On my long run yesterday, I had plenty of time to think about a whole lot of stuff. In the moment, I thought about the way my body felt as I ran — the movement of my quads, the positioning of my elbows as I ran up each hill, the ease of my breath in and out. I imagined race day, lining up, high-fiving people along the route, planning water stations and strategy. And, I reflected on the past — the long 6 months since I first declared I would run a 1/2 marathon before my mastectomy, the way life interfered with illness, stress, and major decisions that I had to make.
And, in the moment, I watched each car pass by, said “good morning” to every runner and walker that I met, and marveled at all the places I had never seen despite growing up in the same town for over 30 years.
A comment from my friend Alice this morning, though, reminded me of something — an aspect of how far I’ve come in this journey. Though the pounds are still here, the clothing size is still the same, and my double chin still keeps my neckline in good company, something is different.
I run in public.
Back in January, I began my workout on an elliptical machine I have in my basement. Embarrassed (and too cold) to go out on a wintery day, I stayed indoors to avoid having anyone see me and my chubby (post-baby, c’mon!) body waddling outdoors. In mid-January, while students were still away, I began walking at work, my face strategically hidden with a scarf, hat, and a rain hood. In February, I discovered “Lot 17.”Lot 17 is an open parking lot at the furthest end of campus. Hardly anyone ever goes there, and it’s about a 1/3 of a mile. My early Mb4M team would head up there at 4:15pm, bundled up from head to toe, and do our 30 second walk/30 second run routines. When the workout was over, we slowly walked back into visibility, towards our offices, and got into our cars.
As the weather got a bit warmer — mid March or so — we grew more daring. We actually began to run from the parking lot back to our cars! By mid-April, we abandoned our Lot 17 routine and began running around the perimeter of campus (still not visible to the rest of the community).
Lot 17, and running the perimeter, gave me a sense of anonymity. I didn’t want people — especially students — to have the opportunity to make fun of me. I imagined them saying to their friends, “Look at that fatty run!” or “Is that lady running or standing still??” or … well … anything. I was ashamed of my body and self conscious to the extent that it was debilitating.
After reading Alice’s comment, I began to reflect on my past month of training runs. They have all been outdoors, on streets, and in the most public places. Even as I shuffled through the last 4 miles of the 11.1 mile run yesterday, and even though I had plenty of time to think, I never once thought about how I looked. I never once thought I would take a different route because it hid or sheltered me from other people. In my fitted tank top and my compression shorts, I didn’t care that my stomach jutted out over my waistband nor that it bounced and kept time with each foot strike. I didn’t care that my iPod arm band was at its largest setting or that my arms themselves — my one area of self-conscious body presentation — were exposed, Stretch marks and all. In fact, I’m still somewhat amazed that I posted a picture of me with my arms flexed, and that I didn’t care that my husband used that picture for his Facebook profile. The old me would have begged him to take it down. The new me was thankful that he was showing his 1,000+ friends that his wife kicks ass.
Sometimes, moments of clarity don’t come when we need them. In my times of self-doubt, I couldn’t see the changes. I couldn’t see the progress. That’s what self-doubt is, right? Then there are times when it’s just so clear. Just so obvious. Just so right.
While the scale reads the exact same number as it did in January 2010. While the pants still feel tight in the same places. While my iPod arm band is still on the same setting. I am different. I am changed.
I am ready.
Peace, love, and running down cancer 11.1 miles at a time,