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.