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Bearing It (Christina Plant)

August 11, 2011

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?

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26 Responses to “Bearing It (Christina Plant)”

  1. Mary V Says:
    August 11th, 2011 at 9:23 am

    Pardon my language, but this is my reaction to your posting:
    Holy Shit, you are AWESOME!!! nuff’ said :)

  2. Lily Says:
    August 11th, 2011 at 9:27 am

    This woman is AWESOME. I did my first marathon back in October of 2010, and got pregnant right after. I cannot wait to get back to running, and had even thought about joining the marathon maniacs too… It’s awesome to see a mom out there working it!

  3. Selena Says:
    August 11th, 2011 at 9:36 am

    I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes reading your post! Congratulations and WOW…you are amazing!

    I’m a mom of 3 little girls and I just ran my first 5K last week and I felt so proud of me and of my body..yet I still would never take my shirt off and expose my stretched skin. You’re right..why? who cares?

    Thank you for writing this!

  4. Violet Says:
    August 11th, 2011 at 9:40 am

    Hurray!! You’re courage and ability to be yourself in love, is inspiring!

  5. Karla Says:
    August 11th, 2011 at 10:31 am

    What an inspiration! keep the good work!

  6. Corinne Says:
    August 11th, 2011 at 10:39 am

    Amazing post, you have done brilliantly well training to do that and look fantastic. I hate running but my sister has run 2 marathons and I am so proud of her. My smallest child is only 2 months old but I am just getting back into cycling, I’ve only been a couple of times and already feel better for it.

  7. Heather Says:
    August 11th, 2011 at 11:46 am

    This is an amazing story! Thank you so much for sharing it. I have 3 children and just started running this summer. You are truly an inspiration.

  8. Pranee Says:
    August 11th, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    You rock mama!!! That was the pep talk I needed (and others too I’m sure) after baby #4 and looking toward achieving some long term goals! Bless you!! Stay strong!

  9. Dee Says:
    August 11th, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Very inspirational. You look beautiful! And your body is obviously capable of accomplishing absolutely amazing things. :) .

  10. Susy Says:
    August 11th, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    I’m tearing up. I miss running. You are incredible.

  11. mrspetunia Says:
    August 11th, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    I am so freaking inspired by your post!!! You are an inspiration not just for stretched out mamas or women carrying a few/a lot of extra pounds but for ANYONE who feels less than ideal and hides in shame for fear that people will notice. I know that I deal with shame so much and I just struggle with the feeling that I have to put on my “perfect” face to confront the world. The one thing that makes me truly feel better is to see someone boldly reveal their “imperfections”. I worked with a woman who had male pattern baldness and didn’t wear a wig or hat or anything. She was my favorite coworker ever because I felt like if she gave herself permission to be imperfect she would accept me with all my imperfections as well. Long story short, I believe that when you bravely reveal your “imperfections” to the world you are not only doing something kind for yourself but you are doing something extremely kind and profound for everyone who isn’t perfect. THANK YOU!!!!!

  12. Jenny, maniac 401 Says:
    August 11th, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    Congratulations from one “Maniac Mom” to another, my kids are 9 and 11! It is tough to stick to your goals of marathon running, especially with kids. Way to go!
    Jenny
    Marathon Maniac #401

  13. Kym Says:
    August 11th, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    wow, just what i needed. i am trying to get my fitness back, and my body! i have had a dream of running in a marathon for over ten years, and believe that this year i can do it. i am dealing with adrenal fatigue as well so it’s hard to get my training in, but you made me more determined. and i also have terrible loose skin on my tummy, and i know i would hesitate to take my shirt off too—but i would love to feel so proud, and believe that it doesn’t matter. i would love to show others that the appreance of my body does not matter—if i am taking the time to be healthy and strong. thank you SO much for sharing. THANK YOU!!!!! you have inspired me.

  14. christina plant Says:
    August 11th, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    Thanks so much everyone! Your words are amazing.

  15. Karinda Says:
    August 12th, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Can I ask you what your plan, goals were. I am trying to get started, want to do 5k, then 10k, etc… but feel so lost as to daily/ weekly goals and I am someone who needs things really written in stone and a firm plan to be able to follow through. Any advice?? Thanks!

  16. Kat Says:
    August 12th, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    You are truly inspirational and you have an incredible talent for writing. Thank you so much for sharing your story of incredible strength and love. Your kids are very lucky to have you as their mom. I actually laughed out loud at the idea of holding the a nursing baby up to boobs that are all the way up to your neck lol!

  17. Vega Says:
    August 13th, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    I love your posts so much! I really wish you kept a blog–I’d read it every day for inspiration!

  18. Kim Says:
    August 13th, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    Holy smokes! I ran a half and couldn’t walk for a month – my IT bands are toast – WAY TO GO! I didn’t even know there were people nuts enough to do 2 marathons in a month, never mind 16 days… I’ve decided I’ll stick to 5ks while I’m still having babies (the first 2 are 2 and 6 months right now) and get back to doing 10ks when I’m done. That’s what my knees think is perfect. How stinkin’ amazing for you!!! And you’re gorgeous. I’ve never really thought of it the same way as you…. But for all the old tanned men with saggy skin running in the races I’ve done, why the heck shouldn’t we feel good enough to run in a sports bra, especially when we’re in super duper awesome shape?

  19. Ashley Says:
    August 14th, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    Awesome! I don’t know what else to say, very cool story :) And yeah, you’re a maniac lol!

  20. amber Says:
    August 15th, 2011 at 6:57 am

    love it. ::inspirational::

  21. christina plant Says:
    August 16th, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    @ vega, i do keep a blog! the people who comment who have their names in red (like mine) have websites or blogs. my blog is http://4theloveoftherun.blogspot.com

    @karinda, take a look at my blog and send me a message or post a comment there and we can get a dialogue going. I even have a post (that I wrote in May, right before the first marathon)about running my very first mile straight through 13 years ago!

  22. christina plant Says:
    August 16th, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    I’m touched by all the comments, so much so that I feel a responsibility to share with you the RISKS involved in doing something extreme. Dream big, but be careful, ladies. If this has inspired you to attempt a marathon or a Marathon Maniacs qualifier, please read my blog entry where I share what happened after the 2nd marathon:

    http://4theloveoftherun.blogspot.com/2011/07/race-report-12-sauer-12-kraut-262-be.html

    But do not let this squash your dreams or consume you in fear. Just be smarter than I was. :D

  23. Leah Says:
    August 19th, 2011 at 4:52 am

    Wonderful story and good for you for taking that top layer off. I’m not sure I’d have the same courage. I am a proud Mommy of 3 boys (ages 10, 7 and 4) and just had a little girl 9 months ago. I am currently training for my 4th marathon. I got into running after my 2nd son was born. I have watched my body change more drastically with each baby. As I type this, I just got back from a 2 hour run. I struggled this morning to figure out what to wear. What would hold in my larger than normal breasts since I’m still nursing? What will hold in my lower belly pouch? What shorts will cover my thighs as I’m still trying to lose the baby weight? We do need to remind ourselves sometimes that we should be proud of these “battle scars” of pregnancy. I definitely struggle a lot with my body image and stories like these are such wonderful reminders of how we should really feel. I randomly clicked on your story when I stumbled upon this website and immediately noticed the 3 boys and running aspect of your story. Keep it up…us Mommy runners “get it” in a way that no one else can.

  24. Elvia Says:
    September 9th, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    You are my hero.

  25. Audrey Says:
    September 11th, 2012 at 2:32 am

    you are so brave and I admire you so much. I would give anything to accept my stomach and back of my thighs. They do prevent me from doing things. I have been recovered from bulimi from over a year aafter 25 years and this seems like almost the last stubborn issue to conquor. Your are an inspiration to many women, keep writing.

  26. Kim Says:
    October 9th, 2012 at 8:01 am

    I sure hope you check the comments here from time to time, Christina. I commented a little over a year ago, and in that time have had another baby, and you run (pun intended) through my mind constantly. YOUR body is my ideal. I do 3mi/40min depending on the setting in the basement every night with my 3mo daughter watching, since I only got the go ahead from my doctor to exercise about a month ago. You have SO greatly inspired me, and hopefully I do the same for my daughters. Thank you.

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