Running is not something I do for others. I totally get it that people use their athleticism to raise money and awareness for charities. I do volunteer work too – just not while I’m running. Maybe it’s a selfish thing. Maybe I need running to just be mine.
I did raise $4,000 for each of my marathons, for the Leukemia Society’s Team in Training but I’ll admit, I did it for the training. I asked others to donate and they did. But the marathons were mine. I didn’t have a personal connection to the charity. I finished the marathons for myself.
Recently I showed up for a charity race and even forgot to bring my toy donation. I was joking this morning about how people run for cancer kids, and I run for pizza. People run for fallen heroes and I run for my next beer. People run to find a cure for Parkinson’s, or for autism awareness and I run to burn off cake. I run to burn energy and to gain energy, and it’s always for myself.
I started running to lose weight, to get in shape, to prove that I could be the athlete I wanted to be, to be an attractive person on the outside, to figure who that person was who had become buried under 100 pounds of extra weight.
That's me. I know, right?
Maybe my goal was so big that I couldn’t give anything to others. Maybe I had to keep it all to myself so I could survive. So I ran for pizza. And beer. And cake. I ran to burn energy and to gain energy, always for myself.
A girl in my running group named Jennifer is running to get in shape too. She has challenged herself with “Running the Year” – 2016 miles in 2016. Whether she achieves the 2016 miles or not, she is out there, getting the miles in, day after day, running for whatever she is running for.
Yesterday she was out on a run she and overheard a conversation that two other runners were having behind her that one can only assume they thought she could not hear. They were discussing Jennifer’s weight and looks. “You see that fat girl in red? You don’t want to become like that...” And they went on.
I’m sure they didn’t mean for her to hear them. I’m sure they would be horrified to know that she did. We all know, she knows, to brush comments like that off. To let them go. We can rationally understand that this is a shortcoming of theirs, and has nothing to do with her. But she heard it. And it hurts. Badly. I know. You want to forget comments like that. You try. You know you should. You are tougher than that. You’re better than they are. But you hear it over and over in your head.
I heard Jennifer’s story and it took me back to a similar experience I had at a lacrosse game in college. I managed the men’s lacrosse team, and at this particular game my brother’s university had come to play a game at my school. One of the guys on my team was taunting my brother during the game, as guys do in team sports sometimes. He was trying to get my brother riled up on the field. Nels Benson was his name. I remember his name all these years later just like I remember his comment. He shouted over to my brother “What about your fat sister!?”
I did become really fat.
I wasn’t motivated to lose weight until many years later when I had gained even more weight. I never forgot the feeling, the hurt, the shame that that comment brought me. Nels apologized. I’m positive he meant nothing by it. I know that by even repeating the comment now I give it power that it doesn’t need. I know he wasn’t thinking, he certainly didn’t mean for me to hear it, and only meant to rile up my brother in order to distract him during a game.
In a weird way, these days, I happily let the comment have some power. Of course I have a lot more confidence now. I may not be able to forget what he said, but I can understand that it isn’t important. Even though it’s a part of my life, it didn’t shape my life. I shaped my life. I allowed myself to become 100 pounds overweight and I chose to do something about it. I became a runner. I became an athlete. I run for pizza. And beer. And cake. I run to burn energy and to gain energy, and it’s always for myself. Sometimes after a great run, I’ll remember what he said, I’ll recall that moment, let the hurt wash over me and then let the joy of the present moment take over. I’ll feel so happy that I’ve made it this far. That I am no longer fat. That I am a work in progress. That I lost 75 lbs, not because of Nels’ comment, but in spite of it. That I still have a ways to go but I know I can do it. I run to live.
There are very few photos of me that do not include beer. Because beer is delicious!
I am motivated by pizza and beer and cake and positivity and I gain strength from positive experiences instead of living in the shadow of a negative comment made pretty much unintentionally, years ago. But it's not easy to forget. I learn from people like my friend Traci who I met through running. She taught me that I can do anything. I can achieve any goal. I can lose weight, learn to run, I can learn from hurtful comments, I can climb mountains, whatever I want to do. I learn from both but Traci's amazing outlook is in my thoughts much more often.
That's my friend Traci and me meeting up for a run. Traci is amazing and I'll write a blog entry about her one day soon.
Another girl in my running group decided to set up a virtual run for Jennifer to show her that there are a lot of people out there who support her. Today everyone in my group who participates will wear red and simply log miles to support her, to make her feel less hurt, to let her know that people care. To let her know that she can do anything.
We all have our motivation to run. To run for the cancer kids. To run for fallen heroes, to run for a cure for Parkinson’s, for autism awareness, or just so we can stay alive ourselves. I run for pizza, for beer, for cake. I run to live and it's always for myself. And today I’ll put on something red and run for Jennifer as well.