I’ve had a bit of a relationship with running. We’ve been on and off (ok, mostly off) for a long time. I think, “running seems so fabulous. so…effortless, so…just me and the road, so tranquil” and then i do it and think, “what the ever loving fresh hell?! this hurts! i quit.” And then I go, “but it’s free! and so many of your friends do it! maybe if you just kept at it a little longer you would find the runner inside yourself!” So i do it some more. But then I get frustrated because if you’re fat and want to run, your choices for running clothes are, um, zero. It’s cotton for all fatties! We want you to lose weight and stop being a burden on society, what with all your health and your obesity and your OMGDEATHZ, but we’ll be damned if we’re going to make it easier on you by offering, I don’t know, cute yet functional and breathable running clothes in your size? please. (athleta, I’m looking at YOU)
So, yes, that is the relationship in a nutshell. Of course it’s more complicated than that, but those are the cliffs notes. I started running (and I should say by “running” i mean jogging and sometimes walking/jogging, not, like, sprinting with the speed of the wind or anything) after I graduated from college a little over 12 years ago. The purpose was losing weight. And I actually enjoyed it for the most part. I had no idea what I was doing (other than putting one foot in front of the other in a speedy manner and propelling myself forward, I mean), but it was a nice way to see and learn the neighborhood a few times a week. But then I stopped, for whatever reason I don’t remember, and I gained all the weight I had lost back (apparently that’s how diets work? /sarcasm). So the next time I picked up running, it was really really hard. It hurt because I didn’t have the proper gear and because, newsflash, when you have jiggly bouncy parts they tend to both jiggle and bounce more when you’re running. But I pushed myself because I was raised with the old “no pain, no gain” adage. This, of course, made me hate running because it came to represent yet another way I was failing – failing to lose weight, failing to have the better body, failing to enjoy a sport that so many do, etc etc. So I didn’t start running again for a long time.
Fast forward to grad school and I’m surrounded by, like, tons of wonderful friends who love to run! They do marathons, even! So I think “ok, this can’t be that bad.” In the Northwestern United States it’s like a damn rule that you run and love it and exclaim it to the world. I didn’t stop much to think about what I felt about running, and that was because I hadn’t yet started the mental heavy lifting and FA work that I did toward the end of grad school. So I started running again, doing the Couch to 5K training program that I had heard such wonderful things about. I quit that after about a month, not necessarily because I didn’t like the program, but because it’s hard to stay motivated when you’re running by yourself and I always felt awful running with other people because I, inevitably, would be much slower than anyone else and dragging people down to my level felt like shit. I had one friend I would run with that was awesome – she repeatedly told me that it didn’t matter the pace I ran, she just liked hanging out and she could always run ahead and then come back. And I believed her, but it didn’t matter. I still felt like a slow fatty mc slowpoke and I hated being that.
Now we’re here at this evening, where I just finished my second run under the Couch to 5K program with my sister. And I feel awesome. And this is the heaviest I’ve been in my whole life (i think, i don’t own a scale). This is certainly the “worst” shape I’ve been in in my life, but I feel pretty good! Part of that is because I finally get to look the part and however silly that sounds, it’s huge (pun intended). Nike carries extended sizes (granted, only up to a 3X, so I know that leaves out a big ‘ol portion of folks) and I purchased my first ever pair of dri-fit pants (hah, i wrote that as “dry-fat” pants at first). Anyway, dri-fit! That shit is magic! Does the rest of the world know about this? Anyway, yes, I get to wear cute clothes that are performance driven, which means that it makes it more comfortable to run. Which is awesome. The other awesome piece in all of this? I’ve decided to be nicer to myself and just go with the flow in terms of pacing. My sister runs ahead of me and I just plod along, not really giving a shit. And? There’s less pain associated with the jiggly bouncy parts because I’m not running super fast! genius! Last night when we went for our first run, I was really struggling with those old thoughts, “man, if you hadn’t let yourself get this bad, this wouldn’t be as hard right now” and “look how slow you’re going, does this even count as running?” and on and on. And I imagine I’ll still struggle with those thoughts now and then. But in the in-between moments, I’ve decided to be kind to my body. And look around and enjoy the actual ACT of running. It’s been kind of rainy the last couple nights, and running with a little mist blowing around, and twinkly lights around the lake, and the smell of bbq and weed and fresh cut grass? Not too shabby. And this time around, I’m not running to lose weight. I’m running to move my body more and enjoy the fresh air and spend more time with my sister. I also realize that i have a body that allows me to do this, so this is an ableist post. There are others that can’t do what I’m doing and I want to recognize that, while also celebrating this new piece of FA for me.