13.1. Thirteen point one. It doesn’t really seem like much when you say it. But when you say 13.1 miles it starts to mean something. 13.1 miles is the official distance of a half marathon. And I am proud to say that as of a couple of weekends ago I am officially a half marathoner. I ran them, all 13.1 miles.
About 2 years ago I started running after volunteering for a local 10k race that many of my friends participated in. After volunteering I set a goal of participating in that 10k the next year. I got a treadmill and started walking and then running. It took me a long time to get to the point where I could run for 1 mile without stopping- but I did it and I did run that 10k (6.2 miles) that year and was thrilled. Sometime early this year I set my sights on running a half marathon. I do not really know what prompted me to set that as a goal. But I did. As the time approached I got more anxious about the event and started to doubt my ability to run it, and also knew that out of sheer stubbornness I would show up and finish- even if it meant I had to walk part of it.
I’m sure I’ll get around to writing down the thoughts and events of the 13.1 miles, the thing however, that has been dancing around in my mind since the race is my reaction at the end. I was overwhelmed with emotion and started to cry. I had not expected that reaction. As I’ve thought about why I was so overwhelmed this is what I’ve come up with.
I was so very proud of myself. I set a goal and I met it. I did something that 3 years ago, heck, even 2 years ago I never would have even thought of doing. I pushed my body to carry me a lot of foot steps. I pushed myself mentally and physically past an invisible yet very real barrier that I’ve had most of my life.
See I’ve been fat my whole life. Truth be told, some of my most vivid memories are not of fun times, but rather of being made fun of, of worrying that because of my weight I couldn’t participate in an activity, or feeling like I was holding other people back because of my weight.
Honestly, one of my top 5 biggest fears and worries for my daughter is that she will end up fat like I was as a child. Children are cruel to people who are overweight. There are few among us who would ever allow our child to make fun of someone who was a different race, religion or sexual orientation or someone with a mental or physical disability. But fat people, fat people are the last acceptable group of people to be made fun of. And people don’t even realize they do it. There have been several people who after I have told them I am training to run this who have said- “You? You’re running?” “Or if you can do it anyone can.” I’m pretty sure they aren’t suggesting that if this red head can run a race then anyone can. Please do not get me wrong I have a loud and wonderful cheering section and have appreciated all of their wonderful energy.
I won’t get into the issue of struggling with your weight and all the people who say well if you just controlled yourself you’d be fine. I will simply say- show me the alcoholic or drug addict who can control themselves to have just one drink or 1 drug and not go any further, the big difference is of course, that in order to continue to live- food in some amount must be ingested every day.
When I began running I had a couple of fears- one was having a heart attack while running and two was being the last one to cross- the person everyone is waiting for, after all aren’t those two events exactly what would be expected of the fat person? To this date I have not been the last person to finish a race- I have been 2nd to last but never last- perhaps out of sheer tenacity, but it is what it is.
So back to those 13.1 miles this weekend- I carried my still overweight, and much more in shape and healthy body 13.1 miles. I was faster than people who are physically smaller than me (and who did just as awesome as I did by showing up and finishing) and I did oodles better than the people who sat home on their couches.
So I’ve concluded that those tears at the end were tears of pride and joy and relief. Pride at my accomplishments both in the race and in life, joy at completing a goal and in a way setting myself free from all of the mean and horrible things people have said, expected of me and done to me over the years because of my weight.
Photo courtesy of MaineRunningPhotos