A number of readers have asked me to do posts updating them on my marathon training. I decided to day is a good day for that since I’m now about half-way through the training. But be warned, I wrote the title after I wrote the piece – this post is pretty self-absorbed and is nothing more than my meandering thoughts from my 14 mile walk today. If this is your first time on my blog might I recommend this post about the difference between Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size or this post about why it’s ok to be fat to give you a more representative sample of my work.
Otherwise, you’ve been warned, I’ll try to be back tomorrow with something more concise and less about me! Also, please know that this is about me – it’s not a suggestion of how others “should” be, I’m not trying to say that what I’m doing is better or worse than what anyone else is doing, just some of my thoughts as I go on this journey…
So I’m training to walk a marathon, 26.2 miles. I’m a little over half way through my 20 week training program and tonight was a 14 mile walk. According to the kinds of people who post on forums that were created for the purpose of hating me, this is no kind of achievement because almost anyone can walk 26.2 miles. Based on the reactions of the people I tell about the marathon that’s just not true. But even if it is true for everyone else, it’s not for me. This is hard for me. Maybe it’s because this requires slow-twitch muscle activity and as a dancer I train for the exact opposite things (explosive movement with short bouts of maximum output). Maybe it’s because I’m fat. Maybe it’s because I’m short with short legs and take 2 strides to most people’s 1. Maybe it’s because it’s just difficult.
Tonight’s training was absolutely brutal. I did 12 miles a couple of weeks ago and it was hard but nothing like this. I started to struggle with blisters and pain about 7 miles in and it didn’t seem like there was any way I could do that distance again to make my full 14 miles. On long walk nights my girlfriend is always by the phone willing to jump in the car and pick me up and for the first time I seriously thought about calling her. I decided to press on, knowing that I could always call her.
I had walked about 13 miles when I got to 10th street. I was scheduled to turn left down 10th street, walk a half mile down and a half mile back and then go home. The thing is that you can see my house from 10th street and I was really struggling. I thought, I could be home in literally one minute and I’ll have walked 13 miles which is nothing to sneeze at. So I sat down on a bus stop bench and checked in with my body. “I feel like shit” said my body. I concurred, but suggested that the question at hand was “are we hurt, or are we injured?” I ascertained that I was hurt but not injured. I thought about how far I had come and how little I had left to go. So I stood up, took a left turn on 10th, blasted Katy Perry’s Roar (don’t judge) and ground that shit out.
I’ve certainly had some people who took the time to tell me that if I achieve this it is no big deal and I should take no pride in it. I even had someone tell me that they sincerely hope that I die doing the marathon. Charming. As always, they can go fuck themselves. On the other side, I’ve had a bunch of people tell me, in well-meaning and encouraging ways, that I can always drop out of the marathon and switch to registering for the half marathon instead.
These e-mails always make me think about a thing that happens in the dance world. Some people jump around from division to division based on who they think they can beat. There are also those who choose which competitions to compete in based on who they think might be there to give them the best chance to win. People are allowed to do this, but it was never for me.
My first year of dance I won Nationals and was forced to move up a division. As I prepared for my first competition of that second year, my coach let me know that there was no way I would win. A girl who had spent years dancing a division up had taken a year off and dropped down to my division. I would be dancing all new routines and she would be dancing routines that she had been doing for years, designed to win at a higher level. I could have switched divisions but I decided that I would rather just do my best and show up for my ass kicking. When they announced first place I put on my best gracious Southern smile and started clapping for her. It took a minute to sink in – they had called my name (and I looked like an idiot smiling and clapping.) That competition remains one of the greatest victories of my life. Not because I beat that girl, she was perfectly nice, but because I beat that mentality of trying to only compete against someone you think you can beat. If I had danced and won the age division, I don’t know how I would have felt, but I know if wouldn’t have been like that.
So I finished the 14 miles and I’m having a hard time imagining that in a couple months I could do almost twice that, but that’s what I’m going to try to do. So while I know that people who suggest that I could just move down to a half marathon are well intentioned and trying to help, it’s just not necessary. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely hate failing. But I don’t fear it.
What I do fear is regret – I fear switching to an age division and wondering if I could have won the Open title. I fear crossing the finish line of the half marathon and wondering if I could have finished the whole marathon. So on December 1st I’ll just show up for my ass kicking and that’s that. It’s going to take me a seriously long time to finish – I purposely chose a race where the aid stations, medical staff and finish line stay open until the last person crosses. I plan to make it to the finish line to collect my medal and ill-fitting t-shirt. If I don’t, then they’ll bring the sag wagon to haul me off the course and I’ll experience failure, but not regret.
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