Louise Green is a globally recognized “fit and fat” voice at the forefront of the Body Advocacy movement. She recently wrote the blog post “Pioneering Fit and Fat, which chronicles her anticipation of running first half marathon. You can follow Louise online at louisegreen.ca
It’s race day and after flying from Vancouver to San Francisco to run my first half marathon, I am already tired from the anticipation. I get up at 6:00am, brush my teeth and, with insane nervousness, lace up my shoes. I hail a cab to Golden Gate Park where they are hosting the 30th anniversary 5K and Half Marathon Race. The morning sun dawns the new day and streams through the trees. It’s February but unusually warm, the locals say. When I arrive, I feel the excitement immediately; there is a buzz of race anticipation coming from the crowd; loud talking and laughter as thousands of people move towards the big archway that marks the start and gateway to what will be one the most physically challenging days of my life. A calm comes over me and the little voice inside my head says on repeat: “You can do this, you can do this, you can do this.” I start buying it.
I inch closer, towards the long rows of tables, bustling with volunteers and runners. I find a young man behind the table who’s handing out race packages. It’s this moment that may seem subtle but speaks volumes about where our societal compass sits when it comes to the perception of larger bodies and fitness.
I give him my name and he repeats it under his breath. He looks up at me, and instantly reaches for the 5km race packages, making the assumption, without asking, that I am participating in the shorter distance. The representation of my body size communicates to him an unspoken message that I am not physically capable of running the event’s longer distance. If this were an isolated incident this article wouldn’t exist; however, it happens at every event I am apart of, and that others like me participate in. It might be an out of line comment, a surprised reaction or the articulation of an assumption about what my body is capable of. More commonly comes the perplexed look of confusion when I tell people I am a personal trainer and I own a fitness business. The well intentioned “good for you” calls echoing from the sidelines in a tone championing a toddler in potty training, further stand to signify that people consider my participation an anomaly.
I correct this young man immediately. “I am here to run the half marathon,” I say sharply. With surprise and embarrassment he says “Oh” and quickly fumbles for my race package in the other box. I take my number and the event branded race shirt that is 3 sizes too small, and walk over to my husband and stand off to the side. My excitement and the little voice cheering me on have dissipated. We stand silently waiting for the race to begin. I can’t help feeling defeated in that moment – like an impostor or someone who didn’t just train for months and for hundreds of miles.
I try to remain positive, as I know this is an integral part of a successful race.
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