Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Do You Look Like a Runner?

I was first talked into running nearly a decade ago by a friend who looks like a gazelle. No seriously - she's tall, thin, beautiful. Her legs are longer than my legs and torso combined (or really pretty close). If you imagine what a runner should look like I think it would be a lot like her. When I started telling people I was running with her I'd often get a surprised, "Oh, you're a runner too? She looks like a runner." Of course I took this to imply that I didn't. It used to offend me until I realized that you don't have to be a size two with long legs to look like a runner. 

My build is more gymnast than runner. I'm short and very muscular. I had someone recently tell me that my arms are so muscular I look like a bodybuilder. I was annoyed because that's not the look I'm going for, but strong IS the new skinny. I don't think I look like a runner. I'm fit, but you won't mistake me for a human gazelle.

I lift cars in my spare time.

When I first started running I'd look at others in races to determine who I could beat. If someone was heavier or older or had a weird running style I would immediately think I could beat them. Looks can be deceiving. As soon as I size someone up for "looking" slower than me, that's when said person leaves me in their dust. Last weekend is a great example. I was lining up by time at the start of trail half marathon and chatting with a girl who was heavier than me. She seemed pretty shy and didn't appear to be in fantastic shape. She blew by me about a mile in and I never saw her again. She was a rock star, and way faster than me even even though she also did not appear to be a human gazelle.

Running is a funny thing. There is an older man who runs a lot of 5ks in the Lansing area. He wears a headband, has crazy long grey hair and the weirdest running gait I've ever seen. He holds his arm at this weird angle and it looks almost painful to see him run. That dude beats me every. single. race.  If you were to describe how you think a runner looks I bet he wouldn't meet the description, but dude rocks it out. 

Last month runner's world did a feature on Mirna Valerio, a 250 pound ultra runner. She has a body mass index (BMI) nine points higher than the standard for obesity, but she's running ultra marathons. I am sure a lot of people have looked at her at the starting line and written her off because she doesn't look like a runner, but she's running 50k trail races. I'm not running that kind of distance. 

I've learned at the starting line to put away any misconceptions and focus on my own run. We're all out there competing against ourselves (except for those who are seriously competitive at the race...I am not). We are all there running, pushing ourselves, and doing the best we can do. It turns out we all look like runners.  

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