When I first started my running journey I was my own worse critic, constantly picking myself apart for running at a slower pace. I am short — only 5 feet — and carry most of my weight in my bottom half. I had not been sporty until a few years ago. The truth is, I have actually always hated running and did everything to avoid it. I struggled with my weight through middle school and high school, feeling like I just did not fit in because I didn’t look like everyone else. I think this is when I began believing being curvier was a bad thing and that I wouldn’t be able to participate in a sport or physical activity until I had a certain body shape. I thought I wasn’t a real runner until I hit a sub 30-minute 5k or ran religiously without having to take a rest day or two. Even a few years ago when I attempted to commit to running, I felt out of place at race events because I didn’t, and still don’t, have the typical body people think of when they hear you’re a runner. Shortly after starting to run on a regular basis, I found so many other women and men on social media who were crushing the typical running stereotypes. I was so inspired! It gave a whole new meaning to the quote that everyone has heard before: “It doesn’t matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch.” This could not be any truer, even post injury I caught myself critizing my runs even though I fought with my body for weeks to just simply be able to move pain free. Accepting that I am a slower runner was never an issue, but sometimes being open about it was. I worried about what others would think when they could easily jog the same distance that I struggled to run. To be quite honest, and as awful as it was, I think my running injury was actually a blessing in disguise. I feel like I know who I am more than ever before. My name is Marie and I have a runner’s body. I will proudly be wearing shorts and tank tops this race season exposing my arms and large, strong calves. I may even get so hot I’ll need to run in a sports bra and I will do so unapologetically. I may take walking breaks or even just run/walk. I might run at what I consider my fast pace and still finish last in my age group. Although running still isn’t “easy” for me, and I’m not sure it will ever be, I can proudly say I run at an average of 7+ minutes per kilometer. I am at the back of the pack most of the time and a self-proclaimed member of the turtle club. These things don’t make me any less of a runner, I am still out there just like everyone else trying to give it my all and earn personal bests. This is a journey, not a race so be kind to yourself and remember runners come in every shape, size and pace.