When most people think “runner” they imagine some one who looks like this:
And justifiably so, many runners are thin. Running does burn a lot of calories. And it is hard to run if you’re overweight because (1) the extra weight makes some people (me!) more susceptible to injury and (2) go for a run with several 10 or 20 pound weight strapped to you and you quickly realize how much harder it is for an overweight person to run.
But I think the main reason that most runners are thin is that people who are “non-skinny” are afraid to run. They are afraid they will hurt themselves, that they aren’t capable, that people will make fun of them.
As a non-skinny runner, I have faced all those fears. Some have been true (I am much more susceptible to injury) and some have been false (I am capable). I’ve faced the challenges of finding running clothes that fit and are flattering and prevent “chub-rub” thigh chafing (ouch!)and shorts hiking up.
But the biggest challenge for me in being a runner (which I am) is the fear of being judged. Of having well meaning (usually) people make condescending comments or criticisms. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. Recently, an older man at the park saw me getting water at the water fountain (halfway through my 6.2 mile run) and felt the need to tell me I should drink more at night and should drink Gatorade (for the electrons he said). Then he added that it’s not just about running and drinking water, I needed to eat better to get rid of “some of that fat on my belly” (complete with belly rubbing motions to really emphasize where my extra fat was located in case I’d missed it).
So, that’s hard, right? The assumption that if I’m running and I’m not thin then I must not be a serious runner. Clearly I must be new at this and probably don’t know what I’m doing. Obviously, I’m subsisting on a diet of cheesecake and hostess cupcakes if I’m not svelte. I’ve got to say that it did hurt my feelings. And I did run a little harder the rest of the run. And I’m writing about it now to get it out there so it doesn’t sit inside bringing me down. I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.
A general word of (admittedly unsolicited and probably biased) advice: no matter your intentions (which I am sure are good), before you make a comment to a “non-skinny” runner, take a second to ask yourself if you’d say the same thing if they were thin. Would you tell a thin stranger who is running down the street on an average Saturday morning (not in a race) “good job for just getting out there”? Or “wow, you’re doing a great job!”? Even positive comments can feel condescending. A smile, nod and “good morning” is awesome and a welcome (at least here in the South) alternative that most people, regardless of their size, would appreciate.
And for the non-skinny sisterhood and brotherhood, I want to say that you do not have to be thin to be a runner. You just have to run. And to be strong enough to get out there and do it regardless of your fears. And to stick with it even if someone feels the need to point out that you don’t look like a runner. If it was easy, everybody would do it.