This weekend I went to a nearby beach town with three good friends and while I had a great time and laughed quite a lot, the whole weekend was tinged with a bitter sense of disappointment because, after months of half marathon training, I thought I would be thinner and more toned by now. All winter I imagined feeling absolutely estupenda in my bikini, but in reality I just felt fatter than the other three girls, none of whom run, all of whom smoke and drink and eat badly. Yes, I know that life isn’t fair and that I should be just be content with the fact that running makes me feel amazing and that I’m greatly lowering my risk for lung cancer and heart disease by exercising and eating well and NOT smoking…That I should take a certain, evil, sort of comfort in knowing that these bon vivants may one day pay for their gluttony…But the thing is I still wish running could transform the way I look—could make me lean in a way I’ve never been and probably never will be. When I hang out with people whose habits are so bad and they look so good, it makes me think that all this sweating and agonizing over food is getting me absolutely nowhere, that maybe I should just accept chubby as my natural state.
But at 8 o’clock last night—when I got back from the beach and the weather had cooled down a bit—I headed out to run the 10.13 kilometers necessary to complete my weekly goal of 40k. I ran slowly at the beginning, feeling silly yet again—why keep running, I thought, when I’m still chubby and still slow. Of course, a half hour in to the run, I wasn’t feeling fat but rather strong. And by the time I got back to the house—soaked in sweat—I had forgotten about my bikini body and had had time to think through my work week and make constructive professional plans for July, August and beyond. For me, running is only going to work when I remember that the race is individual, that comparing my body to my friends’ is not at all productive, and, that even if I'm not looking good, I am feeling good.