I started running about 18 years ago. It was a shock not only to society, but to myself as well. Up until that point the only type of run in which I was known to partake involved a liquor store. But somewhere around the end of grad school I took up real running. Not because I wanted to become athletic, nor because I wanted to get the upper-hand on that heart disease gene, no, I started running because I was fat. Really fat. And after a little number crunching it became clear that the best way to shed some pounds quick was to hit the pavement and if there’s anything a good old red blooded American chub wants, it's a quick fix. It worked. I lost a ton. Ok, not a whole 'ton' but it felt like a 'ton'. But more than that, I learned to love running. I loved it so much I kept on running just like Forest Gump.
There are a lot of reasons to love running. Personally, the big ones for me were to burn lots of calories so I wouldn’t feel guilty about that extra glass of merlot, a firmer butt and that unspoken sense of superiority that comes with running.
Back then I had very strict rules for my running.
1. I run alone. Don’t suggest that we go running together because it’s not going to happen. That is my time to clear my head and let my wind just totally wander. This rule was hard and fast for one real reason - I was fat when I started and have been varying degrees of chubby for the past 18 years. Ain’t no way I was ever going to share the sound of my wheezing and thighs slapping together with anyone.
2. I don’t do races. To be honest, 5Ks and Color Runs weren’t so cool back then but even if they were, refer to the wheezing and thigh situations mentioned above and it’s clear why I chose to never participate.
3. I can stop and walk whenever I want, guilt free and still call it running. My sport, my rules.
But that was all before The Midget, The Nugget and the Turk. I’ve had to take a few breaks from running in recent years. First when living in Turkey. My father-in-law told me that no self-respecting Turkish girl would be seen running just for sport, and thus I should not run in public either. “Women do not make sport like that here Margaret. That is for Americans. You will get robbed. You will be killed. No running here.” He had a flare for the dramatic, but as a stranger in a strange land, I gave the angry little sultan what he wanted and I walked instead. Upon repatriation I took up running again but those years off made it rough. And by rough, I mean the wheezing and thigh slapping reached new decibels.
I stopped again exactly one year and ten months ago when I got knocked up with The Nugget. I know, I know, there are those women who tell you to keep on running up to delivery but to that I say – screw off. That little gift of getting knocked up was a nine month excuse to rest free of guilt and though I may have become Sporty Spice 18 years ago, I still got fat girl roots. And thus I simply said, "pass the ice cream and the Netflix."
My 9 month hiatus lasted a little longer than I’d hoped after my twelve year old orthopedist decided the only way to get this old gal running again was a surgery usually reserved for those who make a career in Nikes and nylon shorts rather than chubby moms in clogs and baby slings. But I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Now after knee surgery in November, I’m finally back up to running in June. Kind of.
18 years ago after the big shed, I ran daily. I cranked up the Metallica and hit the pavement for 40 minutes of me-time. It's not nearly that easy anymore.
First, get the Midget on his bike, adjust his training wheels, make sure his helmet is actually on his giant head. Next, get the Nugget in the jog stroller, ply him with snacks and things to chew on. Make sure everyone is momentarily happy and twenty minutes later, we hit the pavement. Two steps in, stop to argue about whether it is better to go left out of the driveway or right. Two minutes after that, stop to fix a bike seat. Too high. Three steps later...nope, too low. Three minutes after that the Nugget needs a snack refill and we’re off again. Thirty seconds later, stop to pick up a sippy cup that has been thrown out of the stroller. Off we go...wait, was that a teething ring that just flew by? And we're off again, until we see a maimed butterfly. And on and on for the next forty-five minutes.
Now I rock a giant knee brace, running shoes with grass-stains from the last time I mowed the lawn and anything that will cover giant jiggling nursing boobs and ass cellulite.
Years ago I would feel the burn in my lungs and the cramps in my legs, but the desire for a tighter butt and Beyonce-like thighs would energize me to push on.
Now my Beyonce-like thighs would be covered in spider veins so who needs them? But when I feel the burn in my lungs and the cramp in my legs and am ready to stop, a giggling baby in the stroller wanting to keep chasing the maniac on a Lightening McQueen bike pushes me on.
Years ago I had different playlists for different days of the week to drive me through.
Now I keep pace to my own heavy breathing and the flapping of my miscellaneous body parts.
In short, it ain’t pretty but I’m out there. Such is the song of the chubby runner. No matter how things have changed, I’m still out there and I’m out there because I love it. I’ve never been a good runner. I’ve never been a pretty runner and even when I was at my peak form I was still a fat runner but I was running. And as that t-shirt says, “I may be slow, but I’m still ahead of you.”