Saturday, November 29, 2014

An Open Letter to Runners World

Dear Dave Willey,

I hate to resort to open letters; however, Runner's World Magazine doesn't make it easy to find a letter to the editor address and I have a serious bone to pick with you.

That's a photo my husband took of me crossing the 10k finish line at the RW Heartbreak Hill 10k.  I had run the 5k a bit earlier and I was one of the last folks to cross the 10k finish line and it was a major accomplishment on more levels than you can imagine.

See, I am what is politely referred to as a "real sized" woman.  That means I am fat but in our world of manners and political correctness, no one wants to say that to my face.

I entered the cover of the Runner's World Magazine contest but realized quickly I didn't have a chance for three reasons: my social network isn't immense; I didn't have a truly inspirational story, just a normal one; and I'm fat.  I tried, so it goes and I'm OK with that, but I had hope the editors would actually go through the entries and read the essays and maybe, for once, pick someone that looked out of place on the cover so that folks like me didn't feel ignored.

I was wrong.

Can you imagine the amount of pain and hurt by going with yet another "I lost a zillion pounds through running" story rather than just one "I don't care that I'm fat and run and screw people who laugh at me" person?  I mean no offense to Michele Elberston's achievement of shedding 250+ pounds or any one else's achievements featured in the December 2014 Runner's World.  There are always those that face adversity and pull victory from the jaws of defeat.

They certainly inspire, but that's not everyone and sometimes we normal folks need a voice too.

You guys asked applicants to answer the question: "What is running important to you?" I wrote that whenever I think of quitting I think of a student who hugged and thanked me for showing her you don't have to look like an athlete to be athletic. In a world where girls are constantly told they are too fat - whether it's the First Lady taking on childhood obesity and nutrition or Abecrombie and Fitch's CEO saying that he doesn't want "fat girls" wearing his clothing line, only the cool kids - it's important that someone can inspire girls who will never look like chiseled athletes because it's just not their body type.

To understand why it was so important to see someone who looks like me on the cover comes back to prejudice and judgement I have received via the running community.  I was told by the head of one athletic gear company, "When you lose weight dear..." when I asked for a longer length running skirt to cover my generous ... um ... assets.  Trying to find a comfortable running bra that holds me in place so I don't give myself two black eyes when I'm running (please, I'm not a mystical Inuit woman giving Homer Simpson directions back to Springfield) or a long enough shirt to cover my midsection without having to go to the men's section of the store.  Many race directors don't think twice about the folks in the back of the pack, which is why I am loyal to those who make sure every last runner (or walker) is supported the whole race and stay until they have crossed the finish line.

There are all sorts of people like me out there in the gyms, on the tracks and on the roads and yet we are invisible, mocked and constantly discouraged because we don't look the part.  Once again, we are the kids who don't belong in someone's little club and it hurts even more as an adult.  I guess we never get used to that feeling of rejection.  You had a chance to change that with your cover and you didn't.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't about did I win or lose. This is me being upset that you didn't think outside the box.  You went with what is expected and, as a result, you missed the point, and a large portion of the population, entirely.

See I love running.  Hell I write haiku while I'm running and a magazine cover won't change that, but it might have changed it for someone else.  Your job is defined by Rodale Press's mission statement: We inspire and enable people to improve their lives and the world around them.

Today I don't feel so inspired, I just feel sad.  Perhaps a run will change my mood.

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