Thursday, October 11, 2007

gettin' up on my fat runner soapbox

I had to get up on my fat runner soapbox again today. It's interesting because I actually feel like I've been passing as "not fat" a lot more this year, between getting a little thinner and moving from a residential college campus full of rich young northeastern disproportionately white people back to Chicago and the work world that has a lot more body size diversity (and frankly, people are just fatter on average) which I think has something to do with the region, class, and age make-up of people I am around. However, I think I still definitely count as fat among runners. Heck, I'm slower with the same or more effort sometimes (I could probably leave those skinny people in the dust if they had another 50 pounds strapped on them), and I'm in the largest of 4 Clydesdale (bigger runners circuit, which is an awesome idea) categories for females.

I wanted to re-write this to make it more in my own voice and ass-kicking rather than what I tailored so that this columnist might be able to hear me and I might have a chance of getting printed. But I really need to get to studying or sleeping, and I think that kind of perfectionism prevents me from posting as much as I'd like to (ahem, see the last 2 months), especially when I'm busy. So here goes:

Regarding Phillip Hersh's comments (October 9, "A Saner, Safer Race) I agree with your point that a marathon is strenuous and runners should be well-prepared (although this does not absolve race organizers of the mismanagement that resulted in stations running out of water and Gatorade on a dangerously hot day). However, your comments about who "looks" like they can run a marathon were inaccurate and disrespectful. You cannot see by looking at someone how many training runs they have done.

I have never done a marathon, but I have done many shorter races, and despite training adequately and eating healthy food, I was still fat. I'm only running a few miles a week now, but I bike 50-60 miles a week, and yep, I'm still weighing in with a fat BMI of 29. The only way for me to become a skinny person that "looks" like a runner would be to go on a strict diet for years, and I actually enjoy my body and don't have enough self-loathing to want to do that. I'd rather put my energy into exercising, enjoying my life and taking care of my health.
EDIT FOR BLOG ENTRY: Screw that, I'd literally have to get myself a full-fledged eating disorder (for both physical ability for that to be possible and the attitude I'd have to have to dislike my body enough/be driven enough to have that kind of discipline) to be able to do that! I'm never going to "look" like a runner with that definition. Nor do I want to.

There are lots of us fat runners out there that "deserve" to be racing. I'm sure some of the fat runners trained adequately and were well-prepared at the starting line last Sunday, and some weren't. Just like the skinny people - some were prepared, and some of them weren't. Being skinny does not mean you are in shape to run a marathon. Being bigger does mean that you probably won't be able to run as fast as skinny people, but it absolutely does not automatically mean you are unprepared and should not be running. The Clydesdale circuits (the Chicago Area Runners' Association includes the Chicago Marathon) for bigger runners recognize this, and provide a forum for bigger runners to compete. See

Additionally, if being heavier puts a runner at risk for anything, it is joint problems, not dehydration. Anyone who pushes their body too hard on an 88-degree day puts their health at risk.



Amylia said...

thank you for this post, and for publishing it, despite it not being exactly what you'd like it to be.

i applaud you for writing it, and for doing the races you've done. my sister raced multiple marathons as a non-skinny person, and i did a half marathon for the ada in kona, hawaii, which was brutal, but y'know, i did it. i am NOT a real runner, and actually don't like running (though i love the feeling afterwards), but i think there is a major misconception about being in shape.

by asian and even some american standards, i am fat, but i am in shape a lot more than most of the taiwanese people i see walking around the streets of taipei here. they are the skinniest folk i've ever seen, but so unhealthy in their eating habits and their exercise (read: little to none).

i hope people stop assuming things based on looks alone. i doubt it will happen, but i sure hope people don't automatically assume i am not in shape because my bmi is 29. i also hate the line "you don't look sick" when they find out i am diabetic. grr...don't get me started on that.

hope you post again soon.

Denise said...

Hi, Glad to hear I am not the only one who excerise my put off and can't lose the weight. I am a walker, i walked my first half marathon on Sunday (Oct. 7) And you are right about the race people being responsible for the water station. I was doing great on Sunday until the 11th mile when there were no water station between the 10 and 11th mile. That was when I got into trouble. luckily I came upon a truck of race people and as for water and was givin a small glass of it. But it was enough to make it to the 12 mile water station. I finished the race. But just did manage to make it to the car before i went down. Needless to say I finished to race but the weather sucked. Thanks for the post. And hang in there, we fat girls keep warmer in the winter.

Bad Decision Maker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bad Decision Maker said...

amylia - thanks!!
also, i never understood who is a "real runner" - i guess i consider myself a runner even though a lot of people who don't consider themselves "runners" run a lot more often or farther or whatever than i do. i guess it's all in how you self-define.
also: you did a half marathon - congrats! and i would LOVE to talk to you sometime about strategies for blood sugar etc. every year when i watch the chicago marathon (even though it was totally brutal this year), i think to myself: marathon not for me, but i wanna do a half! although my knees probably can't handle it and i'm really busy right now, i tentatively have my eye on one in green bay, WI in the spring.

denise: congrats on your half-marathon. did you do it here in chicago or was it just hot were you were too?

to be honest, right now i'm not really trying to lose weight (in the past i often was), and that's not the one of the main reasons i exercise my butt off. but i do appreciate the idea - some of us will be fat or bigger no matter what we do (aside from getting sick or going to drastic possibly unhealthy extremes physically or emotionally). that's one of many reasons i decided to stop trying to lose weight and just learn to enjoy my body in the here and now.

and hell yeah we do stay warmer in the winter!! very convenient for those cold winter afternoon walks or runs outside :-) my belly does it's job of keeping me warm.