From the moment I started running, or attempting to run, I wanted to look like a runner.

When I was overweight and starting to run, I was afraid of running outside. I didn’t want people driving by, see me and judge. I didn’t want them to think or know I was only pretending to be a runner so I could lose weight.

Once I started to lose weight I was still afraid of runs, outside and inside.

The gym treadmill in college was a nightmare. In front of the row of treadmills were glass windows over looking the indoor basketball courts and the 8-laps-to-a-mile track. Behind the treadmills were the weight machines. This meant that someone working out could be looking at your butt and cellulite the whole time you ran. I’m fairly certain that no one was looking at or cared about either, but when you are self-conscious and anxious these are the thoughts in your head. You were on display whether you liked it or not.

The fear of the outdoor running was heightened by hecklers. I to this day STILL do not understand why people feel the need to comment or yell things at runners.

I have this mind, that I love and hate all at the same time. It makes me unable to forget many things, especially hurtful ones. Hurtful comments from unknown hecklers made me doubt whether running was worth it. Maybe I was meant for a life of obesity. {I was not obese but many of the women in my dads family are – so I have always viewed it as in my genes} Who was I kidding attempting to get in to a sport “later” in life? There are athletes and girls who are fit and maybe just maybe I wasn’t born to be either of them.

When I started training for my first marathon – I knew in my heart I WAS a runner but I still didn’t feel like I looked like one. I had graduated from college and had a job – I could finally afford to buy more than Ramen noodles and mac and cheese. I bought myself some printed split shorts. Those flowers and those splits represented what a runner looked like to me. They wore silly clothing because it allowed them to move freely on the run. I worked on my abs, so I could eventually run shirtless. Runners ran with out shirts in my eyes, only those pretending to be runners, those who were trying to lose weight, ran with shirts. Right? I bought a water bottle belt, not only because I needed water on my runs but because marathon runners wore those things on long runs, and I wanted to look like them. I bought Gu’s and energy bars galore, because that is what I saw runners doing. If I had an energy bar in my hand when I was in normal non running clothing – I looked like a runner – right?

It has taken me many years and many runs to realize that it’s not clothing that makes the girl. It’s not the speed at which she runs. It’s not how little or how much body fat she has. It’s not the Garmin she wears or the running shoes she buys. What makes the girl a runner are the thoughts inside her. Does she think she is a runner? Well then she is.

You are what you want to be. If you want to be a runner you are. If you want to look like a runner and are a runner, well then you are what a runner looks like.

This morning on my run I again thought about this – I don’t like it when I have to run slower on easy days – I want to look like a runner.

It was dark out, I only passed one runner, and there were only a few cars on the roads, YET I found myself worried about what people would think of me if they saw me running at a snail’s pace.

Writing this post almost makes me laugh. Really Dorothy? As if anyone could tell what pace you were running? And even if they could and judged what you looked like and thought you weren’t a *real* runner – who cares? Do I judge slower runners? Nope.

At age 31 I am still working through the emotions of life and being a girl. One day I am confident, the next day I am not. It’s all a process for me and it’s one I’m not embarrassed to admit. I work every single day on bettering myself emotionally, physically and spiritually. Some days I move forward two steps, other days I move backward three steps despite my efforts. THIS is what life is about. We learn, we grow, we fall, we get back up again, we run.

If you want to look like a runner, look in the mirror. Do you run? Well then, you already look like a runner. A runner looks like YOU.

I am a runner




  1. Love. “Some days I move forward two steps, other days I move backward three steps despite my efforts. THIS is what life is about. We learn, we grow, we fall, we get back up again, we run.”

  2. Thank you. I always assume that those faster runners always looked like that, were always that fast and always run that fast. You sharing your thoughts helps this 32 year old make sense of her own.

  3. I really don’t understand the hecklers! A few years ago I had a college aged boy yell at me, “Run Fattie Run!” He was eating ice cream and I was running! Who’s the out of shape person in this situation?!??! Just last week a 10 year old boy and his friends screamed at me, “HEEY Big Butt!” while I was running and then they proceeded to serenade me with “Baby Got Back.”


    Thankfully, I’ve switched back over to morning running and I’ll say no one yells at me in the morning. Granted the only other people I see are other runners or caffeine-addicted-folks on their way to work.

    But I just don’t get who the heck in their right mind thinks it is socially accepted to yell at a complete stranger? I just don’t get it. I’m not a big person by any stretch of the imagination, but I have body issues like everyone else in the world and to have other people attack my body image while I’m running is really hurtful.

    It is comforting to hear I’m not the only one who dreads the hecklers when they step outside to run.

  4. This is a great post. My mom always feels the need to say that I don’t look like a runner which bothers me because if I’m running i should look like a runner

  5. I can identify with this post. At 41, I still struggle with some of these emotions. It helps to know I’m not the only one. And I don’t understand the hecklers either.

  6. I think the reason I struggle to call myself a runner is because I don’t look like the stereotypical runner. I’m proud of what my body can achieve and love how strong it is but I am not a tiny lean person. When I was in NYC with my dad for the marathon he kept commenting on how unhealthily skinny some of the runners looked. Although I had been secretly wanting to look like them it was a nice reminder that even some people who look like runners and not healthy and have eating issues.

  7. I follow you on instagram – @amomontherun

  8. I admire your hard work, as an athlete, and your emotional growth. At 31, I think I was still eating ramen noodles and acting like a college student. You’re very mature and responsible for working on yourself this way, when you grow, it spreads outward. The more conscious and kind we are to ourselves, the better the world becomes, that consciousness spreads outward. Spiritual growth is just like running, we continue to get better each day that we work, but it takes time and dedication, just like running, so there may be some days we fall back into our old habits (even at my old age, we slip, no one is perfect) but we gently pick ourselves up and carry on the path of lightness because even though it takes hard work, that path is a far better way to live than the other direction. Can’t wait to see you in a few months :) xo

  9. Love this! Even after losing 63 pounds in the last year, I still sometimes feel really insecure when I’m out running. When I pass other runners I always wonder if they think I’m a “real runner” or someone desperately trying. But then there are days when I catch myself in a store window running by and think “HEY! Look at that awesome runner girl!”

  10. I just have to comment what an amazing post this is. Thank you for sharing it with us!

  11. I needed this today!

    I am 18 weeks pregnant with my first and my “running” is more like a slow shuffle these days. This morning, this tiny, super fit girl blew past me on my run and I was having the internal, “This is a waste of time, I should just give up until the baby is born, I don’t even look pregnant, I just look like a fatty taking forever to run 3 miles” monologue. So, thank you for the reminder that I am still a runner. :)

  12. This is a wonderful post! I have felt this exact same way for years and have only recently realized that I am a runner because I run. It doesn’t matter what you look like or how fast you go as long as you just GO. I am going to stop telling people how slow I run when they find out that I am a runner. I’m running and that’s all that matters. Thanks for the inspiration!!

  13. Thank you for the awesome post! I remember when I started running I felt the need to clarify to people that I run but I’m not a runner. I was uncomfortable with the thought that if I said I was a runner I would be judged that I didn’t look like a runner, wasn’t fast like a runner, didn’t dress like one, etc. Ten plus years later, I’ve come to a better place about my running. It’s mine. Whatever my pace or my whatever my body shape (pregnant, post-baby body, just heavier than usual), when I run, that activity is mine. You summed it up great! Are you running? Then you are a runner.

  14. Beautiful post! It is so easy to not feel like a runner until you run a certain pace or your body looks a certain way, or you run so many days a week. We need to be proud of ourselves to be runners, no matter what the condition. :)

  15. I feel this ALL the time. I feel like I’m being judged when I work out.

    I’ve recently started riding my bike home a few days a week from work (it’s 5 miles – SO not worth the gas!) and when I struggle going up hills (there are 2 killer hills on my way home) I feel like ALL the people in the cars are judging me for being so fat I can’t get up those hills. A few years ago when I was riding the same route (only further since I worked somewhere else) a rather large gentleman told me I was too big to be riding my bike. REALLY? It was a few years ago but it still bugs me.

    Then recently I was running a route near my work and a guy waiting for the bus told me that he sees me run all time time (the park I run at is across from the bus stop) and he says I have dedication and look great and keep it up.

    I struggle with the concept ( my dad was very weight orientated growing up and constantly criticized me) that my body won’t be perfect. I’ll never be a size 2. But I’m making it better and I AM a runner, no matter what I look like.

  16. This is something I’ve struggled with also, and you’ve put it in words so gracefully. When I first started running out on the streets and I’d pass someone, I would smile and nod, but I’d also be thinking they look more like a runner, they’re going farther, they’re going faster, they’ve been doing this for years, they know i’m a newbie, they know these are my first pair of running shoes. I still have those thoughts once in a while, but the more I’ve gotten comfortable with and confident in what my body can do, the less I care about what I look like while I’m doing it. I’m just grateful to have found something I love, and to be able to get out there do it as often as possible.

  17. I know exactly what you mean– sometimes I run on the track (I work at a high school) after work because it’s right there and convenient, but the football team is always practicing there and I’m constantly afraid that they’ll think I look stupid or that my own students (some of whom are on the team) will make fun of me later! And inevitably I never end up doing track work, just jogging, because I don’t want to get all red and funny-looking.

  18. I go through this every single time I have to do an easy run on the treadmill. I don’t like other people seeing me run slow. And every time I think that, I’m like “what the heck is wrong with you – no one cares what pace you are running at!” So silly that as grown, accomplished women we still deal with things like this. Thanks so much for this post, I’m glad to know I’m not the only one! :)

  19. I am in love with this post. Amen, sister!

  20. – Thank you for this!

  21. Oh I love this post Dorothy!
    I had to laugh bc I have those same thoughts about running slow on easy days! So glad I’m not alone! I never would have admitted that before reading this.
    Thank you for your candidness and honesty!

  22. Oh! And you don’t even know how many times I have ran past a heckler and them proceeded to have a whole conversation in my head where I tell them off and just rip into them verbally!!

  23. Great post Dorothy! Whenever people tell me that they run or jog, but that they “aren’t a runner” along with a having of hands and shaking their hands I always stop them. Do you run? Then you my friend are a runner! :)

  24. It seems that no mater how far any of us run, we all eventually run alongside that fragile human inside of us. You have done a remarkable job of comforting yours. I really need to follow your example and start comforting mine. Thank you so much for this post.

  25. I really like this post because I know exactly what you mean. For a while I felt like I wasnt fast enough to be a runner or I didnt run far enough to be a runner because a real runner can run farther than 3 miles at a time or whatever and I realize that it is the act of running that makes a runner but it can still be hard to call myself that.

  26. When i started i was 60 pnds over my BMI. I would run at night because it was hot. But, I was self conscious about my weight too. Some neighbors would give ‘encouragement’ that sounded more like taunting. And there was some mild scoffing.
    But, by that time i had already made up my mind that what i was doing was for me and nobody could project their own inadequacies on me to disrupt my resolve. And every look or comment was only fuel to drive me to my goals even more. To me they are saying, “I wish I had the discipline to do that” or “I want your results but don’t want to work for them”.
    As time went on and i started slimming and ‘looking’ like a runner the comments grew quiet and the admiration for my perseverance became louder.
    I agree with your idea that if you run, you’re a runner. But I also support anyone wanting to run for fitness and weight loss. It’s a great way to shed the extra pnds. You might find you like running along the way. Then you might become a runner. But, if not and all you want to do is drop some inches, who cares. Good on that person!! People do crunches and bench presses without loving them, but they do them to stay fit or strengthen certain areas. Same goes for running. Enjoy!

  27. Following on Instagram as well!

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  29. I find myself echoing so many of these same thoughts that do nothing but cripple and shroud our TRUE potential.

    Love this post Dorothy…a must read for anyone starting their own running journey!! :)

  30. I love this post, thank you for sharing it! I was afraid to call myself a runner all throughout college and shortly after (even though I still ran) because I didn’t look like the skinny high school runner I had been. I think this goes along the lines of some people being afraid to call themselves “real” runners because they’re not fast enough or don’t race, or whatever the reason. As if there’s such a thing as a fake runner 😉

  31. LOVE this post….Even though I was a competitive athlete and played field hockey most of my life and all the way through college, I never considered myself a runner. I didn’t think I had the look, the body, or the gear. I started running to clear my mind, to be alone, and to find that inner athlete again. My clothes weren’t running clothes and my shoes weren’t fancy, and I didn’t even own a watch. HA! Lately, I’ve been running naked to go back to those feelings when I first started and it feels good to not worry about the gear and the look, but rather just RUN. XOXO

  32. At 46 years old and having run my first full Marathon this past October, I still have struggled with being a “runner.” I average a 10-11 minute mile. I would often HATE when someone would ask what my “time” was from a certain race I ran. It took me several years/races to no longer cringe when asked. I run for myself. I race to run. I have worked hard to get where I am and I am proud of that.

  33. Great post! It amazes me how non-runners so often think we judge them, yet it couldn’t be farther from the truth! Yet, in my early years I, too, always worried about what people thought of me as a runner…

  34. Great post!! I don’t look like the typical runner but I am a runner. I am more annoyed with the constant hecklers when I run. It’s so annoying and gross.

  35. I was rather disappointed by this post. After all are we running for someone or for ourselves?

  36. Glad you shared this experience. I agree with you. You are what you want to be. There will always be detractors out there who will bring you down. Just push forward and think of something that motivates you. You have nothing to lose from running forward.

  37. cliffherd15 says:

    Great post! I know you weren’t really going for the male demographic but I found this interesting reading. I have to say that you made me think. I’m going to offer a definition that if you run you’re a runner. (basically what you said) A lot of people can jump up and go run a 5K once but the beauty of the sport is the ones that keep coming back and just can’t get enough. Runners come in all shapes, sizes, paces and walks of life. There is no one pace, size, shape or outfit that makes you a runner. It’s the fact you run (at any pace) that makes you a runner. I’ve been running 33 years and I’ve had a few hecklers during my runs but it always seems to come back to one thing for me; they aren’t criticizing as much as they are jealous I’m (us…we?) are doing something they can’t. Running takes perseverance, dedication and motivation. If they are yelling from a car or a porch they clearly don’t have any of those things are they are trying to compensate. In my case, knowing that helps me ignore the detractors.

  38. It’s so true. So many people have pre-conceived notions about what a runner looks like. But simply, if you are a runner, a runner looks like you! We come in all shapes and sizes. There’s this idea that to be a pro runner you have to be short, slight and tiny. But look at Jason Hartmann! The guy is 6’3 with broad shoulders and is a top American marathoner. Super inspiring.

  39. What an honest post! I can relate to these feelings of wanting to look like what we want to be. There really is so much freedom in recognizing that we are who we are and we aren’t defined by how we look, what we wear or what others think. Thanks for the reminder.

  40. Hecklers still bug me, but it beats when I got egged the day before Halloween last year! That was completely disrespectful, and I would have called the cops if I had gotten the license plate!

    I’ve come to find that the more I run, the less I care about what other people think about it. It’s what I’ve chosen to do. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve dropped 40 pounds over a year-and-a-half, largely thanks to running and eating better, but I just go out in what’s comfortable and do what I need to do.

    I do run in the evenings a lot, so I get on all my reflective gear (vest and ankle bands). If people want to give me a hard time for trying to be safe, then that’s their problem. I want to get back safely to my wife and kids at the end of the run.

    Ok, I do feel the need to wear my past race shirts for group runs. But they’re a good conversation starter!

  41. I just started reading your blog after I got back into running again. I totally know what you mean and I am struggling a lot with the image of the runner. I am in Germany and running is taken much more serious over here than in the US.
    But yesterday I did feel like a runner because of my shadow. I ran with the setting sun behind me and had my shadow (that showed me about 20lbs skinnier) in front of me. I did admire my posture and how easy it looked.

  42. I tweeted! @Cateydid

  43. Just posted on this topic…why do we worry we look the part as we act like athletes? Someone told me “I didn’t look athletic” this week which hurt my feelings way more than I expected.

  44. This is a great post and something I can relate to as I’m sure most female runners can! Thanks for inspiring!

  45. Great post! I feel the same way when driving my husbands car with the140.6 sticker on it….anyone remotely in the triathlon world can glance at me in traffic and think , yeahhhh no, she’s not the Ironman in the family

  46. I love your comments. I agree, why do people have to shout things out at runners. One time I had a police turn on his sirens and pulled me over while running, Mu heart was racing so fast, I had no idea what I did wrong, it turns out the police wanted to get a laugh and told me I was speeding. It is funny now, but when it happened several years ago I was terrified.
    Great post today! Since I am trying to get back into running I can relate to many of your thoughts,

  47. I needed this reminder. Recently while out running on my usual trail I ran by a woman who was walking with her little girl. The little girl said “look mommy, a runner!” and her mom replied “no sweetie, that’s a jogger”. I laughed it off, but it did bother me. I know I’m not in the “fast” category and I’m more of a middle-of-the-pack kind of girl, but still. I am a runner, and why do people feel the need to distinguish between ‘runner’ and ‘jogger’ anyway?

  48. Really appreciate this post as well – as someone who was a ‘fat kid’ growing up, made fun of by my gym teacher, and joked about slow running by parents … I didn’t consider myself a runner until I completed my first marathon. Which was last September (Wineglass), and I was 46 at the time. And part of it comes down to not feeling that I ‘looked like a runner’.

    I started ‘jogging’ at my heaviest of ~375 pounds when I was 23 years old in 1989, but arranged my route and schedule to basically not be seen. I was slow, but it was fine, as I just did it for weight. I never considered myself a running, nor ever entertained doing a race or running at any time other than pre-dawn.

    In 2008 my thyroid crashed, and after an initial blast from the meds helped me lose the weight I’d slowly built up … I started gaining. I had lost my ‘running mojo’, and when the gym didn’t fit my family schedule I got back to 275. In 2011 my brother ran his first marathon, and we made a deal to run the next one together … but I never got running again. Last April (2012) I had just restarted, and he came to visit – and I realized how slow and short my runs were! I needed to do something!

    I took it upon myself to jump-start my running, and quickly went from 2.5 miles to 5 to 6 to ~7.5 miles per day 6 days per week. A colleague at work alerted me to a local 5k and I did great – and exercised away those childhood demons! Then I ran another, and another, then an 8k and so on up until a half-marathon in August. At that point I was running 60+ miles weekly.

    Yet … it wasn’t until I did the full marathon that I allowed myself to consider myself ‘a runner’.

    Which is, of course … stupid. I can now look and see that I’ve been a runner for more than 24 years. And my body? I am 6’1″ and 175lbs, wearing a ‘medium’ for shorts and short-sleeved shirts. In other words, I am thin. And I noticed a funny thing when I was in a group of runners at a remote company facility working on a project. It had come up about me running, and no one batted an eye when I mentioned my 8 mile route that morning. Why? Because I am a runner.

    @Greg – thanks for being another male voice, as body image issues and the whole ‘looking like a runner’ thing is definitely not just for women!

    @Meagan – I have no idea, but I think it goes way back to when ‘jogging’ became a thing back in the 70s. It definitely infected my thinking.

    And honestly, what is WRONG with people and the whole heckling thing?

    I see young women out running, and in our community there are loads of recent new housing developments serving the one dominant company (Corning), and one high school. So these people are likely associated with one or the other. And when I hear about this heckling and harassment all I can think of is the sweet kid I see running most weekends who is the daughter of a guy I worked on a project with, who is in the concert band with my son at the high school! We are a smaller community, but I’m sure it still happens.

    Actually I have been heckled one time, and should probably be offended … but I wasn’t. I was wearing running tights and a fitted ‘cold gear’ shirt, and it was ~35 degrees so I had gloves. It was late afternoon, still light, and a car of high school girls went by and a couple leaned out of the car doing yells and cat-calls. I had to smile because I was fairly certain I recognized at least one of them (again from school stuff with our kids). I felt very self-conscious when I first wore tights in daylight, but after this I have just been ‘whatever’!

    Thanks again for the thoughtful post! One more thing – I am reminded of those ‘bikini body’ graphics (take a body, put on a bikini … you have a bikini body!) – take a body, start running … presto, runner’s body! :)

  49. I follow you on Instagram

  50. Sometimes I can’t help but think, ‘Am I really a runner? is this what I am destined to be?’ and it can get pretty disheartening

  51. Don’t get disheartened!! You are a runner if you want to be one :) I think everyone questions this at some point. I ask myself yearly why I even think I am a runner – seems silly now but when I am questioning it’s not silly at all….

  52. Thank you! I saw video footage of me running in a race last year, and thought, ‘I’m not a runner, I look like a semi-fast walker’. I did that run with a average of 9:19min/mile pace… Not walking! I still look at my shadow thinking, I wish I looked like a runner. But I run! Love your blog too!

  53. I recently started reading your blog and this post is so great. I was always petite but the more I run/workout it seems like my thighs and calves just get heavier and not slimmer. I always feel a little self-conscious when running or when I tell people I run. I wonder if they think I don’t look like a runner. But lately, I’ve been reminded that if you can get out there and run 5, 10, 15 miles, etc – you are a runner. Love your honesty in all your posts, you are so inspiring!

  54. derrick kiprop says:

    hi keep training you will look like a runner. for me i was like you but due to daily training i was able to run 2hours and 21minutes in 42.198km and lam still improving on it.

  55. derrick kiprop says:

    hello keep training you will became a perfect runner because for me i never though of running 2hours and 21minutes in42.198km and am improving on my time.

  56. derrick kiprop says:

    hi keep training also i was like you and i never though of running 2hours and 21km in42.198km and lam still improving on my time

  57. derrick kiprop says:

    for me lam a marathon runner with my personal best of 2hours and 21minutes in 42.198km. lam requesting if you can help me improve on my time

  58. derrick kiprop says:

    hello continue running on that pace it makes you be a good that what enabled to clock my personal best of 2hours and 21 minutes in 42.198km and lam still improving on it.

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