“Runner” is a size-neutral word!

Today’s workout was a quick one: 25 minutes of zombies intervals again. I’m lucky I made it there at all. This morning was a cluster! Anyway, since it was so short I made a point to work extra hard, and fit 2.3 miles into that time with sprints up to 9:00 pace. Whee.

Being fat and active and aware of the perception that others have of you can lead to some interesting feelings. I heard about the feature on Mirna Valerio in Runner’s World and was really excited to go read it– I’ve been an avid follower of Mirna’s blog for some time, and was eager to see her get recognized for her badassery. But once I read it I was really disappointed.

Mirna says, explicitly, that she loves her body. I love my body, too, and appreciate all that it does and all that it’s capable of doing. I’m afraid the article didn’t have the same kind of love, respect and appreciation for bodies that they feel are too large. At one point, they refer to Mirna’s size as a disease– let me just quote it: “By making peace with her obesity—or, more accurately, by fighting her disease to a kind of enduring, vigorously active truce—Valerio draws kudos from a formerly skeptical medical community.” Hold up! What’s the deal with describing a healthy, active person as having a “disease” just because the number on the scale is larger than they think it should be? (I have serious, serious issues with the medicalization of obesity. I will save them for another rant.)

The article veered back and forth wildly, going from describing the marginalization that fat runners face from the running community at large, to consulting with obesity doctors about the terrifying obesity epidemic. Personally, I felt the net result was tone-deaf.

And I don’t say this to minimize Mirna’s accomplishments and her struggles and hard work to get there! She’s trained hard to go kick that 50k’s butt, and I hope everyone’s as excited to read about it as I am! Her experience is such a positive one and I was sad to see so much body hatred injected into her story.

For me, I do want to inspire people to be active, but I don’t want to be some kind of inspiration object, if that makes sense. Someday I hope that being fat and active will be more normalized and folks’ mouths won’t drop open when Mirna runs by and we won’t get disbelief when buying running shoes. That we won’t be “fat runners” but just runners.

(This is really complicated stuff with a lot of thinking about intersectionality needed. If I’ve screwed up, please bring it to my attention. Thanks!)

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4 Responses to “Runner” is a size-neutral word!

  1. chasingdownhealthy says:

    I did not care for the sentence stating that she’d come to terms with her obesity, either. I guess I kind of let it slide because I was so excited to see someone who looked like me on that cover, that I chose to ignore that part. Now that I’m reading this, I don’t like it even more. You didn’t screw up. You’re making us look at it a little differently, which is necessary.

    • G says:

      I found it particularly disappointing because the piece could’ve been so awesome. I would bet that the article itself went through a ton of revisions– starting out as a really body-posi thing and then some fatphobic editor insisted on “balance” so they weren’t “glorifying obesity”. Sigh.

  2. Gingerzingi says:

    I read part of the article (I’m just not that interested in running) and while Valerio is a fantastic subject, there were all kinds of things I found objectionable. The typical stereotyping of her body (“barrel-like thighs”) and definitely what you noted – an insistence on classifying her as suffering from a disease. And frankly I didn’t believe that the people she encountered during her run in the state park looked “astonished” and “shocked.” Even people in Georgia have seen runners of all sizes and colors, and that part seemed like the author just trying to dramatize. Not a huge deal, but it made me mistrustful of the rest.

    I did see one ray of hope, though: several experts took the stance that weight/weight loss isn’t a simple matter of CICO. We really really REALLY need to abandon that idea, it’s doing so much harm. “If you fashioned a hypothetical world in which every person ran 10 miles a day and subsisted on the same daily ration of carrots, you would still have a full range of body types, from svelte to stout.” THANK YOU.

    • G says:

      I dunno, I’ve gotten similar shocked/surprised responses when out running– not all that often, but it happens (even in the jaded suburban Northeast). No one’s fainted yet though.

      I liked the bit about the carrots too (we’d all be orange, eh). There is this pervasive view that the natural state of a human, absent overeating/whatever kind of food pathology is thin. Luckily that isn’t the case– or else we’d all keel over in times of famine.

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