Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I'm a running sinner!  I am a heretic to my own mantra, "Exercise is for everyone!"  I did the unthinkable, fell to temptation, and committed the unpardonable transgression.  I dissed another runner in my heart.

The Evergreen Town Race is a beautiful, downhill 5k & 10k that rolls through and gently down a mountain road on a golden morning once a year.  It is the prettiest scenery I've encountered in a race, and (Bonus!) it can be enjoyed at an easy, coasting slope downward.  Also, it is over after just 6.2 miles--a cakewalk for a marathoner like me.  Six miles is an easy run, a blip in my day, a roll-outta-bed, don't-give-it-a-thought jaunt.  A couple weekends ago, I gave myself the pleasure of enjoying this race.  What a delight, right?

Yes and no.  I finished strong. I ran my most strategic race yet, finishing with guts and gusto, earning a time I'm happy to call mine.  But in the middle of the race I turned into a devil.  The mountains were lovely, the amber sunlight warm but not hot.  I was running at a steady clip, a little fast--perfect pacing for race day.  Next to me was this guy, in long black shorts and a garish yellow tank.  With a belly that, on me, would have indicated a third trimester pregnancy.  He hung in there with me for 4 miles; he sweated, grunted, sucked air, and gave a woop of celebration at each mile marker at our respectable pace.  He is the kind of runner I relate to, and cheer for, and write this blog for.  He is answering the call to represent all runners--to prove anyone can do it, our bodies are made for it, and it feels better than it hurts.  And I resented him. 

On that day, during that race, I forgot the beauty around me, the power of inclusion, and the victory of just finishing.  I ignored my belief that big runners are the best thing to happen to running and health in America this millenium.  Deep in every muscle fiber and fat cell, I want everyone to feel at home in a pair of sneakers.  But on that day, I just wanted to run with the cool kids.  I didn't want to be the fat marathoner, still.

I mean, come on!  I've finished dozens of double-digit mileage runs.  I've completed a marathon or half-marathon for every digit on my hands.  I've suffered and worked sooooo much, and I'm still running next to "that guy."  Damn it!

See?  I suck.  I slipped.  My attitude did not reflect my faith--in running for all, in exercise for everyone.  This went way past a competitive spirit and into ugly-spiritedness.  Mea culpa.  I'm so sorry yellow-tank-man.  You rocked on race day!  I wish I'd said it to you during the miles we shared, or learned your name, or heard a little of your story.  It was way too easy for me to despise my idea of you, full of impression and assumption.  It's a lot harder to look down on an actual person.  My discomfort with you was really discomfort with myself.  I don't care about your gut as much as my butt, which still challenges my self-acceptance.

Having been so guilty, it seems fitting to me I'm now entering the hard stage of marathon training.  It will be my purgatory.  I will use the suffering of long runs, sore muscles, and groaning knees for purification.  Expiation, really.  I haven't just become unclean; I owe amends, restoration for wrongs.  I need to rediscover a (self-)love unaffected by size.  Time to get my heart right. 

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