Saturday, November 24, 2012

Taking offense...and probably taking it too personally

I've been trying to find some blogs about slower runners/ultrarunners lately.  I have a handful of blogs that I follow from endurance athletes who are regular people, but most of them I can't really relate to on a Darwinian level.  I mean, they might be ordinary people, but when I read race reports from them and they talk about the major struggles and how they had to walk and it was a slow death march to the finish, and then they report that their really tough mountain 50K finish was 5 hours- I just cringe. 
Surely there are people out there like me (women espeically) who are not the fittest, not the tallest, not the fastest, who struggle along at the back of the pack- sometimes bringing up the rear- who blog.  Surely.  Right?!?

So this all leads me to this blog post that I found from some yayhoo.  Perhaps this was written as a joke, but it struck a chord with me that really, really bothered me on a cellular level.  He was writing about the Top 5 Things to Hate about Marathon Runners.  ha ha- ok, poking fun at some of our idiosyncracies.  I get that.  But he went too far when we wrote #4:
4. Fat Runners:How can people who fully train for a marathon still be fat? Oh yeah, because if you are running 15 minute miles, you aren’t exactly ripping through calories. And fat marathonites constantly make you put your foot in your mouth. The fatty approaches you and says “I am training for the marathon,” to which you reply, based off their physique, “oh yeah? When do you start?” And then fatty hits you with the bomb, “I am trained, the marathon is next week.” I have to imagine it is a lot like accidently asking a married lady who recently put on weight when the baby is due.
Perhaps I'm just a little too sensitive about this to take this with a grain of salt, but the sad truth is that I KNOW people feel the same way, and I KNOW some runners even feel the same way. 
And it's just sad.
No, we're not exactly ripping through the calories at 15 min/miles, but it sure beats the hell out of just sitting on the couch like other skinny or fat people who do NOTHING athletically.  Right?!?
I am a good 20 lbs overweight. My doctor would argue that at 5'3" I should be in the low 120's (and all the charts say at my height my ideal weight is in the one-teens), but that's simply impossible for me. For this particular body with this particular genetic makeup. 

I've never been thin.  I've struggled with my weight my ENTIRE LIFE.  I will ALWAYS struggle with my weight.  So many of my athlete friends are thin and have always been that way.  They are fit and have always had an easyish time maintaining their weight.  I know some who were heavier but are thin now.  I know very few who constantly struggle to stay out of the "obese" category on the charts.  Hell, I'm happy that I'm only in the "overweight" category on my doctor's chart.  That's a victory for me. 

When I was at my lowest adult weight at age 31, I was 122 lbs.  I was a size 4.  I was thin.  I looked good.  I felt good. I had just lost 60 lbs. I felt alive and sexy and just like every media message told me I should look to feel attractive.

But I was starving myself and I had to continue to starve myself to maintain that.
At the time, I was training for my first marathon. Sure, I looked the part of a marathon runner.  I was thin, light, looked good in spandex and probably could have even gotten away with running in just a sports bra and shorts if I wanted to.  But I was miserable.  Know why?

Because I was starving myself.  I was hungry ALL the time.  I was still going to Weight Watchers and losing weight and trying my damndest to count every frickin calorie that went into my mouth.  Want to talk about an eating disorder?  Yeah- I most definitely had one.  I wasn't throwing up or not eating, but I was SOOOOO incredibly obsessed with every bite I took.  I would obsessively plan my day around points so I knew just how many points I would have left for dinner, or more importantly, how many points I would have left if I skipped dinner and just had dessert.  WW didn't teach me how to eat, it taught me how to eat carrots and other "free" foods so I could save enough points up for the pizza or the other shit I ate that I really wanted.  It wasn't healthy physically or mentally.  And it did nothing but allow my body to lose weight, then destroy my self-esteem when I quit counting and gained back 50 lbs. 

Now that I'm 158 ish, I know that I'm a bit on the chubby side.  My thighs have cellulite.  My belly is paunchy, my arms and tummy aren't defined.  And I have chub-rub again. 
My ideal weight is about 145-150.  Not according to the charts, but according to how I feel when I run and ride and swim.  How my body feels.  I was 145 when I did my first Ironman, and I was soooo strong then.  Perfectly strong.

But I'm still an athlete.  Still strong.  I just did my first 50 miler last month.  I can show you ten dozen skinny bitches who can't run/walk one mile, let alone 50.   I get so angry when people criticize "fat" people for getting out there.  SOMEONE has to be at the back- and it's not always the fat people. Sometimes I'm running along at a race and come across someone who is obviously faster than me who outweighs me by 100#s.  More power to them. 

Here's an example of how people criticize based on looks. Last year I did the Memorial Marathon and I did the early start since I was a little undertrained and needed some extra time.  That was the year it rained and hailed and the start of the marathon was delayed.  It was cold and the rain was freezing and my muscles cramped up at mile 13 and would not get loose again.  Hypothermia was starting to settle in, and as much as I needed to run to get my core body temp up, my muscles were having none of it.  So I had to walk the last 13 in the freezing cold rain.  It was miserable, but I was moving forward and making progress.  And I was out there.  Coming down Broadway into the chute before the finish line my calves seized up.  I had to stop along the cattle fence and stretch.  Someone nearby made a comment along the lines of "how can she be finishing so fast- she doesn't look like she's that fast" and someone else commented "yeah, she had to have done the early start that's why she's finishing now".  I was the only one around, so they had to be talking about me.  Had my teeth not been chattering so hard, I would have given them a piece of my mind.  How did they know I wasn't that fast?  I could have finished in 3.5 hours.  What- because I'm chubby I had to be an early starter?  Whether I did the early start or not doesn't matter.  I moved myself in crappy conditions over 26.2 miles.  What did they do?  Cheer in the cold rain?  Whoopdeedoooo.  That hurt my pride a lot at that particiular moment, but it didn't hurt for long. 

Chubbies can run, too.  We might not be fast, we might not lose a ton of weight in training, but we're out there.  Isn't that what everyone encourages chubbies to do- get out there and move.  Chubbies get knocked for sitting on the couch and then get mocked for getting out there and doing something about it.  Sigh... people really suck sometimes.

Never mock an overweight person for being active.  Whether or not they drop poundage, maybe they're just doing it because it makes them feel good about themselves.  Maybe they like being out in nature.  Maybe their goal wasn't to lose weight, maybe it was simply to feel better about themselves or to see what their body is capapble of in its current state.  Not everyone needs (or wants) to be a skinny bitch.  Sometimes they just want to do something they love... just as they are.


  1. I know exactly how you feel. I struggle with this all the time. Like I'm not "good enough" to be out there doing it. I struggle with self image all the time! And it is so hard to know what to do with my diet, because you should be doing this or that (according to society). Ugh! Anyway, I think you are totally awesome and give me inspiration to keep trudging along!!!

  2. I'm like you, I like to follow blogs of other regular runners like me. I think elite and super fast runners are exciting, but the ones I like to get to know and have the most in common with are the ones who struggle along every day like I do. When I first started I was the first person back to the store on every single run and while I have gotten a bit faster over the years, I still struggle and I still hurt and I still have challenges. I found your blog through a comment you left on mine and i look forward to following along. I hope I fall into your criteria of other slower runners. :o)

    1. Nikki, I just found your blog yesterday and I'm so incredibly inspired by you. All you've gone through and all you've overcome is more awe-inspiring and impressive than any sub 3 hour marathon or 100 mile finish. I look forward to following your journey to the Goofy Challenge and beyond.

      BTW, even tho I think you're not slow, I love that you're an everyday regular Joe like myself. And you're Canadian- even more reason to like you (deep down I think I was meant to be born Canadian). :)