Monday, April 18, 2011

Fat girl running

I've been putting off this post. Just like I put off my running.

It had been about 3 weeks since I'd actually joined in on a Saturday long run. I'd managed a few runs on the treadmill and also the Oakland 5K, but no group long run. So it was no wonder that last Saturday I was nervous as we split into pace groups. What if there wasn't a group for me?

As pacers held up their signs, I scanned them for a timed mile that reflected my current walk/run pace. The woman at the far end had a sign that said 13:00-14:00 minute mile. I joined her (I was the only one) and let her know about my "break" from the training runs.

She reassured me and said we could go at whatever pace I felt comfortable. We started out our 6 miles running, and continued without stopping for about a mile and a half. Occasionally we would catch up with a few other runners who had stopped to stretch or have water. For the most part though, it was just she and I.

Our run was through the Lower Haight and included multiple hills (which I mostly walked) and a few famous SF landmarks.

Hello Haight/ Ashbury.

Hello delicious sounding treats.

I ran more than I anticipated on the way out to the 3-mile turnaround mark. Once we'd stopped at 3 miles, I had so much trouble getting started again. My legs felt a bit like they had bricks stuck on them. After walking about a mile or so, I felt brave enough to try running again, despite my leaden feet.

"I can run to that corner," I would tell myself as I eyed the upcoming intersection. "Run to that tree," I convinced myself. My confidence started feeling boosted and I reminded myself to be proud of myself for being out there on such a gorgeous (and early) Saturday morning.

We were about a half mile from the end of our run when I saw him. When we were first heading out at 8 in the morning, there weren't too many folks up and on the street yet. But by the time we'd turned around and headed back, the streets were starting to buzz with energy and city noise. The guy was about a block ahead of us and I probably wouldn't have even thought twice about him. We were on a wide sidewalk and didn't need to negotiate a pass by. We just needed to pass each other and be on our way. No exchange necessary.


He shouted the word with a venomous hiss.

"hey..." My response reflected my shock and was more squeak then actual word.

Since we were running past him when he shouted it, I was now a few steps beyond where he was. I turned my head in surprise and confusion and when I did so, he was there, staring at me.
"Gordaaaa." He spit the word at me again.

"You speak Spanish?" The pacer asked me.
"I speak enough to know he just called me Fatty."

I know how to curse in Spanish (and a few other languages), but as he hurled the insult at me I came up short. I had nothing. My energy was already almost totally depleted and I was there running by, raw, vulnerable... and fat. Yup, it's true. I'm fat. He didn't exactly lie. But why did he have to say anything at all?

I didn't know him. I hadn't ever seen him before. I did nothing to insult him, except I clearly insulted his sensibilities as I ran by on the busy San Francisco street at 9:30 in the morning on a Saturday.

I hated that it bothered me so much.

We made our way back to the starting point and there was a brunch waiting for everyone. I ate half a bagel, finally tried the infamous Chobani yogurt, and drank some juice. I stretched, thanked my pacer, and made my way back to my car.

Then I just sat there... mulling.

Maybe I can find him. Maybe he'll still be walking down the street and I can throw a rotten egg at his head. No that won't work.
1) I don't have any rotten eggs with me.
2) I have terrible aim.
3) It wouldn't actually make me feel better. Not in the long run anyway.

So there would be no egg throwing.

Instead there would just be more... mulling.

I've talked to some friends of size who loathe the idea of heading to the gym. To workout in public is totally out of the question. But I've never felt that way. I have felt a bit nervous, but it's only lately that my mere presence on the city streets has provoked such audible outpourings.

If I didn't workout, you would call me lazy. And if I do workout, you find it somehow okay to call me fat. As if I don't know it. As if I need you to tell me that my red face and jiggly stomach is having a rough time finishing up mile 6. I don't need you to tell me that.

Screw you man in the car calling me fatty. And screw you man on 16th calling me fat.
I'm going to keep running even if it offends your sense of right and good and normal. I'm going to continue the radical act of exercising outdoors, even if I am not in shape (yet) and even if I'm fat. Run on fat girls, run on.


  1. Bravo, bravo! Applause, applause! You have guts and grit and determination, you are an amazing, talented, woman who is taking charge of her life and changing it for the better. I am so glad you didn't let some jerk, who probably needs to tear someone else down to make himself feel better, ruin all of the progress you are making. John Wayne once sent Barbara Walters a telegram that said "Don't let the bastards get you down". Remember that the next time some jerk feels compelled to make a crude remark.

    Be proud of yourself and have a blessed and beautiful Easter!

  2. Thanks Debbie for such a sweet and encouraging comment!!! I will most certainly remember that line =)
    Thank you!

  3. Found your blog through scale junkie!
    Don't let that man get you down or make you feel bad about yourself.
    No one ever said that runners only have to be skinny. Plus you were the one out there running making an effort, not the jerk who, like Debbie said, probably only feels like he needs to bring others down to feel something at all.
    Keep on running girl! It looks like you've worked too hard to even give him a minute of your thoughts : )

  4. Thanks Lora! I feel like I can usually shake it off, this time got me though :(
    Thanks for the encouragement. I definitely won't let him keep me from my goals!

  5. Ugh, what is wrong with people! This is like the third time I've read about someone doing this recently. Something similar happened to me once. Except instead of flat-out telling me I was fat, they (it was a group of college boys) mocked me by hooting and yelling, "Ooh, sexy!" It made me feel like complete crap. It also made me want to work hard to actually BE "sexy" so I could turn around and laugh in the faces of jerks like that one day. Annnd... well I still haven't gotten there.

    Way to go on keepin' on! Your determination inspires me!

  6. Thanks Cortney! Yeah, it's definitely hard to not let it bother you. Just so unkind and unnecessary!
    Thanks for such sweet words!

  7. Oh man. Your post made me angry reading about it b/c I have so been there. I hate that I waste any energy being hurt by what other people say...

    You are such a brave person. I am too much of a chicken to even join a gym at this time b/c of being insecure. Your attitude inspires me. I hope to be as strong as you someday!

  8. Sarah, what a totally sweet and kind thing to say. Thanks for the encouragement!

  9. why are people like that?! I'm so ticked that such an amazing workout was tainted by such a jerk. I'm so impressed that you can run for a mile and a half without stopping, that's so long! the longest I've went on my treadmill is 3 minutes and it's HARD.
    I'm more than certain you looked HOT while running, don't let one idiot taint all that you've accomplished. I'm praying your next run is sunshiny, invigorating and that every person you pass smiles at you.
    and gives you the thumbs up.
    and maybe even throws some confetti in your path. :)
    Thanks for being such an inspiration for all of us!

  10. Thank you thank you Kate :) I'll admit in the moment it did feel tainted and so writing about it and hearing all of this great feedback has been really helpful to put it in perspective. And maybe I'll bring some confetti on my next run just to get things started :)