Reflections and Rage from My First 5k

Oooooh shiny!Yesterday I completed my first official 5k with the dancers from More Cabaret. They were super awesome (special thanks to Aurora who not only organized the logistics but also made our tutus, and to Julianne and Robert for being our photo/videographers!) I do not enjoy running. At least, not the distance kind where I end up roughly where I started, only more tired.  I long ago learned to set realistic goals when it comes to athletics and so I had no expectation that I would love it and want to do increasingly longer races with increasing frequency.  My goals were to have fun and bond with my teammates, complete a 5k, and be awarded a t-shirt and medal. All those things happened, but some not like I had hoped.

So first I’ll work out my rage.  The phrase “I do it for the t-shirt” is common among runners. Most people who run in these types of events will never win.  They are doing it for the experience and typically a t-shirt signifying that they completed the event.  In this grand tradition, I wanted to be super excited about my t-shirt, but when I was only given an option to buy an XL shirt, my excitement waned.  When I was given an XL t-shirt, I explained that I had actually e-mailed when I registered because I, and others on my team, needed 2,3,and 4XL.  The woman said that XL was the largest size that they had.  I asked “Do you happen to know, does the event not want plus-sized runners, or do they just not care if we don’t get the same things as everyone else?”  She literally threw her hands up and said “This is all I have.”  I asked if there was someone who I could talk to and after 2 misdirections I ended up at the info booth.  I was told that there were 14 shirts larger than XL but, unlike everyone who got to select their size when they registered, the plus-size shirts were first come first served. So apparently it was my fault for not being one of the first 14 fatties through the door.   When pressed she said she was sorry and gave me her e-mail to follow up.  I will.

I realize that some may think I’m over-reacting to a shirt and that’s ok.  This is incredibly frustrating to me.  Nobody of any size is under any obligation to exercise, or be an athlete at all.  Being an athlete is not better or worse than any other hobby/lifestyle etc.  Those of use who are fat athletes often have our existence denied, and face being stigmatized and bullied for merely existing in the athletic world.  Making sure that we can’t wear a shirt celebrating our athletic successes does both – it is stigmatizing. and is another way of making us invisible.  It also makes me wonder if they don’t want people to know that fat people participate in their races.  They obviously knew that they were going to have fat runners, they didn’t care that only 14 of us had a chance at a getting a shirt that we could actually wear.  They took t-shirt orders before buying them so they could have easily included plus-size options.  (And for the record, if those shirts cost more and it messes with the profits then they can either become better at negotiating with their vendors or  increase the race fees by a quarter or whatever per participant to make it work.)

Beyond the t-shirt situation, there were definitely some lessons for me:

I struggled with not being “good” at the 5k.  I benefit from a tremendous amount of athletic privilege, and the athletic things that I do are typically things at which I am naturally talented and have put many, many hours of hard work so I’m used to being among the best.  I’m not naturally good at this type of running and I didn’t train hard so of course it’s not a shocker that I wasn’t very good, but I was surprised at how bothered I was by that.  I’m going to make an effort to try more new things, things to which I don’t seem particularly well suited, and things where I might be the worst.

I learned that there is not just a 6pm, there is also a 6am.  If that’s when your event starts, it involves setting your alarm for 3:25am.  Some people think that’s a reasonable thing to do.  I am not one of those people, and any events that I do in the future will have the word “midnight” in the title.

Speaking of future events…  The truth about this event is that I didn’t really have to train. I knew that we were going to be walking it, and 3 miles is a distance I can walk comfortably.  Crossing the finish line was still a cool experience and there is a part of me that wants to do more events just to have done them.  We’ll see if there is a 10k or a marathon in my future.

You can see pictures of the 5k on the More Gallery  Just scroll down to the “More Cabaret at Play” gallery.

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40 thoughts on “Reflections and Rage from My First 5k

  1. I’m so proud of you for facing and dealing with all the downs as well as the ups. That’s what life is, and you live it out loud with dignity and class. 🙂 YAY, RAGEN!!!!

  2. Re. the T-shirt size issue: It took a number of years to get the National Women’s Studies Association to buy T shirts larger than SML. And when they did get them all the way up to 2X (and eventually 3X — I don;t know where they are about that now) we discovered that it was very hard to get a large T-shirt if you arrived in the exhibit hall late because many women who were much smaller would buy the “huge” shirts because they liked to sleep in them, they said.

  3. Woot for standing up on the T-shirt issue! 😀 I don’t understand why they stop at XL, anyway, or why small people have to take the huge ones as sleepshirts. (I’ve seen it happen a lot at various events, and then I have to go around in an XL, which looks all kinds of special when stretched across my boobs.)

    If you’re ever in Tulsa at the end of October, if it’s still going on, there’s a Turkey Mountain (a big hill, really) ZOMBIE RUN 5K that starts in the evening. When it’s getting dark. AND ZOMBIES COME OUT OF THE WOODS TO CHASE YOU. I want to do it SO MUCH. So consider yourself invited by perhaps the least 5K-worthy individual on the face of the earth. 😀 If you don’t mind my gimp ass tagging along, I’m happy to drag my butt outta bed at noon and spend an evening half-running, half-limping around a wanna mountain and screaming at the shambling ZOMBIIIIIIIIES!!! =)

    1. Last year I did the Color Run- you start out clean and end the race covered in colors from the powder they throw at you–the Zombie Run, the Scavenger Dash (scavenger hunt all over the Las Vegas strip–soooo fun!) and the Las Vegas Santa Run. Had a blast! The Zombie run was by far the most fun. My son lost his last flag to a Zombie Elvis and thought that was the best thing ever. lol

    2. Small people take the big shirts as sleepshirts because big shirts are really comfy sleepshirts. That said… Big sleepshirts for every body size sounds good 😉

  4. Thanks for an inspiring & challenging blog. I need to get out & try more athletic options. I’ve been complacent & haven’t been challenged, at all! I say you do MORE RUNS. Take three or four of the “this is all we have shirts” & make yourself one kick butt FRANK-EN-SHIRT! The shirt could be/say anything (like cutting & pasting letters out of a magazine).
    Thanks again!

  5. I share your frustration about tee shirts. Seems like every event I go to there’s a tee, but not for me. In the past I have been silent out of shame, but I like the idea of standing up for myself. Thanks, as always, for inspiration!

  6. I was curious about the phrase “athletic privilige.” I would like to know a bit more about that. I understand natural talent being something you are born with. I understand that it is a privilige to dance, but it seems like if it’s something you pour yourself into in order to get good at, that it’s not ‘privilige.’

    Am I wrong?

    1. Not trying to speak for Ragen, but I can think of two separate but interrelated things that I would call athletic privilege.

      The first is the little boost in social standing you get from being an athlete (or maybe a big boost, depending on your job and your social circle), and the moral value people attach to athletic activities. For example, if someone’s boss would happily let them take Friday afternoon off because they have a race, but would deny the same request from someone else who wants to go to a concert, that would be athletic privilege. If your doctor gives you less crap about how your weight because you’re an athlete, that would be athletic privilege mitigating fat stigma.

      The second is the other privileges (mostly class-related) that give someone the opportunity to pursue athletics. There’s the straightforward monetary stuff like being able to afford a gym membership and a nice pair of running shoes, but also things like having free time to go running because you’re not working two jobs. Where you live also plays into it, in everything from how safe it is to be out, to what the air quality is like, to whether there’s a gym or a pool near you.

      1. I think that in this case the “athletic privilege” she is talking about is that she has certain physical skills that are part genetic and have been improved upon with practice. I’m a really good natural swimmer. I never had to learn how to move my body through the water and water is like a second home. So I have an athletic privilege when it comes to swimming. That said, if I wanted to compete I would still need to learn the strokes and proper breathing, and I would have to practice for hours and hours and hours to be competitive.

        So, even though she has to work at dance, and spends hours practicing, she has certain innate physical attributes that make her well-suited to dance to begin with. But those same attributes don’t necessarily make her well-suited to running.

  7. Thank you for your activism. I love how you are altruistic with your activism – I have noticed this in many posts of yours. It’s not enough for you to stand up for yourself, you also make sure to stand up for all of us. A t-shirt may seem like a small thing, but it isn’t to me. I NEVER am able to get the fucking t-shirt anywhere at any event that I have supported with my money and my time. Thank you for doing this for you, and for me, and for all the rest of us too.

  8. Would you believe that even the t-shirts you get for doing the annual NEDA walk only come to an XL? I had to have my therapist find and hold even an XXL for me, and nothing higher was available. From NEDA.

  9. The tee shirt thing is bogus. Tee shirts are manufactured and distributed in sizes larger than XL, a lot of people participate in a 5K, and, as Susan said, there are a lot of smaller women who enjoy having access to these sizes, too. Fourteen is a ridiculously paltry number to provide for an entire flotilla of runners/walkers.

    I know when I participate in the annual American Cancer Society Relay for Life, there are free tee shirts for cancer survivors and for participants who raise $100 or more. I have two of these (badass fundraiser) XXL shirts right now and will own a third in june… and I didn’t have to run and enter a melee to get any of them! I ordered the size I wanted, and it will be waiting at the event for me along with the thanks of the organizers. The woman running the event in my town is both shorter and fatter than I am, and she has a huge collection of these shirts since she’s been participating for about fifteen or sixteen years, so the track record is good at this event. She rocks anti-cancer tee shirts all over the place, and I almost never see the same one twice in a season. And this from an organization that has made me grit my teeth repeatedly with exhortations to ‘maintain a healthy weight’ to avoid cancer.

    They don’t care what size shirt you want or why you want it that size. If they can get the size, they do and it’s yours, no questions asked, no financial penalty levied. More events should take a leaf out of that book.

    In the meantime, though, I second Lauren C.’s fabulous Frank-en-shirt suggestion. Talk about a conversation starter as well as an object (literally) lesson in the constant stream of tiny indignities we’re expected to just shut up and put up with! A tee shirt doesn’t matter, really, unless you’re the person who can’t get one that fits. It not only says that you’re too disgusting/freakish to bother dressing, it also shuts you out of the traditional wearing of the event shirt to prove you were badass enough to be there. This is about making sure the run isn’t sullied by the overt participation of GASP! CONSTERNATION! fat people. It perpetuates the stereotype that we cannot/will not move our lardy asses and reinforces the myth that if you run/walk/exercise virtuously enough, you will be found worthy to stay thin and therefore healthy.

    So no, a tee shirt is not just a stupid tee shirt in this case. It really is worth making a fuss about.

  10. I’m betting that they’re a bunch of cheap bastards who don’t want to buy more than one box of plus-size t-shirts. Shame on you for wanting to cut $1.50 out of their profit margin. Where’s the rolling-eyes emoticon when I need it?

  11. Also, I’ve only ever done one race (and that was when I was skinny). There was a combination 6K/half marathon Turkey Trot in my neighborhood, and I signed up for it just for giggles. 4 miles, how big a deal was that? So I was running, and running. And running. And running. Then I was walking and running. Then walking. Finally I stopped and asked someone how close I was to being done, because this seemed to be taking forever. Guess who made a wrong turn and ended up doing the half marathon by accident? I just pretty much gave up and went for a nice stroll. I picked flowers (I live in FL, so it was 70 degrees in November), I stopped and talked to neighbors, I finished next to last and got a coffee mug. Since I was also dumb enough to wear brand new sneakers, I spent the rest of that Thanksgiving nursing my blisters. That was 10 years ago, and I’m just now getting up the guts to train for a new race. I saw so many fat, fabulous runners at the Disney Princess run in February, it really inspired me to give running another try.

      1. Not at all; that’s why I shared it. I laugh about it now, although I sure wasn’t laughing at the time!

  12. Ragen, thanks so much for not being good at something. That sounds nuts, but seriously! You are a really inspiring figure, and this helps us muster up the determination to do things even though we might suck at it or look stupid.

  13. Hi Ragen,

    This is mostly unrelated, but I am proud to say that the nonprofit I work for holds a BIG annual volunteer event and our t-shirt sizes come in everything from Junior size small (for kids) to a 5X. I’m not proud to say some of my coworkers make asinine comments about what the need for larger t-shirts says about people in general (uh, we’re bigger than a size small? so what?), but the fact that we have them available is definitely a step in a the right direction.

  14. I had the exact same thing happen to me last year! I walked a 5K charity walk. I signed up early, ordered my 3x t-shirt, and then when I got there, I was told they had run out of that size and all they had was XL. And I was there kind of early! Wankers! I was pretty annoyed at the time. I explained that I had ordered the larger size, so they should have it. I was told the same thing – first come first serve. such BS. I wonder how common this is. I wonder, as I did then, if they ever even had the larger size I asked for.

  15. I have 2 comments. First, the t-shirt. My granddaughters are wonderful singers. (they didnt get it from me.) The school has chior t-shirts and had a ‘hellofa’ time getting shirts to fit them. They were in adult sizes and the one responsible ordered lg in kids sizes after being told they are large adult. They finally got it. And they are not the only large kids singing.
    Second, “back in the day” when the only important thing was being thin. I was a size 16 (too fat right?) so I ran 5K almost every day Mon-Fri for a year. I didnt go down a size and I was miserable. A friend said she saw me running and I looked miserable. NO Kidding. I did it because I noticed every runner I saw was thin. So I came to the conclusion, running = thin. Then I learned the truth. Thin people run because they have a lot of energy. Most cant sit still etc. (More details in my book) And they get thinner when they run. I felt they looked like sticks and of course that was my goal “back in the day”. I didnt lose any weight or drop a size. I quit running and went back to walking. I proved it to myself. And I have large boobs and it hurts to run. (I was afraid they would get out of sync and one would hit me in the head and knock me out!!!) Glad to see you participated. If you like to run then go for it. I hate it at any size. But that is just me.

  16. Totally in your corner on the t-shirt frustration. Also, remember that a 2xl in women’s t-shirts is significantly smaller and shorter in length than the men’s 2xl. There must be some cosmic rule regarding scoop neck and cap sleeves absorbing some of the length and width of the fabric…lol..

    2XL isn’t big enough for many of us fat people. I don’t like my shirts to be so tight that they trigger my claustrophobic issues. I need a 4xl and sometimes a 5 xl.. Once at work, we were given free t-shirts to promote our new school motto. They gave me a 2XL and I was definitely bigger than that.. no denying it. When they asked if anyone had any more to ask at the end of the meeting, I stood up and said “I guess I should be flattered that you see me as a 2X, but there’s a whole lot more of me to cover, and I’d really like to be able to dress like the rest of the staff on spirit days. Can you please order me a 4x?

    Once, when we were

      1. there were several laughs and head shakes (affirmatives from other bigger-than-2x-folks). I was told they would order them. Took 4 months before I saw it and I had to ask three times.

  17. The t-shirt thing is always fraught. I’m not against uniforms per se, but when they are done in a cheap on the fly way, it’s the fatties who don’t get to participate that stand out like a sore thumb.

    I have been the only person in many a corporate meeting to bring up the dreaded tshirt conversation. It’s common practice in my business to issue some sort of corporate garment to wear at conferences. I have no problem pointing out that my colleagues have not seen me wear a tee, nor have my clients. As most tees dont’ fit, but also that I don’t feel appropriately business modest in one. I’ve told them straight up that my clients don’t need to see me in a tee. Worst response i got was that I could have the budget they spent on cheap embroidered tees and research and purchase my own with that. Yeah, right.

    Sometimes, that means I just don’t get one, and agree to dress in the same color as others. Other times, they actually pony up the bucks for a company that makes plus sized women’s wear. Once in a while I still have to alter tailored shirts, but I’m willing to if they give it a good try.

    1. This happens to my granddaughter in PE class. No large adult just large kids for middle school. She has to go buy a like colored shirt and stands out.

    1. Ummm…if you pre-order a t-shirt in a particular size, like if you need an 2XL, why can’t they just hold it for you with your name on it? or send it to you for a small fee? I’ve done 5K’s before…this isn’t very hard…

      This seems very much like checking the box on your airplane reservation form indicating you need a special meal, then being told, “Sorry, we didn’t have enough people request that particular one, so you’ll just have to make do or be hungry.”

  18. Congrats on the accomplishment. I was scrolling through my reader and saw your medal and thought “holy crap she was there too!” i haven’t been following up on my blogs, but I’m glad i saw your medal. i completed my second half with the HHM team.

    i hope you get your t-shirt. the coordinators are very responsive on their FB page, but i’m sure you’ve already taken the right avenues to address the t-shirt thing.

  19. One of my co-workers was talking about ordering a company vest, shirt, etc. at work as a “team building” “morale boosting” “public exposure” item.

    I got the stink eye when i suggested that in the past we’ve had employees left out on both ends of the size spectrum–we have a few truly tiny women on staff–and maybe they should either let people order the specific size they need or go with a non-sized item. You know, lanyard, key chain, tote bag, etc.

    In this case the first thing the person thought of was a generic garment and they were boggled that not everyone would be thrilled to have the same size as the person doing the ordering. Sorry, my kids are sick of being handed down tshirts from an organization I am involved with because they don’t and won’t ever fit me. Being left out doesn’t make me feel like part of the team, nor does it build my morale.

    1. no freakin’ kidding… I ALWAYS feel like I’m the bastard child when the shirts I get are too small, but they bulk order ahead of the school year. The last few years I’ve tried to make sure that the secretary knows my size, but it is no guarantee.. In some cases (when I have ordered shirts for a club) they company tells me they cannot get the shirt in anything bigger than a size 2 or 3x in the color we want. I’ve seen the catalogs.. it is true in many cases. So I have them switch to a shirt company that can provide… or ask for what colors are available in 5x and work from there.

  20. My husband and I have been involved with a game convention run by a quasi-student club at the college we both attended for well over a decade. The attendance is not a numerous, but covers the same types of people as ComicCon, so you can guess a good percentage of our attendees (as well as several founding members) will not be fitting in anything under a 3X. One year, a new crop of volunteers got involved with ordering the shirts and they decided not to order ANY above a 3X despite several people per-ordering a 4X or larger, including my husband.

    When we went to pick up our shirts and they handed him a 3X instead of the 4X he ordered, we got a bit upset. The excuse offered by the lady there was that the art would ‘look funny on such a big shirt.’ I seriously wanted to choke her with the shirt. It was made plain to that crop of students that not fulfilling pre-orders was not OK.

  21. Love your comment about athletic privilege. Sometimes I feel kind of bad when I do a 5k and all the other people who finish around my time are talking about how it’s their first race and they’ve only been running for a few months.

    But I like running, even if I’m super slow. So I’m working on not caring that other people are faster than me. When I do a race, I get to run, people cheer me on, and money goes to a charity I support whether I finish first or last.

    I’m lucky I’m short. I’m fat, but I can still wear an XL because I’m short. That’s probably the only good thing about being short. 🙂

  22. Ragen, I’m glad you entered our running world, even when you’d be more than forgiven for giving it a swerve. I hope you and your team enjoyed the atmosphere, if not the extra early start. I’ve found runners to be extremely friendly and supportive and have been encouraging even when they’re walking home and you’re still on the course.

    The t-shirt thing is something I’ve struggled with in almost every race where one has been offered. In the Uk, the smallest offered is a S- but this is almost always a men’s small. Which means I had a good supply of too short nighties when I was racing regularly. I’ve had one t-shirt that was the perfect fit, good fabric and I lamented its demise. I’ve been a bit luckier with the odd hoody as you can get away with one that’s more baggy. So the t-shirt orderers are sexist as well as sizeist!

    I travelled to Cincinnati to run the Flying Pig Half Marathon a few years ago. In the UK, we don’t have a walking culture in races except in cases of disability or injury but it had hundreds of walkers that I felt sorry for as I was jolly glad I was finally nearing the finish and they still had the horrific hill climb ahead of them. Rather them than me!

  23. In my office we have several events throughout the academic year that require the purchase of t-shirts. God forbid anyone participating in the event wears something over an XL. We had a huge turn out for one of our events and when I asked if they ordered any 2XL t-shirts I was laughed at and asked why we would need any. I told them that I was participating in the event and that I can’t wear an XL, that I need a 2XL. I was just told sorry.

    It’s frustrating 1. to have to admit that I have to wear a 2XL in an office of super skinny and super healthy people. Everybody in my office (except for one person who I guess I could call the only other “fatty in residence”) either works out at the gym, is vegan or vegetarian, or eats totally local organic food. I’m the only one who is working full time and going to school full time and thinks that finding half an hour to work out when I have so much other stuff to do is ridiculous. I am happy for their health and I would so love to emulate it but I hate veggies and I hate working out.

    But the person ordering the t-shirts is a “fatty” himself. In fact, it seems that he hasn’t come to terms with his own weight because he often looks horrible with shirts that are too tight and gaping at the buttons, or tight across his chest so we can see all that he has to offer.

    And yet he laughed at me when I suggested that we purchase sizes larger than just an XL? Um. Not to pick on him but I know he would feel more comfortable doing a day of service around our community (usually cleaning, adopt-a-mile, working in a garden, etc) in a shirt that wasn’t stretching crazily across his body inhibiting him from movement.

    And…I still haven’t gotten my t-shirt from when I shaved my head to help raise funds for St. Baldrick’s, a charity that raises money for children with cancer. I also had to ask for a 2XL. They said no problem and would let me know when the T-shirt came in. It’s been about four weeks now. I’ve given up on getting my shirt.

  24. The tshirt thing has been an issue my whole life, but I started getting militant about it when it happened to my kids. In activities ranging from church choir to county rec league basketball, organizers would order a range of kid sizes but even in elementary school my kids needed adult sizes. I have been known to take the adult sized shirt right off the coaches back. I also franken-shirted a number of team uniforms by sewing the logo from the too small shirt onto one that would fit my kid. We always write the tshirt size we need onto every enrollment form, even if they don’t ask! Even the spirit wear ordered for the high school football players to wear often did not include the size my offensive lineman son needed. It just made me so sad that my kids would be constantly disappointed when that box of tiny tshirts came out.

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