Saturday, December 3, 2011

In The Woods

Today I celebrated the 2nd anniversary of the day I fell in love with trail running.

It was December 5th, 2009 and though I'd been running for about a year I'd never ventured onto the trails. I was deeply depressed because in a two week period I'd gone through an unexpected and extremely painful break-up and found out that I was losing my business due to the economy. I woke up that day, which was my birthday, and all I wanted to do was stay in bed, drink whiskey and eat chocolate. I felt sad and pathetic and alone and mad at myself for taking a chance on a relationship and a business and seeing both fail.

But for some reason I dragged my pitiful self out of bed and resolved to try the trails. My best friend had been encouraging me to go check out the Wildwood for months but I'd put it off as I focused on my fall road races. I'd just completed 3 marathons in 61 days to qualify for the Marathon Maniacs and my body felt as beat up as my heart and soul did. I thought, might as well go check out this Wildwood, just so I can say I did, and if it sucks, well I'm already miserable.

I went to what I thought was the Wildwood trailhead, but later found out was the Birch trail, and immediately headed down a steep hill. I picked my way slowly through the mud, feet slipping in my worn out road shoes, and willed myself to keep moving as I intersected with Wildwood and headed into the woods. I ran slowly, scared to death of falling on the uneven, muddy trail and as I ran I cried, I cried until I couldn't cry anymore.

Then a funny thing happened. As corny as it sounds, I felt like I was reborn that day. It took a while for the peace and beauty of the woods to seep into my soul but when it did, it washed over the hurt and the pain like cream on a burn. I felt comfort among the trees, listening to the birds, breathing in the fresh cold air and I realized that that although I was in pain, I was strong and I would survive. There in the woods I resolved to keep moving forward and make some changes in my life.

When I tried that first trail run I'd never spent much (or any) time in the woods, though I'd lived in Oregon for many years. I just didn't think of it. We didn't have woods growing up in Chicago and I didn't realize the appeal. Since that first time I ventured out to do a few miles on Wildwood I've traversed all 31 miles of that trail, and many other trails throughout the area. I love the trails and feel fortunate to be so close to so many incredible places I can run.

Running through those woods I feel happy, I feel like a child. I didn't have the privilege of a childhood, living with fear and neglect and poverty, but in the woods I'm the child I wish I could have been: young and carefree and light and happy. In the woods I feel alive.

One year later I recreated that first trail run, re-tracing my steps, and today I did that again, my annual homage to that "special day" that for once really was special. I run not only to commemorate that fateful trail run but also to celebrate another year of life, another year of being active, another year of evolving and growing.

During my first trail run I vowed to eliminate the negative people from my life and only surround myself with people who treated me the way I deserve to be treated. I resolved to work less and play more. Today I find myself surrounded by a wonderful circle of friends who share my interests and lead healthy lifestyles. We run together, go to classes, have a beer. We laugh, we share, we spend days cooped up in van doing a relay. And while I haven't found love again, I'm open to the possibility that it can happen, that it will happen some day.

Before that first trail run I didn't find a lot of joy in my running. Although I was thrilled to have qualified for Maniacs I started each race with an anxiety attack and grim determination to not embarrass myself. I had a secret fear that someone would realize I was an impostor and ask me to leave the race. I finished my races feeling only relief, no sense of accomplishment or joy, the negative voice in my head criticizing my performance. Today I start a race excited, usually surrounded by runners I know, and even when I finish last I'm thrilled to be there and actually enjoy racing. Where I used to be embarrassed by how slow I am, now I proud that I can do it. In the 2 years since I found myself on the trail, I have run farther and longer than I ever dreamed I would go, farther and longer than most people ever go. I've dug deep into myself to find the determination to keep going no matter how much it hurts, no matter how tired I am.

I've changed in other ways as well. Today as I ran I saw someone I know on the trail. Now I hardly ever go for a run or to the gym without seeing someone I know now. The old me had a very small circle of acquaintances, the new me is blessed to be a part of a large group of some of the most kick-ass women runners in Portland, to have lots of real and virtual friends on DailyMile and lots of buddies in the Maniacs.

The old me would have been embarrassed to run with people faster than me, worried they had to slow down so much. Now I regularly run with people who are several minutes a mile faster than I am. The old me wouldn't reach out to people to make plans or try new classes or go to events or attend a group even, but the new me puts herself out there.

As I ran today I reflected on all the positive changes in my life, and I felt content. I also thought about a colleague who died this week, and how fleeting this life really is. I thought about friends who have had the gift of running taken away from them, betrayed by their bodies, and I thanked my body for hanging in there with me for 44 years, even though I haven't always treated it the best, or always appreciated what it can do. I don't have the perfect body, I carry around much more weight than I should, and eat too much crap, but my body still gets me through a marathon - and farther. There are steel rods in my spine and other various issues that cause me pain, but my body perseveres through long runs and yoga and all the activities that make up this active lifestyle I love so much now.

The forest was quiet today. It was a beautiful day, cold but dry, the fog low in some places on the trail, like a children's fairy tale. Today I ran without a watch, without a thought for speed. I ran when I felt like running, I walked when I felt like walking, I stomped through puddles and up and down hills with joy. Today, like the forest, I'm alive.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Chicago Marathon Race Report October 2011

It’s been 18 years since I moved from Chicago but two things are still as true as they were the day I left:  the Golden Nugget is still serving pancakes 24 hours a day on Clark Street and it’s not the heat that kills you, it’s the humidity.

I was really excited to go back to Chicago to do my hometown marathon for the first time.  I remember years ago when I lived there I was trying to go to work one Sunday and couldn’t get there because the streets were closed for the marathon.  Sitting there in my car, weighing about 300 pounds, I was absolutely livid that they’d close the streets and inconvenience me for a bunch of “damn runners”.  If you’d told me then I’d be back almost 20 years later, 100 pounds lighter, and excited to join the “damn runners” I would have thought you were crazy.

I arrived in Chicago Friday night and immediately started eating all the foods I can’t get in Portland, starting with real pizza.  Mmmm,  Chicago pizza.  The next morning I had a breakfast skillet about twice the size of my head and we headed downtown for the Expo.  (Note to newbies: eating huge quantities of fatty food the day before a marathon is not actually your best plan).

The Chicago Marathon Expo is HUGE.  I was a little star struck as I saw people like Hal Higdon and Scott Jurek wondering around.  My brother George & I got our race packets, snagged some samples and headed over to the pasta dinner.  I’m not huge on the pasta dinner, especially when it’s the overpriced event dinner, but George wanted to check it out so I went along.  Had a mediocre dinner and went back to the hotel to get ready for our big adventure the next day.   As I started laying my clothes out for the race George asked me what I was doing.  “I’m making my flat Rose”, I told him.  “I’d better get started making my Flat Awesome then,” he replied.  No shortage of self-esteem in that kid.

After a typically restless pre-race sleep George & I were up early to get down to the start.  We walked about 1.5-2 miles to the start and I noted that I was already sweating from the humidity.  Bad sign. After several trips to the port-a-potties and some nice chats with a newbie and a really sweet fellow maniac, we were ready to roll. 

Chicago is by far the largest race I’ve ever done, with 45,000 people registered.  It took us about 35 minutes to get across the start but the energy and music made the time pass quickly.  As we approached the start line they started playing “My Kind of Town” and I sang along happily.  We shuffled across the start but it was probably a good quarter to half mile before we could start to run due to the crowd.  I took off at an easy pace. A variety of factors have contributed to my current speed being the slowest it has ever been since I started racing and I knew the heat and humidity wasn’t going to help me either so I resolved to just have fun and enjoy my foot tour of my hometown.

In his usual fashion George had done absolutely no training for the marathon and in fact had never run more than 16 miles, and that was when he was swept during last year’s marathon.  Like me he’s overweight and lacking any natural athletic talent so we both knew going in that it was highly unlikely he’d actually finish the race.  We’d decided that we’d start together and I’d drop him when he needed to slow down.  It didn’t take long. About a mile into the race we went under an overpass where a long line of guys were peeing on the wall (so rude to pee when the girls can’t!) and George said,  “Hey I’ve gotta take a leak, I’ll catch up with you.”   I laughed because I knew between my being faster and the crowds I’d never see him again.  And I never did.  He did actually get close to mile 21 before he got swept from the course so I was very impressed that he got that far.

After I dropped George I looked around and realized I was right in the 5:30 pace group.  Not my best racing strategy but for the hell of it I decided to see how long I could keep up with them since a 12:35 pace is blazing fast for me right now.  I hung on with them for 30 minutes before I cracked and I was pleased with that effort.  Then I started the gradual slow down that would last for the remainder of the race.  I alternated running and walking and later downshifted to  shuffling and walking.  I didn’t listen to any music, just enjoyed the sights and the energy of the crowd.

This race was a bit of memory lane for me…..going past Rush Street where I went to get drunk on free drinks when I turned 21…going past the Golden Nugget where you could find me eating pancakes any weekend during my 20s after the bars closed…passing restaurants and shops that I was surprised were still there…going through Chinatown and Greek town…passing White Sox park…staring at the Sears Tower which oddly enough seemed to be visible no matter where you were on the course, regardless of the direction you were going, yet it never got closer.  I also thought fondly of all the friends I’ve lost touch with over the years, or maybe only know on Facebook now, and the good times we had in the 80s and early 90s.

It seemed wherever I went on the course I was reminded of my life in Portland too….I passed a sign that said “Some day you won’t be able to do this, today is NOT that day” and thought of my friend Seth who had to retire from running…I passed a few people handing out donuts and thought of my Krispy Kreme-obsessed friend Esther…Greektown reminded me of Betty, etc.  I also thought of all my fellow chicks running the Portland marathon at the same time, especially Lynn and Liz and Amy, and focused on sending them good vibes for their own races.

I tried to talk to a few runners on the course and when several of them acted like I was crazy (and one was openly hostile to me) I was reminded of a conversation I had with my friend Andleeb about how much friendlier runners are in the northwest.  I did have a great time finally meeting fellow Maniac Dave Mari and talking to another guy who was using the race to qualify for Maniacs.

Over my summer of relays I’d made a conscious decision to focus on shorter faster runs and I started to really feel the combination of lack of endurance work and heat/humidity around mile 18.  I spent a couple miles feeling like death before I passed a handsome young man passing out beer to the runners.  “You have beer?!??”  I said in excitement.  The young hottie gave me a Miller Lite and I said gratefully,  “I LOVE YOU!”   He smiled and said,  “Well have the whole can then!”  I declined that offer, fearing my already wonky stomach would completely rebel, but that beer really perked me up.  Like Popeye’s spinach the beer gave me the boost I needed to get through the race.

I was pleasantly surprised at the crowd support at this race.  Seemed like on nearly every block there were cheering spectators, people passing out water or food or beer or jello shots (seriously) or people sprinkling you with garden hoses to cool you off.  It was awesome.  And did I mention the hottie with the beer?

As generally happens for me I had a nice spurt of energy right at the end so I could put in a nice kick at the end.  I cruised across the finish line hot, chafed, sunburned, tired but really really happy.  Later I heard that a young fit runner had died right before the finish line and I was doubly grateful that I’m healthy enough to do marathons, regardless of speed, and most of all I’m grateful that I can enjoy them.

After the race I decided I was too wiped to walk back to the hotel so I wandered a few blocks away where my chances of getting a cab would be better.  After a few minutes an open cab came by and I saw that another runner and I had both waved to it at the same time.  I sprinted to that cab and snatched it, much to the dismay of the other runner.  Noting to myself that this was by far the fastest I’d moved all day I said to the disgruntled woman, “You’ve gotta be faster if you want a cab around here!”.  Just goes to prove that you can take the girl out of Chicago but you can’t take Chicago out of the girl. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rose & Margaret's Belly Dance Experiment

A recent Running Chicks ab work challenge has reminded me that I need to do some serious core work.  So when my sister Margaret suggested we try out a belly dancing class at our local 24-Hour Fitness, it seemed like a great way to work our abs and have fun doing it.

I love music and dance and it’s one of my great disappointments in life that I have absolutely no skills in either.  That did not keep me from being a fixture in my gym’s zumba class until it got so crowded you couldn’t move anymore. 

Here’s one of many things my sister and I have in common: we both lack some key ingredients that make for a successful dance class.  Things such as grace, rhythm, coordination and the ability to move our hips independently from the rest of our trunk.  Nonetheless, we decided to take the risk and headed to the gym.

Fortunately it was a small class where it was easy to see what was going on.  We started by walking in a circle with “sexy hips”.  That’s where it all started to go bad.   We gradually added on different hip rolls and twists, arm movements, grapevine steps.  First the teacher would demo, then we’d do them slowly for a while, then faster, then we started putting the pieces of the dance together into a sequence.  Let’s just say I felt sorry for anyone behind us.  I can’t tell you how many times I realized either Margaret or I (or both of us) were facing the wrong direction.  Or doing the totally wrong thing.  Ooops. 

I had a sneaking suspicion that all of our moves looked the same.  The instructor would roll her hips, then shake them, then glide,  and I’d look in the mirror and while I was carefully trying to mimic her and felt like I was doing the same thing, I appeared to only be swaying my hips side to side with the jerky movements of one of those funny toys we had in the 70s, the ones that were birds and they’d bob up and down drinking out of a glass.  Very magical when you were a kid.  My hip movements?  Not so magical.

It was particularly entertaining when we started doing movements where our chests were supposed to move while our hips either stayed stable or did something different.  Ha!  That was so not happening.  Judging by my sister’s progress in that area,  I’m thinking we might have some genetic mutation that makes it impossible to move our hips and chests in different directions. 

I spent much of the class imagining I was in an episode of The Great Fitness Experiment and wondering when Charlotte was going to jump in and do the splits.  (If you haven’t read this book and blog, check it out, it’s awesome! You can find it at

But here’s the thing: just like Charlotte and her “gym buddies” we still had fun even when we sucked.  It was very non-judgmental kind of class.  No super skinny super serious “you’re all losers if you’re not as good as me” kind of chick in the class.  You know what I’m talking about, she’s in your yoga or body pump class acting like she’s better than the instructor.  Fortunately our class was just a bunch of regular women laughing and dancing and using our sexy hips.  And that made it totally fun.  Add to that a feeling of soreness in my waist and abs that tells me SOMETHING was working and I’m pretty sure I’ll go back.  I could use a good laugh.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Nina & Me

Long before anyone had heard of "Marley and Me" there was Nina and me.

Nina wasn't even supposed to be my dog, not really. It was 2000 and My grandfather (who'd lived at my house his last few years) had just passed away. My dog Snuffy, always a social animal, was despondent. As his depression dragged on I realized I needed to get him a companion. I fell in love with Nina the first moment I saw her at the shelter. She was a beautiful shepherd beagle mix with huge brown eyes ringed with black, as if she'd had eye liner tattooed on her. She leaned up against the cage, stared me in the eyes and gave me the "I'm so abused and pathetic" look that I later came to know so well. It was all part of her schtick, though I didn't know it at the time. Nina had been returned to the shelter a couple of times and I knew she was at risk of being put down, so I agreed to foster her for a while. That foster care placement became permanent by the time we'd gotten home.

Nina clearly had issues. Though she was 6 months old she hadn't been housebroken yet. She knew no commands. Most troubling, she had the strongest escape tendencies of any dog I've ever seen. Nina was a Houdini dog. She could escape out of any enclosure ever made. And if she wanted to go somewhere, she'd eat through doors and walls and break through windows if she had to. Nina was born to be a free spirit.

When she proved difficult to train I finally sent her to a doggie boot camp where I found out she was smart enough to learn commands like sit and heel, the question was if she really wanted to do them. Boot camp staff had one problem with her: every night she escaped. They couldn't figure out how. One night they put her by a nanny came and showed me a tape of her shoving her paw out of the front of the cage and sliding the latch. She was that smart.

At the vet where I boarded her she was known for causing mayhem. One time there was a new vet tech and when he came up front I asked if he'd put her in the sealed top kennel to keep her from escaping. He said to me in a condescending tone, "The kennel is 7 feet tall with concrete walls. It's not like she can scale those". I smiled, said, "Oh really?" and pointed behind him, where Nina was sauntering back out to the lobby.

Nina was famous among my friends and family for her dramatic escape attempts. She'd jump her 80-pound self on the counter, push out the window screen, leap over the bushes and end up in the neighbor's yard. You'd open the door a half an inch and she'd be a block down the street before you realized she had even gotten up.

Nina's escapist tendencies seemed to be fueled at least partly by anxiety and we spent a lot of time at the Animal Hospital becausue of it. The first time I left her alone on the 4th of July I came home to find her prancing around on the roof of my front porch covered in blood. She had jumped through a closed window, cutting herself badly on the way out. I could never leave her alone during fireworks after that, not matter how much xanax she had.

Another time she chewed through some chicken wire that was covering her 6 foot high indoor kennel. Unfortuantely she hadn't chewed a big enough hole to get her whole body out and I found her hanging on the wall of the kennel, half her body on each side, chicken wire dug into her stomach. I had to use wire cutters to get her out, and she seemed to be quite proud of herself when she pranced into the Animal Hospital wearing a wire tutu and trailing blood.

Nina got into trouble so much that I joked around when she met other dogs she probably told them her name was "God damn it Nina". She got into cabinets, chewed the lid off paint cans (covering the basement floor in paint), tore down window blinds, ripped up carpets, dug up bushes. But she was also a sweet and affectionate dog, jealous of anyone else who might divert my attention, human or dog. A hug from a boyfriend or another dog sitting on my lap and she'd try to push them away so I could focus on her. When I cried she was there to comfort me and if I screamed she came running to see what was wrong, poised for battle. When I pet her or we'd snuggle I'd make a play on her name, "Nina, Norena, Bobena, Fofena, Sosena" and she'd wag her tail so hard the entire back of her body would wag too.

Nina was unusually smart and I joked that she was an evil genius. I could write for days on all the tricks she pulled. My favorite was the night she wanted to be on the couch by my other dog Slim refused to move. She finally went and found Slim's favorite toy. She brought it to me and started shaking it. He ignored her. She brought it to me and indicated I should throw it for her. I threw it. She stopped to look at Slim and he ignored her. She grabbed it again and stared at Slim intently. Slim jumped off the couch and Nina dropped his toy and took a flying leap onto his spot on the couch. I swear she was smiling triumphantly. I have many stories involving her tricking us out of food somehow. Evil genius.

Once when my mother was staying at my house Nina started staring at her intently. My mom ignored her. Nina started whining and rubbing her. A few minutes later my mom went into a diabetic emergency. Nina had been trying to warn us. For years after that whenever Nina did that I'd make my mom take her sugar and every single time it was at a dangerous level.

Nina also warned me about her own health problems. One day she rubbed her neck against me non-stop for hours, whining. Finally I looked at her neck more carefully and there was a cyst there. The minute I saw the cyst she stopped whining and laid down. Another time she was acting weird when I was running on the treadmill. Although she'd always been afraid of the treadmill she suddenly leaped on and started running behind me, then fell off the back. She laid there with the belt rubbing her stomach, refusing to move until I turned her over to look at her stomach. Another cyst.

The one health problem she didn't warn me about was her last one. The vet said it appeared to have come on very suddenly. One day on a short walk with my sister she collapsed, panting and drooling, her tongue purple. By the time we got to the Animal Hospital she was fading fast, choking on the fluid in her lungs. We don't know for sure what even happened but the vet theorized that there was a fast growing tumor either inside or pressing on her lungs that had quickly gotten dangerous. They tried to save her but told me she was fading fast and I should come back to say goodbye. I saw her laying on the table, looking small and pitiful with a tube in her throat and wires everywhere. She looked me in the eye and for the first time since I'd seen her at the shelter she didn't wag her tail when she saw me. She was too weak. Her heart gave out while I was petting her and I heard her take her last breathe. My girl was gone.

I was shocked and heartbroken. Somehow I'd thought Nina would outlive all of us. She'd always been disgustingly healthy and had scarcely slowed down even though she was 11, old for her breed. She never lost her sense of mischievousness and never seemed to stop plotting. Yet she was loyal and loving and I knew without a doubt if I was ever in trouble Nina would be the dog to rescue me, she was the only smart enough to do it. And after over 11 years she was the second longest relationship of my life. We'd been through a lot together, Nina and me, and I'll miss her terribly.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Why Women's Events Are Awesome After All

Last night I participated in a super cool race, the Women's Moon Walk/Run in Olympia. It was put on by one of my favorite organizations,  Guerilla Running in Olympia. 

I knew that the Guerilla people would do an awesome event, Rachael and Craig always do. But I was suprised by how much I loved the comaraderie of a "girl" event.  I'd often scoffed at girl-centric events like Nike Women's Marathon, Race for the Cure, the Disney Princess races.  They seemed too cute, too PINK.  Frankly I'd never had done the Moon Walk if it wasn't one of the Guerilla events, but I knew it'd be more about "girl power" than cute.  And it was.

For those who don't do these kind of events, runners and walkers are a very welcoming and supportive community.  What other sport cheers on the person in last place as much as the person in first?  Where else do the best athletes shout encouragement at the others?  That happens all the time in running races.

Walking on to the field last night I did see way too much pink for my taste.  But I also saw so many women of all shapes and sizes and abilities and it occurred to me that in the safety of the women-only event many of the beginners and slower people felt comfortable in a way they wouldn't if there were guys around. Many people, including me & my companions, were dressed up for the event.  We saw all variety of tutus, running skirts, crowns, dresses.  It was fun to be silly girls and enjoy checking out everyone's outfits.  What I liked best is it really lacked that frantic competitive energy that the shorter distance races in particular often bring out.  No intense looking guys stretching or running strides to warm up.  There were fast women in the race of course but no sense like they were going so fast they'd knock you out of the way.  Even the leaders were smiling while they passed us on the out and back. The best way to describe it is it just had a different vibe, a laid back, supportive, we're girls and we are kicking butt AND looking cute kind of vibe.   And it was awesome!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Stars v. The Body

Sometimes the hardest part about being an athlete is learning to listen to your body.  Or more specifically, separating your body from your mind so you know for sure which one was talking to you.

I was signed up to do a triple marathon this past weekend,  three marathons in three days.  I’d signed up months ago before I was injured and figured it’d be a great training for a 6-day race I was scheduled to do in August.  Fast forward several months, two nagging and slowly healing injuries later,  with the August race already canceled, I was struggling what to do about the triple.

I did a marathon last month and I’d spent a chunk of the race crying because I was in so much pain from my injuries.  I’d taken it pretty easy in the ensuing month and my knee in particular (the worse injury) was feeling less cranky.  I couldn’t get a refund on any of the three races, so I was out the money no matter what.  Finally I decided I’d do the first day of the triple and see how it went.

The Stars & Stripes Marathon on Saturday was the first race where I really held myself back.  My main goals were to not aggravate my knee and to have fun. I purposely walked the entire first half of the race, moving at a brisk pace but not my fastest pace.  I told myself if my knee didn’t hurt I’d start adding in some running the second half, and that’s exactly what I did.  Small increments of running, 1-3 minutes at a time, testing my knee, moving myself along, but trying not to strain it.  It was really super hard to go slower than I needed to, and my finish time was slower than I’d ever gotten, but I finished the race upright, with no pain, so I was very excited.  And I had lots of fun.  I even got my sister to walk the last lap with me.

The day of the second marathon I woke up with some stiffness in my knee but no other pain or soreness.  I knew I could push through that, especially if I walked most or all of the second race.  I had a huge debate with myself.  My mind said, “At least do the double marathon, you’ll get more stars”  (go up in rank in the Marathon Maniacs) and my body said, “Hey I was really good yesterday, don’t push your luck.”  I thought of all my friends out on the course. I thought of the money I’d put into the race.  But in the end I listened to my body.  It was super hard but I knew I would not finish that second race feeling as good as I had after the first race.  And there’s always going to be another chance to get stars.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


Yesterday I started thinking, as I often do, about the assumptions we make about people.  We notice someone, maybe a stranger on a bus or another shopper in a store and sometimes we make a judgment about them that’s totally wrong.

A few weeks ago I tried one of those Bar classes for the first time. The instructor was asking me about injuries and I mentioned I was trying to not aggravate an injury because I had a marathon coming up in a few days.  Another woman there, very tiny, decked out in fancy workout clothes, looked up and down (the girl body check look) and said, “Oh, I assume it’s your first”.  She’d looked at me, honestly probably twice her size and made an assumption that I must be an inexperienced marathoner.  Her jaw damn near dropped to the floor when I responded, “No, I think this is about #16 for me.”

I posted that story in my Running Chicks group and there were several stories of people making assumptions about my friends because of how they look. One woman had someone make a crack about walking when she ran into her at a 5k, but my friend went on to win the 5k outright, beating the men.  Apparently some people think she looks chunky but she’s all muscle. She gets the “Is this your first marathon?” question with the girl body check a lot.  She enjoys telling them she qualified for the Boston Marathon – twice now.

Another woman tried to register for a race where there was a 50k and a 20k and the person said, “I assume you’re paying for two people?” then seemed shocked that she was running the 50k.  A couple woman had outright been told things like they were fat, they didn’t “look” like a runner, etc.  

My sister is a larger sized person and she just walked a 5k this weekend. It was something like her 4th or 5th race in the last 6 months.  A few days later she was at work and they were doing that ice breaker where you tell people 3 things about you and one of them is a lie.  One of her 3 things was “I just did a 5k this weekend” and every single person picked that as her “lie”, then looked incredulous when she told them they were wrong. Assumptions.

Sadly, I’m guilty of it too.  I was on the bus yesterday and I saw a very heavy woman sitting a few rows ahead of me. The bus was crowded but no one was sitting next to her because she needed more than one seat.  I looked at her and thought, “That used to be me.  I hope she finds the courage to start exercising and do something about her weight”.  Then she got off the bus and took her bike off the rack and rode away and I felt ashamed. 

There was a time when I was 300 pounds, 275 pounds, 250 pounds and people would have thought that about me too.  (Well actually many would have been way less charitable, but that’s another post.)  And I could have said to them, very honestly, I work out 5 days a week, because I did.  They didn’t know how I looked when I started, they didn’t know where I was in my journey. Just like I don’t know anything about that woman on the bus biking home. That’s the problem with assumptions, they’re often wrong.