I Have an Imperfect Body. But it IS a Runner's Body.
In May, I came down with a cold. I did what I usually do—take a break from running to rest. I immediately turned to natural remedies like the Flu Fighter Soup from Run Fast, Eat Slow, eating all the citrus we had, and drinking ginger-turmeric tea. I joked with my husband, Scott, that I was “feeding the cold, starving the fever”.
I’d like to think that I’m “over” the body issues I dealt with throughout my teens, twenties, and a decent part of my thirties. I am proud that I’m confident enough to walk around in a bikini even though my body isn’t “perfect”. On a hot day, I’m fine with running in short-shorts and being part of the #sportsbrasquad (if you haven’t heard of this group, go check it out—it’s great). In both of those scenarios, I offer a silent middle finger to people who stare at my belly or even give me more than a passing glance. Yet I worried that, by eating too much while I was sick and not exercising, I was going to get fatter and slower. You are going to gain so much weight lying around the house this week. And then I beat myself up for the audacity of having that thought, even though part of me really believed that message to be true.
A few moments later, logic kicked in. I was sick, and exhausted from overextending myself the previous week. I needed to take a break. However, that voice inside me continued to protest. You’re going to get sooo fat if you eat bread with that soup. I felt like I was watching a tennis match between the stories I had believed about my body in the past and what I was working hard to believe now. No, you’re not. You need to eat. I sliced a baguette, covered it with lots of butter, and enjoyed every last bite. (I think crusty bread dunked in soup is soooo good.). I do believe that feeding a cold (and starving a fever) works. So eating lots of nutritious foods—broth, chicken soup, citrus, even easy-to-digest stuff like bread and butter—was the right thing for me to do.
A week later, I attended a course to be certified as a running coach, held by the Road Runners Club of America. By the end of the first day, I realized that I was the slowest, and fattest, person in the room. The tennis match started up again. The girl next to you is 14 weeks pregnant and you’ve got a bigger belly than she does! No wonder people ask you when you’re due. Everyone else here can do more miles than you, faster—and you can’t even run as fast as you could a few years ago.
However, this time I swung harder. The running nerd inside me knew that my body type and speed was more representative within the broader running community than the fast, high-achieving folks that were in that room with me. You’re here because you know there are not enough people like you in this room, and there should be.
Instead of beating myself up, I fought back, realizing that I’m so not done with my body issues—and that’s OK. I chose to show up the next day with questions about slow runners, and about what I was trying to do with Your Best Run. I showed up for myself.
And, during the portion of the course where we talked about eating disorders, I raised my hand. I shared part of my story about struggling with body image issues. I expressed my belief that the broader running community—especially coaches—needs to be aware of how many runners deal with this inner fight, and how that intersects with food, nutrition, and exercise. I walked home feeling proud that I spoke up for the people like me, who might never BQ or have a flat belly.
Afterwards, one of the women in the course told me, “You need to be in every group picture, so that you see that your body is just as fit as everyone else’s.” Initially I wasn’t sure how to feel about her comment. But ultimately, I decided that she was trying to help me. I do want to be in every group picture. To show myself, and the world, that my body—like yours and so many others—is an imperfectly awesome runner’s body.