I was extremely hesitant to write this post at first. I was even more hesitant when I wrote an outline of all the main points I wanted to include. But, now that I'm actually taking the to put the words out there, all of that second guessing is gone. Because, I know I'm not the only person/runner out there who has/is struggling with this. That fact has become blatantly clear in the running podcast I have been listening to: 300 pounds and Running. I cannot tell you how many times guests on that show mentioned preferring to run at night or on back roads to avoid people seeing them.
For me personally, I have noticed myself being a whole lot less self-conscious when it comes to running on a treadmill and having other people also in the dungeon gym here in Iowa City at 4:30 a.m. I definitely used to let things like that make an already difficult, mentally taxing thing like treadmill running that much harder. This morning, running a slow 4 miles in shorts...I literally gave zero fucks. I felt like I was shuffling along the whole way...but at no point did I wish I had the gym to myself or that I hadn't worn shorts.
That brings us to the inspiration for this post. As I was lifting this morning and listening to the previously mentioned podcast all I could think was, despite this crazy Iowa weather...summer and warmer temperatures are right around the corner. Before long, I'll be doing all of my runs outside. And as much as I LOVE (and I mean LOVE!!!) running outside, I would be lying if I said that I didn't struggle with body image issues/being overly self-conscious while I do so in the outdoors with other people around.
So, I thought to myself...I clearly need to set another goal to work on in conjunction with this whole half-marathon training thing, because it's a long ass time until race day in September. A la Running Unapologetically.
To start, I should probably go into all the factors that make summer running an especially difficult time...and in particular this upcoming summer. First of all, I suck majorly at running in hot weather. Like I'm talking sweat everywhere, chafing, and running around with my tongue hanging out like a freaking dog. And lord know that running in a sports bra is WAY to far outside my comfort zone...even though I have walked around the track before in one and like SURPRISE the world didn't end.
Next, IT IS LIKE DAYLIGHT OUT BY THE TIME LAP ONE (2.5ish miles) IS DONE. WHAT? I even noticed this the last couple of time I was back home running outside. Like all of a sudden it's not dark out anymore and I can no longer "hide" in the darkness that was previously there. And with little hope of an invisibility cloak resembling the one in Harry Potter being invented in the near future...I sort of have to learn how to deal with not being invisible while I run.
Then there's the whole running in shorts or a tank top or (gasp!) both dilemma. I am 100% fine with wearing shorts on a treadmill, because zero spectators and zero hills. But, outside? Oh it's a struggle for sure, especially when it comes to climbing hills or having shorts that just will not stay in place and hold your loose skin in place either. And don't even get me started on running in tank tops in hot weather. It does not mix well with having lose skin on your arms...even though I have more muscular arms these days. Oh, and the whole being drenched in sweat and having your tank glued to your skin...not a fun time.
The main thing that' different this summer compared to last is that I am in better shape, both physically and mentally. I know what it feel like to run 9 miles and actually enjoy like 90% of it. I also know all to well what it's like to fall on your ass, and have to run 3-4 miles with blood oozing from your new battle wounds. I also have this big ass/scary goal of running 13.1 miles breathing down my neck. The expectation are high, and my dumb ass decided that it was a great idea to actually tell people/put it on social media that I was chasing this goal. So, like now I'm not just "the crazy girl running the streets at 5 a.m.", "I'm the crazy girl running the streets at 5 a.m. who is also training for a half-marathon." Lovely.
Another random fact about this whole running outside thing is that I somehow think it's a good idea (which I have very few of these days) to try to guess what people are thinking as they see me out running. Or when they see me run past Casey's for the umpteenth time that morning and clearly riding front row on the struggle bus. Now, as much as I try to avoid eye contact (because l am literally the most socially awkward person on the planet)...sometimes it happens. And in that moment all I can think is, "Clearly I am the farthest thing from a real runner."
So, if you have been dedicated enough (or maybe just really interested in me/my running story) to make it this far into this long, rambling post...you're probably wondering what running unapologetically looks like. Well here's my definition of it:
- Make all the dumb faces. Smile like an idiot when your favorite song comes on or when you're just having fun (I promise it does happen!!)
- Get emotional. Let it show when you're really struggling or doubting yourself/your running abilities, or when you're in excruciating pain.
- Be you...even if that means running with shitty form, going slow as Hell, oh and falling on your face from time to time.
- Accept the fact that there are going to be people who see you and think "There is no way she is skinny enough or fast enough to run 13.1 miles."
- Don't let anything (loose skin, people flat out staring at you, wild animals, or seeing your own reflection while running down main street) stop you from having the time of your life and chasing your goals.
So, what does running unapologetically look like for you? And how many times have you had to run the last 2-3 miles (or more) of your run covered in scrapes and bruises? 'Cause I can be the only klutz out here on the run who should probably be running wrapped in bubble wrap and dawning elbow/knee pads.