I’m 190 pounds, and wanted to be able to tell people I did it.
I like being one of those big women who confounds expectations. I like twisting myself into a pretzel at yoga, leaning into an arm balance, attempting, though often failing, to lift gracefully into an inversion. I don’t mind that my belly rolls when I twist or that my muscles don’t pop through the layer of padding guarding my core.
No matter how slow I go, I like that jogging feels natural, like my body knows how to keep itself moving. I feel like a machine that is operating the way it is designed to operate. I don’t care that my footsteps thud heavy on the asphalt or that my thighs rub together.
I like the idea that, simply by moving and trying, by being bigger and visible, I can dispute the notion that you can tell how fit I am by the size of my jeans. You can’t, and I’ll prove it by being capable.
It’s ego, is what I’m saying.
I wish I could claim that the joy of accomplishment and the satisfaction of self-care drive me. They do, a little, but mostly it’s ego. It’s the feeling that I get to be a walking, talking, sweating, breathing, moving example of how wrong some assumptions can be.
A few weeks ago, I found where my ego hit the road, literally. I signed up for a half marathon with six weeks to train up from my longest distance to date, 6 miles, to 13.1. My best friend asked me why I wanted to do it, and I couldn’t give her much of an answer. Or rather, the answer I could give was too embarrassing to say out loud; I wanted to do it so I could tell people that I did it. I wanted them to wonder to themselves, but she doesn’t look like a runner, and I’d telepathically crow back, aha but I am!
I don’t imagine I’m alone in taking on physical challenges for the bragging rights and everyone is entitled to their own set of “right” and “wrong” reasons for exercise. But for me, my rationale for the half marathon didn’t hold up to the exercise values I want to live by. I am trying—and it’s not always easy—to listen to my body and honor it by giving it what it needs. Sometimes that’s yoga, sometimes that’s cardio, sometimes that’s rest.
In running the half marathon, I didn’t listen to my body. I didn’t honor my body’s abilities. I pushed past all of that so that I could say what I wanted to be able to say. When I finished, I hurt, and not in a good way. It wasn’t the pleasant soreness that confirmed that I had engaged my muscles and made myself incrementally stronger. It wasn’t the sweet ache of stretching just a smidgen further than the day before. It was the grinding, crunching, breaking kind of hurt, the kind that I could feel was doing more damage than good to my ankles, knees, and hips.
This is not everyone’s experience with long distance running, but it is mine. After five or six miles, the well-oiled-machine sensation ebbed and was replaced by the sensation of something caught in the gears.
I really like being able to say that I ran a half marathon. I’m sure I would really like being able to say I ran a full marathon even more. But if I’ve learned anything from this, it is that there is a point where my ego outpaces my abilities, and the braver thing for me to do is own it and move on.
So yes, I am a 190-pound woman who ran a half marathon, but no, I will never do that again.
Role Reboot regular contributor Emily Heist Moss is a New Englander in love with Chicago, where she works in a tech start-up. She blogs every day about gender, media, politics and sex at Rosie Says, and has written for Jezebel, The Frisky, The Huffington Post and The Good Men Project. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.