Aren't ultra-runners tall and thin?
Last week I was asked the question “why am in the gym doing weights when I’m a long-distance runner?” They also mentioned that they thought ultra-runners were usually tall and thin.
First things first, there was absolutely no malice in the question or comment, the person is honestly amazed at my history, is genuinely rooting for me, and was simply asking/commenting because they are not a runner.
Let me start with, or perhaps the misconception of, what an ultra-runner or indeed any runner looks like. An ultra-runner (runner) will come in many different guises form tall to short and all heights in between; male or female or whatever they choose to use as a pronoun; you’ll see a wide range of age, ethnicity, ability, speed, shape, with limbs or not.
It’s possibly true that the majority of ‘elite’ distance runners are lean, but not having that type of physique does not preclude me, nor should it preclude you from going out for a run and attempting to see what you are capable of achieving – your own level of ‘elite’ or as I like to call it ‘your own extraordinary’.
It just so happens that I’ve discovered that I’m pretty good at going on and on and on again, it’s not elite in the meaning of capable of winning set races, or representing my country, but rather extraordinary in my own sweet way – which is dogged in my determination and dedicated enough to carve out the time to do my thang.
As I mentioned, the comment was not meant to knock, question or demean me, but I have been told way too many times, that I don’t look like, or appear to be, someone who can do what I do. And I know that a comment like that can often hold you back or can knock your confidence to either get out there in the first place or keep going. Other people’s opinions of me held me back for a long time.
I’ve learned (and it’s taken a bloody long time) to turn down the thoughts, comments, opinions of others and turn up the volume of my own self-belief and willingness – despite, on paper, not being the right build, not having enough experience or perhaps even enough skill – to give something a go anyway. I’ve learned to keep my reasons ‘why’ in the forefront, rather than other’s ‘why I can’t’.
What I know about me is that I’m 5’4” and shrinking with age (it happens) and I’ve been running since I was about 13 years old. My body shape within my 5’4” framework is continually changing depending on the exercise I do, the food I eat, the phase of life in which I’m in – it’s currently perimenopause, but it’s also been through puberty and pregnancy. And as I’ve aged, experienced, trained and pushed myself, I’ve been able to run farther than I ever imagined as a 13yo, continually pushing my ordinary to it’s next extraordinary level. I’ve repeated that process of aiming for my next extraordinary level on repeat, and I’ve ended up being able to run in what is termed the “Ultra” zone (which is anything beyond a marathon distance).
When I first started training to run the marathon distance, which at the time was part of my goal to do an ironman triathlon, my tri-coach pointed out that I was probably better designed for field events (throwing things) because of my size and muscle disposition, however my commitment, determination, persistence, and training could get me to where I wanted to be. My coach then asked me what my goal was (my vision of success) and said, “right then, let’s help you achieve that.”
I’ve held on to that narrative and passed that narrative along to people I’ve coached and trained – know what your goal is, define what success at that goal means to you, and then put in the work to make it happen.
I know that I am a runner.
I know that I am an ultra-runner.
Not because of the way that I look, but because I move my feet in a style that’s called running (somewhat 😊 – running long distances often involves walking and/or shuffling and I don’t think I know any ultra-runner who has not had to incorporate these moves at some point in their challenges).
Sooooo, on to why a runner is hanging out in a power-lifting gym and throwing weights around. Apart from the fact that I love the sounds I hear in the gym – the grunts of people pushing weights to their limits, the clang of weights being dropped or racked at the end of hard moves. Raaaar.
I’m there to improve my bone health and bone strength, and it’s helping me build muscle in places that keeps my posture and form when I’m on the run ie., back, legs, butt, core. And it’s also helping me with my own personal little dread – bingo wings. I like having arms that have some muscular definition to them – and that don’t come with running.
There’s so much more to write about bone health, the impact of being perimenopausal heading to post-menopause and having reduced testosterone production (as well as oestrogen and progesterone) and it’s impact on a woman’s body, and I will now that I’m writing my blog again.
If you’ve popped on my website and read to here, thank you. I’m still defining the purpose of writing my blog. Mostly it’s to get stuff out of my head and I hope along the way, I’ll write and share stuff that is informative/useful.
Til next week,
Feel free to ask me any questions, I’m happy to share my experience and help where I can.