“You know, you don’t have the body of a typical runner.”
I heard those words a few days ago from an acquaintance I bumped into at a grocery store. There was no preamble – no previous talk of running or anything of that nature. He’s just someone on my facebook who sees my running posts and I guess it was fresh on his mind so he decided to let me know his thoughts.
So…I don’t have the body of a typical runner. Got it.
When I later mentioned this to my husband, he insisted that the guy couldn’t have meant it *that* way. You know: that way. As in, the way I took it. And how did I take it? He was saying that I was too fat to fit the stereotypical mold of a runner.
And as hard as I try, I can’t think of anything else he could’ve meant. But you know what? That’s okay.
Because he’s right.
In fact, if we want to go with stereotypes, I don’t have the body of a “typical” woman either. I’m not a size zero with monstrous boobs and a tiny waist. (Okay, I might have one of those but without the other two, it doesn’t really count.)
But, back to the point. Let’s just go ahead and get this out there. I’m a fat runner.
Now, I’m not obese by any means. Sometimes not even considered “overweight” on some charts. I’m 5’6″ and I weigh 152 as of the writing of this blog. But as far as runners go? Yep. I’m a chubster.
If you’re not a runner, you may not be familiar with the fact that some races have what they call a “Clydesdale division.” Yes, you read that right. Clydesdale. As in a big, fat horse. One local race I run annually has this very division. And guess what? I qualify. Yep. A 5’6″ and 152 pound woman falls into the big and fat category. I’ve always been terrified to sign up for it though. I don’t know why – it”s almost a guaranteed trophy because no one else ever signs up for it either. Last year, I watched the “winning” (only) woman in the category walk up to get her award and she looked even smaller than me. I couldn’t help but wonder how she felt walking up there. “And the chubby runner award goes to…!”
But you know what? After this random comment in the grocery store from this guy, I’ve given this a lot of thought. And I wonder if maybe I’ve been looking at this the wrong way.
Let me tell you what it’s like to not be a tiny runner.
First, my legs are strong as crap. No joke. These things have to lug 152 pounds around – not 110. They have had to work hard for these past five running years and, therefore, I have massive muscles. In fact, one day last week I had to put down a new rug that needed to be scooted under a couch. Rather than waiting for help, I put out the foot stools on the recliner end of the sofa, lied down on the floor, positioned my feet under the reclined foot stool, and used the strength in my legs to lift the couch while I scooted the rug underneath.
How about that?
I’m sure it wasn’t pretty, but by granny, it got done.
Also, fitness does not come naturally to me. I’ve never been an especially “active” person. In fact, I was pretty sick my senior year of high school and that left me weak and lazy for years after. Before my lymphoma diagnosis, I weighed over 200 pounds. Of course, I lost some weight during the treatments but it didn’t stay away long after I started improving. I’ve always been a “bigger” girl. After I started running five years ago, I dropped a bit of weight but not a ton. It wasn’t a quick weight loss, and it wasn’t a total weight loss. But it did happen. And the funny thing about it?
I didn’t even care.
I had attempted running sooo many times in the past for that very purpose – I just had to lose weight. But it never worked, because I didn’t stick with it. And I didn’t stick with it because my heart was not in it. Once I made the decision to run to strengthen myself – body and mind – that’s when I started noticing changes.
Another thing about being a not-so-small runner? I’m pretty slow. Now, I know – “slow” is relative. To some people, my 11/12:00ish mile pace might seem fast. But trust me, in the racing community (especially the smaller races I do locally), that’s not fast. In fact I finished last in a local race once. Dead last. (Which kinda sucked at the time, but now is just a funny memory. And now that it’s happened, I’m not scared of it happening again. I finished last. So what?)
So, yeah, I’m a chubby runner. But should I have been offended by what that guy said to me in the grocery store?
You know why? Because I still do it. Knowing that some days, I’d rather sit on the couch and drink Coke and eat ice cream instead of running, I still get my fat ass up and go do it. Knowing that my “stats” that show up on Facebook when I post my runs could be laughable to the more fit runners that see them, I just go on and post them anyway. Knowing that I have fat rolls that show up in running pics from races, I post the hell out of them anyway.
I am not trying to be skinny. I’m not trying to be perfect. I’m trying to be strong. I’m trying to be a motivator, both to others and to myself. I’m trying to show others that finding something you love as much as I love running can change you. And you don’t have to fit a certain mold or look a certain way or be a certain speed to get out there and do it anyway.
This morning, I lost a running friend. She was the brightest ray of sunshine you’d ever meet in your life. In February of this year Tammy was still running half marathons and signing up for full marathons later in the year. And then today, August 14, six short months later, she’s just gone. Just like that. She lost her battle to a cancer she hadn’t even known she’d had until just recently.
I keep thinking about her. I keep thinking about her spunk. Her smile. Her laugh. I keep thinking about how much she adored running. I keep thinking about the last race we ran together. It was an unseasonably hot half marathon at the end of October. She was well ahead of me for most of the race, as usual. But with only about two miles to go, my heart just gave up. I couldn’t run a step longer. I stopped and started walking. And, to my surprise, I saw Tammy just ahead of me as I rounded a corner. She was walking too. Once she saw that I was behind her, she stopped dead still in the road, not caring about her time, and waited for me to catch up. We walked the last two miles together. She smiled and laughed and chatted the whole way, knowing that neither of us would have any kind of finishing time to brag about, yet not letting it bother her a bit. We were going to finish and that’s all that mattered to her.
That is what I’m going to carry forward with me. That determination and strength and knowledge that I may not be the best, but I am there. I am moving forward. Every step I take is taking me closer to the person I want to be. Like Tammy, I am learning to be happy to just be there. To just be a part of the process. To be a participant in this game of life and to enjoy every single second of it so that I leave behind a legacy like she did.
Am I going to let a snarky comment from some guy in a grocery store change that? No, sir, I am NOT. And I hope you won’t either. Don’t ever – EVER – let someone else determine who or what you should be. Get out there and do whatever you want to do and do it proudly. Live your life out loud. Do what you think you can’t do and shout it out from the mountaintops.
And when you run into the grocery store acquaintances of the world? Just tell them to get back on the sidelines of life and continue to watch you shine.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have my 9th half and second full marathons to train for.
“Go fast enough to get there, but slow enough to see.”
– Jimmy Buffet