Saturday, May 28, 2011

It's not a dirty word.

It’s not a dirty word.  Fat.  FAT!  We give this word so much power; we allow it to wound us and shame us.  I fear it is the most terrifying word for many of us and for our daughters.  You could sling any slur at me when I was a teenager, but if you wanted to truly silence me with hate, all you had to do was call me fat.  Sometimes this is still true.

I use the f-word (not that one...duh) in my blog title because I think it is attention-getting and catchy.  A few people have rightly complained about it, my husband not least among them.  After all, during his long devotion to me he has been on the front lines of my battle with my weight.  He continues the effort to help me love and honor myself; calling myself fat for all the world to read seems counter-intuitive to these efforts.  Also, the title admittedly makes it a bit tough to tell all your friends about it.  On the bus to a race starting line, a friend of mine enjoyed a conversation with a fellow-runner.  She met a mom running her first half-marathon that day.  She was, like me, not built like an olympic athlete.  By the end of their conversation, my friend thought she might really enjoy my blog.  But she couldn’t exactly say, “Check out my friend’s blog, “The Fat Marathoner!”  It’s for runners just like you!”

Fat ain’t friendly.  I get it.  The word is ugly, and we still shy away from it.  I suppose that is part of why I’m not yet ready to surrender it.  I’m hoping to demystify it, decriminalize it, disempower its negative oomph.

Let’s put this in perspective.  Fat is food.  Fat is a macronutrient.  Fat feeds our brains and gives us our curves.  A healthy woman is 20 to 25% fat.  How can we hate a quarter of ourselves and live whole, healthy lives?  I am no longer willing to run from the word fat, nor from the innumerable fat cells in my body.  They are not my enemy.  Sometimes I have too many of them--and, truthfully, too many of them can be debilitating.  I will remain an enemy of obesity, but I’m done confusing obesity with the fat the exists on my frame.  Most of it belongs there.

Women, will you join me in taking a stand against all those messages we get out in the big, bad world that teach us to hate ourselves, to desperately want to change ourselves?  Let’s take the energy we spend running from our own fat and use it for something else.  Sign up for a Run for Congo Women 5k (July 31st in Denver) and raise some dough for a fiercely good cause:  Find out how you can take a stand against female circumcision with The Female Genital Cutting Education and Networking Project:  Inform and humble yourself by learning how rape still wrecks lives too damn much in this day and age:  Pick an enemy deserving of your wrath, ladies.  Love yourself.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Build your brain!

Here's an article that gives us one more reason to believe EXERCISE is for EVERYONE!
Get out and sweat a little today so you can better remember all of your tomorrows and yesterdays.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

You can now buy a scale that connects directly to your twitter feed.

You can now buy a scale that connects directly to your twitter feed. As if these guilt generating torture devices weren’t efficient enough at stripping us of every ounce of self-esteem, you can finish the job by publishing your humiliation to every Tom, Dick, and Sally that ever breathed in the same high school hall or dorm room or office or PTA meeting or planet as you. Puhlease. I will not be tweeting my weight to the world. You see, I am not a gym rat; I'm a fat marathoner.

This brave new world of health monitoring devices (the moniker that replaces the dreaded “scale” in their marketing material) has me a little on the defensive. It doesn’t take much to put a big girl on the defensive in this world. Male actors are permitted character and age in their appearance, but their female counterparts must maintain near perfect youth and flawless femininity, but a strangely skeletal version of both. Waists are narrow, stomachs concave, legs and arms stick-thin or muscularly stringy. I miss the age of renaissance roundness. Pair this painful media-portrayed perfection with a toxic food environment: cheap, engineered-to-addict food-like substances. This is my world; I’m a little ticked off.

And now there are cyber-connected scales.

To be fair, there are a few features of this new type of device that really appeal to me. They can measure more than your basic poundage. Instead of one miserable number, these scales of the future can measure fat content, bone mass, even water weight. Now I’ll be able to know just how many extra pounds I can blame on my period. Mere weight is so passe. I suppose that means these new health monitoring whatchahoochies might actually be a step in the right direction. Except for that whole twitter thing.

After all, the last thing we need to do to each other is compare ourselves. You to me, me to you, to skinny sister, to post-baby friend, to supermodel covergirl actress. My weight is my business, and your weight is your business. If you need to get your doctor in on the conversation, by all means. But let’s not trap ourselves in the lose-lose game of measuring ourselves against anyone except the self we hope to be someday but choose to love now, extra 20 pounds and all.

I believe weight matters, obesity is physically, emotionally, and socially limiting, and health deserves to be a top-five priority in each and every American life. I want to reclaim exercise for all of us, or at the very least for myself...even though I tip the scales toward obesity not malnourishment, even though I look like a Biggest Loser contestant half way through the season, even though my baby weight has taken up permanent residence on my hips and thighs. I proudly announce that I will never wear a bikini. With confidence I declare that I can still turn on my husband when I stand in front of him naked. Yes, I looked better fifteen years ago because I weighed fifteen pounds less. Still, I am strong, attractive, and over 150 lbs.

But you’ll never read about it on my twitter feed.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What's your favorite workout anthem?

Here are a few songs on my soundtrack:

Wake Up (Arcade Fire)
Lose Yourself (Eminem)
Bad (U2)
Sail (AWOLNation)
In the Hall of the Mountain King (Social Network Soundtrack)
Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show (Neil Diamond)
O Fortuna (Carl Orff's Carmina Burana)
Shipping Up to Boston (Dropkick Murphys)

What's your favorite song to sweat, sing, dance, or fall asleep to?

Monday, May 16, 2011

I run naked!

I run naked.  Okay, well, not literally, of course. that life-encompassing, metaphoric way.  See, in most of my life I edit myself.  For example, I just visited to view the latest movie trailers.  I am keenly interested in seeing Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, but you’ll never read about it on my facebook page.  I’m far more likely to post my interest in Tree of Life, the latest from Terrence Malick.  It isn’t untrue, it just isn’t the whole truth.  I will see Tree of Life, and in the theater at that, $10 price be damned.  I cried the first time I saw its trailer, and I loved Malick’s The Thin Red Line.  I’m more likely to post my interest in it because it is more emblematic of me, who I am and who I aspire to me.  If my friends, family, and distant acquaintances are going to know what movie I’m excited to see, Tree of Life will be it this season.  But, damn, Dylan Dog, looks like a blast!  It may call for a date night with my husband, $25 price of a babysitter be damned.

I spend a lot of time editing myself in this manner.  I think about the impression I make, the image of me that lingers when I leave a room.  I choose my attire with some care--okay, not for a trip to the grocery store, but definitely for a trip downtown.  I suck in my tummy; I pluck my chin hairs; I pose for pictures with my head tilted down and my neck extended forwarded like E.T. to fake the facial thinness I wish I had.  I try.

Some who know me might say I don’t try hard enough.  I am no fashion plate, Target fitting my budget better than Macy’s.  I shower a bit too infrequently, which I continue to blame on my babies, though they are now 5 and 2.  I don’t get a haircut but once every few years...yes, is all one length so I can just chop it then leave it to grow.  Makeup gets applied to my face once a month or so--whenever my beloved husband and I can wrangle a date night out of our busy schedules.  And when it comes to conversation, I am capable of all sorts of public embarrassments, from killing a conversation to over-sharing.  I am NOT a trophy wife or a polished queen bee.  Still, I try.  To my critics, doubters, and naysayers I say, “Imagine what a disaster I’d be if I didn’t try at all!”

So back to running naked.  One of the reasons I love running is the way it strips me of all my trying.  I sweat, pant, heave, and occassionally hunt for a sheltered ditch or thick patch of shrubbery when nature calls too strongly to ignore.  When I start a run, I feel fear, and when I finish, exhaustion.  Running leaves me with no pretense.  It turns me into a sweaty, red-faced monster.  But it also leaves me smiling.

When I run, I find quiet.  I manage moments, even whole minutes, of clear-thinking.  Sometimes I systematically sort through questions or plans that at other times of the day I can only manage to worry over.  I rehearse conversations I want or need to have.  I worship; I pray.  Sometimes, when the run is long or the body fatigued, I cannot manage thought at all.  I count my steps (especially up long, steep hills) because plodding is all I can manage.

Running strips me down and leaves me with nothing but miles and minutes.  And in those miles and minutes I have found something I wasn’t expecting: victory.  Countless victories.  Stripped of beauty and pretense, I accomplish feats of daring-do.  Underneath the tricks I rely on to manage my life and present myself to the world, running reveals that there is something left.  Under it all, I am strong.  I have a will.  I have a body, and I can drive it.  I don’t need to run in the nude to run naked.  You should try it sometime.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Think of the children!

Kudos to Denver for trying to do better by its kids!  Childhood obesity is a sad reality today, and it is a complex tragedy.  Club sports are expensive; produce is expensive and McDonald's is cheap.  I support food and exercise equality.  Check out this article from Colorado Public Radio.|Getting_Kids_Moving

Also, here's a shout out to one of my personal heroes, Jamie D.!  She encourages activity in kids' lives as a math teacher, middle school cross country coach, and in her ultrarunning mega-accomplishments.  What an example!  You are stronger than you think you are; you can do more than you think you can!  Right, Jamie?

Another shout out to Chrissy F.!  She's a dedicated high school lacrosse and field hockey coach, and she slays marathons.  Altitude doesn't scare this goddess, nor do snotty adolescents!

Finally, a shout out to my best friend, Amy L.!  Her example of bringing good health and nutrition plus fun activity to her kids' lives is my daily example.

Here's to all of us doing better by the next generation.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Come on, ass, haul!

Come on, ass, haul!  Yes, I speak to my ass in the 3rd person singular.  It is large enough to have its own social security number, so it seems only right that I treat it as a distinct individual.  The news is, sometimes, it listens.

My relationship with my ass is fraught with antagonism.  Big surprise.  It is large, and cottage-cheesy.  There is lift that wasn't there when I was a non-runner, but no one would mistake it for the ass of a marathoner.  In fact, I am the person other runners use to motivate themselves.  I can imagine the conversations: "Let's choose somebody to pick her (audible smirk)...Come on, we can blow by that one...How ya doing? Have a nice daaayyyyy (fade to silence as they leave me in the dust)."

Don't get me wrong; runners are nice.  I have found them to be the nicest strangers I've ever shared space with.  They are encouraging.  They cheer for each other.  They celebrate later finishers long after their own race is over.  They marvel at the faster ones and pull for the slower ones.  For my first ever real race, a half marathon at altitude, I carpooled with a world class ultramarathoner who waited for me and ran me in the last half mile, even though she had finished an hour before and could have been off doing bigger, better things.  (She invited me to warm up with her before the race too: "My legs don't really feel strong until after the first twenty miles."  Hah.  I politely declined: 13.1 miles gave me more than enough time to warm up, run strong, then struggle and want to die all within the first 2 miles of the race.)

But runners are also wacko.  We systematize hurting ourselves; we maniacally calculate pace and predict PRs and evaluate elevation charts and scrutinize training runs.  We study our pain for the lessons it holds.  In the middle of a race, when we are pushing and panting and hoping hard to accomplish something new, we need to let go of our bodies and turn to our minds.  We play mental games.  Thus, we pick people off.  We find someone we think we can beat, but not easily.  And we chase them down like a predator goes after its prey.  My choice meal is skinny girls.  I took two out in the last half mile of my last half marathon.  One was tall and thin and model pretty...teeheehee.  Don't worry--I don't maul them as I pass. They are none the worse for wear, but I am beaming.  Feels good to carry my huge ass past their smaller ones.

My new favorite mental game is talking to my ass, commanding it like a pharaoh would slaves.  And when it listens, it is my new best friend.

So when you see me walking down the street, don't assume you know me.  That round apple that swings at my hips can probably do more than yours can.  When my quads and hamstrings need a breather, it steps in like a pinch hitter.  When I am moving slowly up a steep incline and I call out to it, it clenches a little harder and pushes a little faster.  I've decided not to care what you think: me and my ass, we've become good friends.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

I am a reader thanks to my mother.
I am a learner thanks to my mother.
I am defiant against shame and humbled by responsibility thanks to my mother.
I am goofy and comfortable in my own skin thanks to my mother.
I try new things thanks to my mother.
I love bravely thanks to my mother.
She is a queen among women, but she never takes herself too seriously.
She is God’s first great gift to me, and she just keeps on giving.
Love you, Ma.
Happy Mother’s Day!

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Thanks to brightroom for the awesome race photos!

Happy at mile 5.

Still happy at mile 15.

My best little guy running me in.

The agony and the ecstasy: 26.2!
(Yes, it really hurts that bad.)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Sunday, May 1, 2011

I'm going live today.

I’m going live today.  I am posting my first blog.  I’ve been writing here and there for a month now, but I haven’t been confident enough to go public.  After all, finishing one marathon (which I managed to do last year) is a bucket list achievement, not an identity.  Today, I finished my second marathon.  Now I feel I can call myself a marathoner.  I wasn’t fast or pretty.  Still, I made it from the start line to the finish line, all 26.2 long miles.

If you want to get a sense of what that means, try this little experiment.  Head out for a Sunday afternoon drive, hit the reset button on your car’s odometer, then drive the length of a marathon.  You’ll be amazed just how far we marathoner’s can travel in a morning.  I’m amazed.

I’m not a little sprite of a human being.  I’m nowhere close to the superhuman specimens, with long strides and 10% body fat, that you’ll find on the cover of Runner’s World.  In fact, though I’ve jogged for years, and I ran my first half marathon over four years ago, I’ve only ever referred to myself as a jogger.  My first full marathon gave me the courage, the accomplishment, to own my new identity.  (No, it isn’t my only, or even my primary, identity.  I’m a mom, a wife, a believer, a teacher.  But now I’m more too.)  I am (gasp) a runner.

In this blog I’ll relay some of my experiences as a runner, and I’m going to focus on my below average status.  I don’t do this because my self-esteem is in the toilet.  On the contrary, I feel freaking awesome about myself.  I just finished a marathon, for flip’s sake!  I want to be entirely honest about how good it feels to be at the bottom of a heap that still sits on top of a much bigger heap.  Approximately 1% of the population runs a marathon at some point in life.  If I walked into a room filled with 200 random people, I would be likely to meet just one other marathoner.  Who cares if that person is probably twice as fast as me?  I’m gonna gaze around at the other 198 people who haven’t finished a marathon, and my self-esteem will balloon.

So why all the self-deprecation? Why all the talk about how slow and heavy and ugly with sweat I am when I run?  Because I want to focus on how easy...probably the wrong doable being part of that elite class--Marathoner--is.  I don’t look like a part of the 1%, but I am.  So maybe a few of you could be too.  For most of my life, I didn’t participate in sport or exercise of any kind.  My parents encouraged, supported, and paid for opportunities for me as a kid.  However, when I hit puberty and gained a little weight, and a heavy sense of shame, I figured such things were not for someone like me.  How happy I am to know I was wrong!  Exercise is for everyone.

If I have an ulterior motive, besides the obvious glory I’m heaping on myself, it is that I’d love to see more runners like me out there. We have more blob than bounce in our butts, and our abs resemble the jiggle of jello not a six-pack.  But if I can do it, maybe so can you.  I’m done leaving the thrill of victory to the jocks and gym rats; I want to lead an army of fat marathoners!

Oh, and in case you are wondering, I ran my first marathon (Top of Utah, September 2010) in 5:00:43; I ran my second marathon, (Colorado Marathon, May 2011) in 4:46:21.  Go me!