My last entry was about where my heart is and how our physical flaws should not prevent us from celebrating who we are on the inside. I showed photos of myself from a couple of different races and my shorts fit so that the stretched hanging skin was not visible. When I wrote that entry, I had run several race distances: 5k, 15k, 10 miler, 20k, and half marathon.
I am proud to be a mother of three sons. I am proud to say that I worked hard to regain confidence in my physical appearance and in my athletic capabilities. (Actually, I had no athletic capabilities before I was a mother- but that is another story.) I earned my position at every starting line with my own drive and determination. This year (the year that I turn 36) I decided I was ready to raise the bar. Did you ever just get the feeling that even though something seemed nearly impossible that you could do it? When something within you that you can’t describe steadfastly believes that you can?
I began training for my first marathon in February of this year. For those who do not know, a marathon is 26.2 miles long. Any other race that is not 26.2 miles is NOT a marathon. Only 1% of the population ever completes a marathon. I used to say I would never do it. But this year, something made me certain that I could. I know a few people who have completed a marathon. They are not better or stronger or more capable than me. If they could train hard and get it done, then there was no sensible reason to say that I could not. I was on fire for this goal. I knew it was going to be difficult and feel impossible at some points but I also know something about myself: if I want it enough, I will get it. (And I am not better or stronger or more capable than anyone else who aspires to a goal. If you want it- whatever “it” might be, start working. If you don’t stop working even when it sucks, then you will get it.) Wishing for, wondering, thinking about or planning is not the same as WORKING to get it. Once I stopped all that and started working, unsurprisingly, I got results.
I ran my first marathon in Lake Placid, NY (that’s right- Adironacks!) on June 12, 2011. I ran the whole thing (with the exception of a few steep downhill portions) and finished strong. Every mile was dedicated to someone I loved and that is what kept me going for 26.2 miles of rolling hills. The runners that surrounded me were such an inspiration. Every person that steps out to the start impresses me. I don’t care if you finish in 3 hours or 8 hours. Everyone has a reason for why they are there that goes deeper than the actual physical run. What an honor to stand among all of these bold determined people and begin this grueling but glorious journey together.
All types of people run. It’s fascinating and liberating to see that sheer will and determination has no standard shape or size even for this extreme distance. If you want it, get it, right? Don’t wait until your belly is perfectly flat. Don’t wait until your arms are toned. Don’t wait until you are a size 4. You’ll always find some other flaw anyway so celebrate who you are inside AND outside now. This was part of the reason I decided to run a marathon- I wanted my body to do something amazing. I wanted to feel what it is like to believe and endure and keep moving (literally) toward my goal even when it seems impossible and even when I didn’t want to keep going. To believe beyond reason when the only reason to believe is to show yourself that you can- that you will- if you want to enough.
During this race, I noticed something. There were very few who were not lean or aesthetically ideal who stripped down for the sake of comfort. I tend to take the “when in Rome do as the Romans do” stance on things, so I did not shed my top layer. This was mainly because I was wearing new shorts that seemed to ride lower than I’m used to and I didn’t want to be self conscious of the stretched skin on my stomach while I was running. I was hot. Then it down poured for 40 minutes and I was soaked to the bone. But I ran in a soaking wet shirt instead of bearing it in my sports bra and shorts like so many others did.
What if I didn’t care? What if the others who weren’t “perfect” didn’t care either? What if we showed the world and the media that we are happy with who we are and that we don’t need to hide or alter our bodies to feel amazing and alive? Why do I care? I’m a mother. I’m proud of what my body has accomplished and I’m happy to tell any woman that I love my body even though I am flawed from pregnancy and I am always willing to show her if she doesn’t believe me. I actually thought about this for awhile I was running and wondered how I could change this. How could we all change it and remove the silly notion that women’s bodies are better when artificially modified? Am I the only one that thinks it’s silly to wear a bra that pushes your breast up to your neck? Wouldn’t it be frightening if your boobs were really that high? Wouldn’t it be tiresome to have to hold your baby up to them while nursing?
Anyway, I crossed the finish line and was overjoyed and beyond proud. This was the moment that I spent months training for. This was what running over 400 miles during training was all about. No one did this but me. So I had to do something even more amazing. I registered for another marathon just two weeks after this one. I wanted to qualify for a Marathon Maniacs membership and one way to do that is to run two marathons in 16 days or less.
I found myself in Pennypack Park in Philadelphia, Pa two short weeks later struggling through the same distance. It was much hotter (mid 80’s) and I was literally drenched in sweat by mile 9. I saw the same trend- the lean, tight-bodied, and young stripped down so as to be more comfortable in the heat. The chubby, old, and disproportionate tended to stay covered, with rare exception. I had already decided that I would strip down too. Who else was out there running their second marathon (ever) just two weeks after their first? Who else among these runners raised on a diet of ramen noodles, rice, and canned vegetables who barely passed phys ed and never dared to participate in school sports? Who else had three children and was in the best shape of their life just as these children are entering adolescence?
So I did what I should’ve done in Lake Placid. I took my top layer off. I purposefully wore the same shorts that were too low to hide my lower abdomen. AND I purposefully wore a sports bra that had no padding/enhancement/etc. If I don’t fearlessly do this, what am I saying to myself? That I’m not good enough? Why? Because I didn’t see the purpose of having a surgeon implant sacks of saline into my chest? Because I believe it’s illogical to have a surgeon carve out the skin that stretched during of the precious time that I carried my sons? I need to mull over the previous paragraph again if any part of me believes that I’m not good enough. No one needs to hide. Yes we should all strive to improve. Better yet- strive to do something amazing. Something that amazes you. Something you have always wanted to accomplish or something you never thought that you could do. Work your ass off. Do not give up. Take all the time that you need. But for goodness sakes, do not hide. If you love who you are and who you strive to become, please do not hide what is inside or outside. Bear it. And be grateful and proud. Who’s with me?