It is true. I am a fat runner. Or... I should be more specific.
I am overweight. Significantly. As in, at only 5"3, I weigh in at 177 pounds. There is no disputing my weight... or my body mass index or even my clothing size. Most of all, there is no disputing the impact that my weight has on my running.
Image: jdn via Flickr
Truth be told, I have always been an overweight runner. My body has never moved like a gazelle or elite runner whose muscles and joints glide effortlessly from one stride to another. No... my body slugs along. My body reminds me of my muscular deficits and imbalances with every foot stroke and landing.
Over the years, there were seasons where I weighed less. At 138 pounds, your body runs faster and stronger than it does at 158 or 170, and especially at 177. You would think that as a runner, weight would not be an issue. Except that of course, losing weight due to running is only one part of the equation. An equation that lately (as in the last three years) I have not been able to solve between my age, my hormones, and the fact that I am sitting at my desk more than I ever have.
The recognition that I am a fat runner came to me during an almost ten mile run on a hot and humid morning, running around a lake that has been my running home since 2001. The same lake where during my first marathon, I remember crying as I looped around, lagging behind my pace group, lacking in mental toughness. This time though, coming up to the first mile marker, this feeling of... acknowledgement... of understanding... of inner determination set in.
And yes, I know that calling myself a fat runner sounds harsh. And I do not mean to offend anyone because I know more than anyone that weight does not define you and that there is not a magic one size fits all number. But it is the truth. I am a fat runner. My body is not in the shape it should be. I have not strengthened my core, nor have I build any strength in the stabilizing muscles in my legs that would help me prevent potential running injuries. While I have always said that the number on the scale does not matter, but as a runner trying to train for a marathon, every single pound counts as your feet make impact, foot stroke after foot stroke.
But I run. (Well, kind of... Lately I do more of a run-walk.)
While I have nothing to prove to anyone other than myself (and even that sometimes, can be overrated), I feel the frustration in my head and heart and in my body every time I lace up my shoes. While I try to appreciate the fact that my body has overcome obstacles and survived cancer, I am more and more aware -- and frustrated -- not by my weight or size, but by how those two things make me feel when I try to do better.
You see, I do not want to be a skinny runner. (Well okay, while that might be nice, it is not why I run.) And while it would be nice to be a fast runner, that is probably never in the cards either. What I want to be... is a strong runner.
A runner that is strong in body and strong in mind. A runner that remembers that each day is better because I laced up my shoes.
The problem is that I am a goal-oriented person. Goals help make what can seem insurmountable possible. So when I realized that I had been faking my way through achieving half marathon goals over the last two years, I upped the ante and set my sights on a new marathon goal. Not only was I going to finish my third marathon, I was going to finish in under five hours.
Because a good goal is one that is enough of a challenge that you have to work for it, right?
Right. Except that I am a fat runner. And I have not taken good enough care of my body to set be able to achieve a time goal; not right now anyway.
As I made my way around the lake, running and walking, pretending not to notice the numbness in my foot or the pain coming from my IT band, I remembered the fact that I have nothing to prove.
Being a runner is supposed to make me feel good. It is supposed to make me healthy and strong, but more than that, it is a lifestyle that reminds you that with each new run you get to start over. With each new step, you have the potential to go farther. With each new stride, you have the chance to do better.
So yes, I am a fat runner, with running injuries that I am still trying to grapple with, minimize and treat. I may not look like the poster child of healthy running, but I aspire to look like the poster child for being healthy and strong.
I may be a fat runner... right now... but more than that: I am me.
I will not give up or give in, even when it hurts. I will keep lacing up my shoes and run. (Or run/walk or even walk if I have to.)
There will always be another goal, another race, another day and that strong runner that I dream of being, she will be there when she is ready.
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