for the admin corner. So we can skip our warmup today. Although I would not recommend skipping your warm-up for actual workouts. 

I have been meaning to cover today’s topic for a while. It’s been on my mind for about six months. And after my deep dive into ADHD followed by my diagnosis I think I know why. It’s something many people, well at least women, with ADHD struggle with. And I think many runners may also feel this way. I lucked out and get the one-two punch of being ADHD and a runner!

So what exactly is this topic?

Imposter syndrome. 

But what exactly is imposter syndrome and what the heck does it have to do with running?! Per Psychology Today, you think you are undeserving of achievements, feel like a fraud, and struggle with self-efficacy, perfectionism, and neuroticism. Well now, doesn’t that describe a lot of us? Or just me? 

Let’s break these down to how I feel as a runner and in the greater running community. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to everyone and I am not a psychologist nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn last night, so this is a total layperson’s viewpoint. Feel free to email me your thoughts! I’d love to hear other’s thoughts on this topic,

The first point… to think you are undeserving of achievements. I’ll start with my personal example for this one. Over a year ago I completed the Yeti Challenge, which is considered an ultra. Ever since I have struggled with calling myself an ultrarunner. Yes, I did the work. I trained. And I completed the Yeti. 31 miles over a 24 hour period. But I feel like since I did the Yeti Challenge and not a race all at once it should not count.

I’ve talked to other ultrarunners and they ask, did you run 31 miles? Yes. Did you do it all in the 24 hours? Yes. What did you do between segments? Rest, ate, slept, and prepped for the next segment. They say that is exactly what happens during an ultra. Although I’d argue not during a 50k, maybe a 50 miler. But see? There’s my imposter syndrome rearing it’s ugly head again!

I’m pretty sure I am the only Yeti Challenge finisher who struggles with calling themselves an ultrarunner. I still struggle with calling myself an ultrarunner which is part of the reason I want to finish a real ultra eventually to quell this issue.

I see a lot of people who will say they finished a 5k (or whatever distance) but I didn’t run all of it. They don’t feel it counts as a running race if they stop or take a walk break. Like the achievement doesn’t mean as much if they walk some. This is definitely something I see with beginners. And sometimes they get discouraged and give up. When I first started I struggled with this a bit because I would do the run/walk method as needed. During my very first 5k I had to take a walk break because it was 12 degrees out and my asthma was causing some struggles. I still finished the race. I did my best. For that day. And that is really all we can do.

So if you struggle with thinking of yourself as a runner because you walked during a race? I hear you. I see you. But you know what? You’re a runner. You deserve all the HELL YAHS for finishing that race! You decided to take on a challenge and YOU DID IT! You rock! You are a runner, even if you take walk breaks. Hell, I still take walk breaks when I need them!

Ok, now for point two. You feel like a fraud. Maybe you think you aren’t a real runner because you don’t look like a pro or a mile takes you 15 minutes or more. But guess what? If you run, even if it’s only down the block, you are a runner.

I’ve been running regularly since 2011-ish and I have had those fraud moments. Most recently started back in October and what inspired this podcast. In October I did my first marathon. Virtually. Oh boy, that in and of itself should be a HUGE deal but I did the virtual Boston. And they sent me that beautiful yellow addidas running shirt. 

For the longest time that shirt sat in my closet. Taunting me. Teasing me. I didn’t want to wear it. Because what would others think? Would they think I flew to Boston, ran heartbreak hill, and crossed the line on Boylston Street? I mean, I ran A marathon but not THE marathon. I received the unicorn medal but it still felt weird to wear the shirt. 

Because I ran alone. And no where close to the official route. Hell, my route was flat as fuck. Because where I live is completely flat. Although it was also hotter than Boston. Our low was their high. 

But still I didn’t want random strangers driving by and thinking I ran in  Boston. 

Eventually I realized it didn’t matter and I started wearing the shirt, even though I felt weird every time I pulled it on. For a while, I felt like a fraud when I wore it. Eventually, those feelings subsided and I didn’t think about it as much.

Have you ever felt like a fraud during your running career? I know many people don’t like virtual races and don’t consider them as real races. I do but I can see where others come from. Some runners won’t use their PR or PB if it isn’t a quote real race unquote. I figure, if you ran it in training, for fun, or a virtual race you still ran it. So you can still count it.

Ok, moving on to point number three. Struggling with self efficacy, perfectionism, and neiroticism. First off, we need to talk about what self efficacy means. The best way of thinking about it in running is, do you think you can do the things necessary to reach your gaols? Can you get up every morning and go out the door? Can you do the warm ups, the speedwork, the diet, the cross training, whatever to be successful in your running.

What does this have to do with perfectionism? Well, if you’re like me it can be an all or nothing mindset. Well, I already fucked this up, might as well go off the rails! I used to do this. If I missed a workout? I’d give up and try again the next week, month whatever. If I ate a few cookies, I’d eat all the cookies because what the heck! I’ve already messed up! I have seen many, many people do this when it comes to diet and fitness. We need to remember it is not all or nothing.If we mess up one day, one meal, we can get back on track the same day. We don’t have to throw in the towel. It’s taken me a long time to realize and adjust. It won’t happen over night but it does help to acknowledge it and try to make those little adjustments. 

And now, the last part of that neuroticism. That self doubt starts to creep in, the anxiety ramps up, and those negative thoughts start to pop in. You missed that run so you won’t be able to finish the race. You had to stop early. You must suck. Again, I’ve been there. I’ve slowly learned to acknowledge those thoughts and then let them go. They don’t help. You don’t suck. A missed run or two isn’t going to implode your training. Heck, I’ve barely trained for half marathons before and still was able to finish. I changed my strategy to run what you can, take walk breaks if needed, and most importantly HAVE FUN! I wouldn’t recommend this for distances longer than a half but if you run fairly regularly most of the time and have done whatever distance enough it won’t matter if you aren’t 100% trained.

I think sometimes we may even sef sabotage ourselves because we don’t think we deserve whatever running achievement we are going for. I have done this. And I probably did it with my first attempt at a 50k. Remember how I said I ran a virtual marathon, alone this past October? Well, that was probably my billionath attempt at a marathon. I registered officially for an inperson marathon at least three times, dropping distances each time. I have started marathon training more times than I can count outside those three registrations. Twice I had real health issues that I had to deal with but the rest? I let my training fall apart. Most of it due to being tired. A lot relating to anxiety. 

My first attempt at a 50k? I got glutened early on. Then I had some weird back pain. Was some of that in my head? Could I have done the 50k and still finished? Probably but I chose to step down in distance because ANXIETY. 

Most recently? I’ve been trying to lose weight/fat. Each week I weigh in. I do measurements at least once a month. The weight keeps going up and down. I got off track with weight lifting then I had some crushing fatigue, like I barely could make it through the work day let alone get in any workouts. The fatigue has subsided but I’m struggling to get back to my routine. I keep thinking, why does it matter if my weight isn’t going down? Even though I know how weight loss isn’t linear. I know results will vary yet I sabotage myself and stop doing the things I know work. 

So how do we get over feeling like we aren’t real runners? How do we shake this imposter syndrome?

I’ve mentioned a few things throughout. The first thing to do is acknowledge your expertise and or accomplishments. Did you finish the race? Yes? Then that’s it. No buts. You did it. You have earned it. No matter what your brain tries to tell you. Second, don’t compare yourself to others. I know, I know. This is hard too. I find myself struggling with this from time to time.

You don’t know what someone else is doing 24/7. You see their highlight reels online. If you find yourself comparing? The best thing to do is remove yourself for the time being. Does strava make you want to run more? To run harder because you saw someone else ran further/faster/whatever? That’s a you problem, not a strava problem. Log out. Delete the app. Apps should be about cheering each other and lifting others up.

I don’t go on Strava or Instagram to compare myself. I don’t know where they are in their journey. Hell, sometimes I don’t even know where i am on my own journey! You don’t know if they were able to run that far because they’ve been increasing their distance for years or because they have had a death in the family and running is the only way they can cope for the moment. You may not know if they work from home and can use the extra time in the morning to fit in more miles than when they used to have to commute. There are so many factors we just don’t know.

For me, I have found the more I say to myself or others I’m an ultrarunner or the more I wear the yellow shirt the more i think I deserve it. It takes time. You aren’t going to stop thinking you’re a fraud over night. Same with comparing yourself to others. It won’t stop overnight. It probably won’t ever completely stop. I still will catch myself thinking how great it would be if I had as much time as someone else to work out. Or how they don’t have celiac disease/asthma/whatever so that’s why they can go to the gym and do more than I can. Those thoughts still try to pop in my head but I push them aside. I much prefer to support my fellow runners and cheer them on instead of comparing myself. 

You are going to stumble. You will probably fail. But guess what? So does everyone else. You need to remember that no matter what, you’ve put in the work. You rock and you will conquer whatever it is you are tyring to do. Even if, like me, it takes you 107 tries to finish a marathon. Be relentless. Keep going, even when it’s hard. 

I’ve been wanting to journal more, maybe I will start writing about my self-sabotage and imposter syndrome feelings. It might help me keep on track better! I can pretend I am my own sports psychologist. Maybe there are some good prompts out there to help with this. I will have to look into and get back to you in a later episode. Do you journal about your fitness like this? Does it help? I’d love to hear if you do and what prompts you might use.

Let me know, do you struggle with imposter syndrome? What is your best tip to overcome those feelings?

Cool Down:
My library hold from March finally became available! I finished Run, Rose, Run in about a week. It was long but a fast read, as many James Patterson books are. There were a lot of mysteries with each characters. I felt the pace of the book overall was good. The first third felt about right, the middle slowed a bit, and the ending wrapped up fairly quickly. Now I have to go see if Amazon Music has the matching Dolly Parton album. Or maybe not because as I was reading the lyrics in the book I kinda put them to my own rhythm and music. 

We aren’t even gonna talk about the Suns. On to WNBA! Let’s go Mercury! And I guess baseball. 

Anyone have summer travel plans? We are planning to hed up to Sequioa and Kings Canyon National Park this summer. We were supposed to go pre-covid but I broke my leg in Yosemite on day one of that vacation. We attempted during covid but they kept opening then closing campsites. So this is the year!

And I kinda want to do Vegas, again. I want to hang out in a cabana by a cool pool. 

Enjoyed this podcast? Give it a rate, review, or share! And if you want more, be sure to subscribe for future episodes!

Have an idea for an episode? Email me at jenna @ runsonespresso.com 

Find me on social media at runs on espresso on tiktok and twitter. Runs _ on _ espresso on instagram and facebook.com/runsonespresso1. 

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This podcast will always remain free. If you are feeling generous and would likt to help cover some of my costs or buy me a cup of coffee? Find me on ko-fi https://ko-fi.com/runsonespresso  or send through Paypal: palegreenstars9@gmail.com 
Categories: Podcast


Jenna Volden has a degree in business and has spent the last 10 plus years working for others. She believes it is time to start her own photography and writing business. She enjoys running, coffee and helping others achieve their goals. Gluten-free foods are a lifestyle, not a choice, for her due to celiac disease. She is currently based in Phoenix, Arizona.