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Running While Big – Part 4

Training group for running

You hear horror stories about being a big girl running in public. One of the biggest advocates for plus-size running quit blogging about her experience because of the hatefulness of the “trolls” constantly berating her on the blog. Add to that, she was assaulted (more than once) by passers-by in cars hurling insults, and the occasional beer can, at her as she jogged down the side of the road.

I’ve walked in public pathways for years without any such experiences, so while the thought of being heckled publicly was a little disconcerting, that wasn’t my biggest fear. My real fear was participating in a group.

I worried about being the slowest, being the last one back from the group runs, making everyone wait around while I crawled along. I feared being judged by “real” runners, people who would look at me with disdain and think, “What’s SHE doing here?” I feared being so slow in a 5K or, god-forbid, a 10K race that the organizers would be pulling up the course before I got to the finish line.

The reality was that the sport of running and those that run novice running programs are very inclusive, non-judgmental people. And what I learned, is that most amateur runners have the same fear—the 10-minute milers worry as much as the 20-minute milers about being too slow. Unless you are a seeded-runner, a runner with an elite-level running speed, there’s always someone faster than you.

When running in public, I’ve had the opposite experience of Big Girl Running—strangers hurl praise and encouragement my way. I’ve never had so many people smile and say “Looking good,”  as I have since I’ve started running. One guy who I had passed twice on a running trail looked at me, pointing both hands at me in a move worthy of Issac from The Love Boat, and beamed, “ You are doing an absolutely fantastic job!”

I choose to accept encounters like this in a positive way, to imagine that the world is cheering me on, even though it does seem a little invasive and condescending sometimes, a sort of reverse-commenting on my size, the equivalent of a stranger patting a pregnant woman’s belly—is it necessary to get so up in my business?

The biggest cheers are often for that last person across the line. I’ll take all the cheers I can get.

In the beginning, when I started training, I always felt that I had to apologize when I would tell someone I was in a running program. I would have to explain, “Well, I actually run intervals with some walking in between,” as though claiming to be a runner was less than truthful.”

Now I claim it. I may be slow, but I’m moving forward in a rhythmic motion like everyone else, and my runner’s high is as good as the fastest among them.

Missed the beginning? Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

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