Not Your Picture-Perfect Runner

I’m not your picture-perfect runner.

I’m not lanky. I don’t wear skimpy running clothes. I’m not 12% body fat.

I’m your average, 31-year-old mother of two who wears two jean sizes larger than her honeymoon skinny jeans. I work full time. I grab processed snacks too often. I love chocolate and anything that takes the edge off of stress.

I run when I can and often, sleep takes priority over going on a morning run.

(No, this isn’t a bash-fest, keep reading).

This was me my sophomore year in high school.

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I thought I was chunky…maybe I was compared to the other girls who, I thought, looked like runners. In any case, I was on the bubble between the JV team and making the Varsity team to earn my much-sought-after letter jacket. Still, the feeling was there and I struggled with my body image as a runner and linked it to my performance. Must be thin to be fast. Must be thin to be fast.

I knew where the mantra had come from.

I became a runner when I was 12. Taunting and teasing from my peers was frequent and the “nicknames” were cruel.

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I did my best to overcome the names, and my parents encouraged my interest in running since they were runners themselves. The Marine Corps will do that to you.

Fun runs in elementary school turned into joining the cross country team in junior high. I entered 7th grade with the addition of glasses (turned contact lenses), braces and the constant reminder of the 5-7-9 stores I couldn’t shop in for baby doll shirts and short, pleated skirts. Running changed that.

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The cycle continued through high school and on through college. Must be thin to be fast. Must be fast to be a “good” runner.

Amazingly, the whole time, as I worked my tail off, did exactly as my coaches said and what the running plans told me to do, I overlooked how my hard work and discipline helped me achieve my success. Often, I missed out on relishing the victory as much as I could have, wondering how much faster I could have been if I had been born with a different body type.

I’m not sure if that’s all been undone over the years, but two kids later, my confidence is certainly far stronger than those early high school years. I’m proud that I can run marathons. I’m proud that I’m keeping my body healthy with *semi* regular exercise. Running has been the discipline I’ve been able to take with me at any stage of my life no matter where I go.

Now, as I prepare for the Boston Marathon, the old voice tries to creep in to remind me that I’m not thin; I’m not fast.

That’s okay.

I have a strong body. I have a strong mind. I have discipline and control.

I enjoy breathing in fresh air, the feeling of accomplishment at the end of a run (even if I’m totally beat up), and surprising people (who, I assume, don’t think I quite fit the marathon-runner prototype they envision).

I love me and I will always be a marathon runner.

No matter what my size.

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