This blog post is roughly six months overdue. Six months ago, I participated in the Powered With Pride 5K. I posted about my race goals here, but I’ll refresh you: My C goal was to finish the race, my B goal was to beat my time from March, and my A goal was to finish in under 45 minutes.
That’s what I said my goals were, anyway. In reality, I had no intention of “just finishing” and I only put that as a goal to try to make myself seem less cocky.
I have sat down to write the story of the race about 50 billion times since June, but I’ve never been able to quite pin it down. The race was more than a “fun run” or something to do on a Saturday morning for me. I had bound up all these hopes and expectations for myself and pinned them on that one day. Not only finishing the race, but beating my previous time, was meant to be a symbol- that my weight would not hold me back from anything I wanted to do, that I was making progress on my journey to fitness, that I could do something people half my size wouldn’t consider. As a fat person, i had something to prove- to myself and to everyone else.
So I did successfully complete my C goal by finishing the race. But I missed beating my previous time by a couple minutes- I don’t even know how many now. I crossed the finish line crying, exhausted and bitterly disappointed. Then I went home and decided I needed some time to “process” what had happened before I blogged about it. I wanted to be honest about my disappointment, but my writing came out all bitter and mean. When I tried to put a bit more positive of a spin on the day- because there were lovely things about it!- it came out much peppier than I actually felt, and that didn’t feel quite right either. So I just kept processing.
This blog doesn’t have enough readers to form an angry mob, even if they were angry that I had failed to post a race summary. I’m sure no one is holding their breath, waiting on me. It feels silly to be writing this now, as if someone were. But, this blog post has felt like a piece of unfinished business and for my own peace of mind, I want to wrap it up.
So here is a really brief summary of the actual race:
The hardest thing about the day was the heat- it was muggy even at 8 in the morning, and since I had been avoiding training in the heat, I guess I should have expected that heat would negatively impact my race time. I still managed to believe right until the bitter end that I was going to make my B goal. Optimistic or delusional… probably a little of both.
The best thing about the day was the company. My family attends Highland Baptist Church, which is close to the location of the race, and many of my church friends showed up to race or cheer.
It was nice to run with so many friendly faces, and also to learn that I go to church with so many runners! (Some of them are REALLY fast, and all of them passed me by many lengths.)
In retrospect, I wish I would have never made beating my previous 5K time a goal at all. I didn’t really understand how these two races were not really comparable- one flat and cold, one hilly and humid. Also, I haven’t done enough races to even know what a “normal” race time is for me. It could have been a fun day of running with friends, but instead I chose to make it into a crazy competition with myself- and I am not a very sportswoman-like competitor, it turns out!
After the race, as things were winding down, a woman approached me while I sat in the park, still trying to catch my breath. “My friend and I were watching you run… you ran a really good race.” I mumbled something that was supposed to be gracious, but probably was mostly me complaining about not making my goal. She insisted. “You kept a really good pace through the whole race. We were really impressed. You inspired us.” I thanked her, but inwardly I was seething as much as my exhaustion would allow for.
As a fat person, I have this weird love/hate relationship with being called an inspiration. I do not want to be someone’s inspiration porn. I didn’t feel like I should get extra credit for running while fat- especially when I didn’t even properly train for the race. “What exactly is inspirational about failing to adhere to a very simple training schedule?”, I grumbled to myself.
Over the last few months though, I’ve had the humbling experience of having to admit that for a person who hates being called an inspiration, I sure have put myself in a position in life where people have plenty of opportunities to admire me. I started this blog, for one thing. I run a weight loss support group in my office. I post frequently about myself and my accomplishments on a weight loss message board. I share articles about health and fitness on Facebook. I do all these things through the lens of the Health At Every Size movement, and sometimes I’m sure my intentions are good. Sometimes I think I’m even helpful, maybe- but there’s this insidious thread underlying it all of needing to prove my worth.
The other day I was praised by several people at a work potluck for not choosing to eat all the “unhealthy” food available. I was being soooooo good, in their minds. In reality, I had simply chosen not to eat potluck food because I had failed to bring a dish to share, and I already had my own lunch that I really wanted to eat- a breakfast casserole, which, by the way, was not “healthy” by any stretch of the imagination!
I’ve been blessed to see this year that for the most part, people see what they want to see when it comes to my fat body. Some of them are kind folks who love me and want the best for me, so they are inclined to praise any step they see as a “right direction” for me. And yes, there are some people who don’t care for my fat body, or anyone else’s, and they would really prefer to not see me enjoying food or exercise or… life in general, I guess. Either way, these ideas don’t have much to do with me personally- they are shaped by that person’s life experiences and what they believe about themselves and the world around them.
Realizing how little their reactions have to do with me has been truly freeing. I don’t have to live for people’s praise, or fear their criticisms. I am not under any obligation to prove anything to anyone- even myself! I don’t have to justify my fat body by standing sentry over a food diary all day, or by exercising myself into the ground. I genuinely enjoyed running, but it turned out that forcing myself to do it for long stretches of time was pretty hard on my extremities. Nothing is fun for long if it hurts. I can be positive about my body, and also have realistic expectations for it.
I’m not living by these ideas perfectly, but it’s been a good start.
When I picked the word “Finish” as my Verb for 2014, I was thinking about getting shit done and getting to the end of the year with a pile of accomplishments- races run, craft projects completed, life going according to plan. Instead, I think I got finished with some attitudes that were hurting me. For that, I am truly grateful.