It’s been a while since I’ve gone for a run. I even got to the point where I uninstalled the Nike Running app from my phone because it felt a little bit like it was taunting me every time I saw it. “Why won’t you use me?” “Hang out with me!” “Please, give me attention!” I deleted it and forgot about it.
And the result was weight gain. The result was reaching a weight I’ve never been at before. 110kg, if you’re into numbers. I’ve known for a while that my body was in poor shape. I’ve been painfully aware of it when I walk up stairs. I’ve been reminded every time I get dressed and find that nothing fits right. I’ve been taunted by the mirror when I get ready for a shower.
It’s this strange thing, you know? It’s this cycle of shame. It’s one that I’m familiar with, if I’m honest with you.
A few years ago I was a member at the gym across the road from my house. I started off running on the treadmill and using the bikes, then tried out classes and loved them. I adored boxing and yoga and even body pump. But then one day this group of women, and one guy, were whispering near me. “Someone that size shouldn’t be allowed to do yoga.” they scoffed as they looked at me. “Honestly. No one should be forced to look at that.” I stuck out that class and then left. It took me six months to go back. Shame is a strong emotion and we’re all taught to feel it from a young age, but that moment is still clear in my mind. For the first time I felt truly ashamed of my body, and in a gym, to make matters worse.
Eventually, in defiance of the scoffing middle aged gym bunnies, I took up running outside. At that point in time, I lived in Campbelltown and there was this one road that had a sports oval on either end of it and some hills that hurt to run up but were a blast to run down. I learned to love it. I got over the fear of being seen and dealt with it. It was fun. It was great. It was freeing and good for me. It made me change my eating habits because I knew that if I ate badly, running would be less fun and I wanted it to stay fun.
Fast forward a few years. I’m here. I’m at a point I never wanted to be at. 30kg heavier than where I was when I fell in love with running, and the persistent voice came back. “No one should see someone like you running.” I’ve let that worry bother me for too long. I’ve talked myself out of going for a run and told myself that I’ll do it tomorrow.
Oh, the proverbial tomorrow…
Tonight, I went for a run. I changed into my tights before I could think. I couldn’t find my running shoes so I took a risk and used my Vibram KSOs instead, and I headed out, music on, neglected Nike Running app reinstalled. It hurt. I was frustrated at first and then I simply listened to my feet and my heart. I listened to that persistent thudding in my chest that told me I’m alive. I’m alive and it’s not the end. I’m alive, and this gets better.
Impatiently, I waited for the light to go green at the pedestrian crossing. Twenty One Pilots was blasting in my ears, the bridge of Holding Onto You building to this glorious crescendo that made me want to run. The light changed and I ran. I ran across the road and turned quickly to go up some steps to a hill.
I stopped halfway up this small hill and had to gasp for air, my chest heaving and my hands shaking a little. But I was smiling. I was smiling because on that hill, breathless and breathing all at once, I remembered that running isn’t about punishing myself for my mistakes. It’s about chasing that feeling of being refreshed and alive and seeing improvements with each and every run.
No one scoffed at me. No one laughed. It’s been a while since I’ve gone for a run. But I’m excited to go again onWednesday, and I’ll find my running shoes before then.
I run because I’m alive, not to punish myself. I need to remember that on the days when shame speaks louder than hope.