Barefoot Monologues

A Journey of the Sole

Fatty

40 Comments

loverunning

Across the street from my little neighborhood, there is a park with hilly trails, single track, streams and a small pond filled with ducks, geese and seagulls. I like to take my dog there a few times a week and do some running. Sometimes I unclasp Oscar’s leash so I can watch him let loose on the large open field at the far end of the trail, which is one of my favorite things in the world.

It was cloudy this morning, but once my work day was over at 3 o’clock the sun peaked out and burned off all the clouds in short order. The cool February air felt nice. Oscar and I jogged down our usual path that runs past a swath of eucalyptus trees and headed toward the field. Sometimes there are horses grazing on the other side of the fence that delineates the public park area, and Oscar always looks for them. There were no horses today, but that was okay.

I’ve been feeling kind of lazy for the past two days, but on a whim I decided to add some sprints to my workout, maybe wake myself up a little. I found a straight section of the path around the outside edge of the field, walked to the farthest opposite end with Oscar, and then turned around and booked it, full-speed. Oscar followed behind and quickly overtook me, wagging his tail and running with enough joy to light up half the planet.

Like my dog, I adore sprinting. I love feeling all the normally awkward and separate parts of my body come together at once, feeling the fluid rhythm of my legs and arms as they push me forward. I love that even though all systems are on full-force, it feels like my muscles are only expelling as much energy as needed to do the job. When I sprint I feel efficient and beautiful. When I run like this, for a few brief moments I transform into a wild animal: I am a bird in flight, I am a lion in chase.

I did three sprints like this. Just as I was about to turn back for a fourth, I heard the couple across the field. They’d been hanging out by the little stream the whole time Oscar and I were there. They were two college-age kids, probably no older than twenty. She posed on the wooden bridge in her size 2 skinny jeans, knitted hat and fluffy shearling boots, while he took photos of her. As they walked back toward the parking lot now, I heard the boy remark in a low voice, “you’re still slow, fatty.” They both laughed.

There were so many reactions that I could have had to hearing this. I could have called them out on their rudeness or insulted them back, and I would have had every right to do so. I could have stated all sorts of facts and studies proving that fat athletes are twice as healthy as skinny couch potatoes. Or I could have let it hurt my pride, stopped running for the day and gone home. But instead I pretended I didn’t hear them, and turned back around for my fourth sprint as they disappeared down the path. And this time I ran harder.

Truth is, I am a fatty. I have been more fat and less fat than I am now, over the years, but I’ve pretty much always been at least ten or fifteen pounds overweight. I prefer being lighter, but hey it is what it is. When I was in elementary school the other kids called me “Mount Killamanjaro” and laughed at me any time I tripped and fell or ate junk food in public. They made fun of me for taking gymnastics classes and shook their heads when I tried out for the cheerleading squad. I was never very obese. It was just that I was the only overweight girl in the class, so it was fat enough.

fatgirldoll

I’m used to the stigma that’s placed on overweight people when they’re exercising. I’ve always been fat, but I’ve always been active, too. Only during my drunken college years did I not do some kind of physical activity on at least a semi-regular basis. So I’ve heard it over and over again. “You don’t have a dancer’s body.” “You’re too fat to be a gymnast.” “You don’t look like you could run twelve miles.” Even my father has said these kinds of things to me, and my Godmother said them to other people behind my back.

But despite my extra weight, I’ve always done well at the physical activities I chose to take part in. I was always placed front and center of formations during dance recital numbers, I was the first gymnast in my 7th grade group to perform a back handspring without assistance, and I was selected to be Captain of my cheerleading squad after only one year of participation. And let’s not forget that I’ve run an ultramarathon, despite what I look like I can do. In other words, fat has never stopped me.

So even though I made the choice not to respond to my antagonizers this afternoon, I spent a few minutes thinking about their perception of me. Their prejudice toward fat people has lent them the belief that they know what I’m running for. They think that I run so I can look more like them. But the truth is I really don’t. I don’t run to be skinny, even though weight loss is a fortunate side-effect. I don’t really run to be fast, either. And I certainly don’t run so that I can impress them. Or anyone, for that matter.

And even though I never spoke to that couple at the park, and probably won’t ever see them again, I want to respond to them here. I want to tell them, and all the others who have doubted my athleticism, why I run:

I run because I like to be outside.
I run to spend time with my dog.
I run to be social.
I run to be alone.
I run to listen to music I haven’t had time to experience yet.
I run to hear silence.
I run to put space between myself and my inner demons.
I run to escape my negative body image, the one that people like you have given me.
I run to sweat.
I run to breathe hard.
I run to hear my feet land almost silently upon the earth.
I run to feel the sun’s heat on my face, and the cooling wind at my back.
I run to burn off steam.
I run to burn off excess calories.
I run to recover.
I run to discover new trails and to see the ground from the top of a mountain.
I run to get lost in my thoughts, and in the wilderness.
I run to learn things about myself.
I run because it’s hard, and because sometimes it hurts.
I run because most people don’t.
I run because in some ways I’m good at it, and in many ways I am not.
I run because some have told me I never could.
I run because it constantly challenges me to be better.
I run so I can live a longer life.
I run because it is my life.

In some ways, I encourage people to tell me what they think of me when they see me running. I welcome the disapproval from judgmental family members, and the disgusted gaze from skinny elite runners as I slow to a walk up a steep hill and allow them to whiz by. And I gladly accept all the wary looks from people who don’t believe that I have run over thirty miles at once (and in one day), because it helps me to sort out the difference between the people I respect and the people I don’t. It fuels the fire in my (rounded) belly, the one that burns hot enough to add strength to my character and poise to my stride.

And I challenge them all to love the run the way that I do.

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40 thoughts on “Fatty

  1. So we’ll written, one of your best! Proud of you girly!!

  2. We have the same experience too but mine is the other way around..For I’m skinny and people ask me why do I need to run and I don’t have anything to lose weight for…i don’t mind them though but I let the people know that running is not all about losing weight. It’s all about having fun and being part of your lifestyle

  3. It pisses me off that people have to be negative, (didn’t their mom teach them. if they don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all.) However, I love this post, because you were able to turn a negative situation into a positive one. And you are sooo right, running is not just a form of exercise… it is many things, and healing in many ways! Thanks again for another beautifully written post!

    • Eh, wherever you go people are mean, in all sorts of different ways. Cruelty, ignorance, self-centeredness, superficiality, jealousy, greed and indifference (my version of the 7 deadly sins) seem to get more respect and attention every day. People who embrace these attributes are worshipped on television shows and given top corporate and elected positions. It really shouldn’t surprise any of us that people are mean.

  4. This is the best thing you’ve ever written 🙂

  5. fantastic and thank you for your honesty, bravery, and defiance…

  6. This was an amazing writeup. I’ve never understood why some people feel the need to tear down others.

  7. Goodonya! According to the latest research you’ll outlive the most of us (physical condition more important than BMI for longevity, those in the overweight category of BMI outlive all other categories).

  8. Beautifully written, and hits close to my heart. Stand proud!

  9. Wow. Excellent post! Once again, disappointed by humans.

    So glad to know you. 🙂

  10. You mean I could keep running like crazy to “burn calories” and my weight could stay the same?? Is she eating right? I thought running was a fun way to get skinny and eat what you want. (I only run 5K every other day, and I just started running on Jan1st)

  11. I have been beaten in races by a so called “fatty” or two…I know your waistline will never equate to your ability or your desire. Keep at it lady! There are those of us out there who admire people like you who have the courage to start…and keep going!

  12. Love this, very inspirational. You have so well delineated why I run. I think I will have to make my own list on my blog. runningwithpoppachuck.Blogspot.com

  13. Love love love your post. You said it best!

  14. You are amazing and I thank you for what you wrote! Way to go! We runners come in all shapes and sizes! Keep on running!

  15. Reblogged this on breathlessrunner and commented:
    A very true post about what it is like to not be your typical runner…..or just typical at all. Well written!

  16. A friend of mine shared this on facebook. I love your thoughts on running and others’ opinions of you. I have never been petite, but I don’t struggle with weight the same way some do. That’s not to say that I haven’t had heavy phases in my life. But I agree with your point of view. I get so annoyed with the obsession over weight. I rarely weigh myself because the more often I do, the more I will obsess, which isn’t healthy. I don’t count calories. I try to run/work out to be healthy. I do it because it’s good for my mind, body, and emotions.
    I have a friend who is struggling with weight (http://songofthefatlady.blogspot.com/). Through reading her blog, I realize what a difficult, constant battle it can be. I respect any overweight person who gets out there and gets their body active.

  17. Pingback: doubling up | Ultra & Beyond

  18. Having cerebral palsy, i’ve received quite a few speeches from loved ones who think i shouldn’t be running–or walking, for that matter. i’ve also heard from my girlfriend that a lot of people wonder why i run when i’m SOOO SKINNNY. Like my weight really matters!? Apparently you’re only “suppose” to run to lose weight, and when you have…you stop? i dunno. i’ve never been overweight, but i can’t stand being sedentary, and i sure as hell won’t let anyone tell me otherwise. kudos to you. i love being chicked or seeing someone “overweight” running faster than me.

  19. People sure can be dumb. Just remember that for every person like that, there are 50 runners out there who are proud of you for running even if you aren’t the “typical” runner, and 100 more who wish they had the courage to get out there and be more like you! 🙂

  20. You are beautiful when I read your posts, before I saw your pic. Now that I have “seen” you, you are even lovelier. God bless you, my dear.

  21. This is a kick ass post – I’m sharing it far and wide.

    I’m a strong believer in “Mens sana in corpore sano” (a healthy mind in a healthy body) and running helps with both parts of that goal.

    You probably need one of those shirts that says (on the back)
    “If you can read this shirt I’m ahead of you”

  22. I hope in some wild twist of fate, the commenter who inspired this post falls upon it one day. Not so he can feel like a shitbag,(even though I’ll admit the protector in me would enjoy that) but so he can see how physique and speed aren’t comparable on the value of one’s spirit and strength.

  23. Beautiful post. I too have experienced all manner of snide looks, comments, etc. I do my best to have compassion for those people because I know they must be pretty unhappy, at least at some level, to be willing to be so hateful. Sounds like you did a great job doing just that. Thanks for sharing this!

  24. Pingback: Courage {Prompted} « Barefoot Monologues

  25. I think you are freaking awesome!!!!

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