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Look Beyond

This morning I ran a half marathon in the Cayman Islands (I know, poor me!). And that report and full amazing trip details to come.

But I am writing this post about something else. And not something Cayman Islands-centric, either, although the events of the morning happened to happen on Cayman. This particular something hurts me and burns me to the core.

I was sitting inside a wonderful restaurant. Feeling the achy post-half-marathon legs, enjoying a wonderful cappuccino and salad, and listening to music on my iPhone. My view overlooked the patio, and beyond that, the street and sidewalk on a main roadway.

There was a table of four beautiful people outside, having brunch, two men and two women—assuming they were couples, but who knows… I will call them the Fantastic Four. There they sat, with Bloody Marys and unhealthy, soak-up-the-booze-from-the-night-before was being consumed (I know exactly what that food looks like from my past life, and any drinker knows that a Bloody Mary is the only acceptable cure for a bad night.)

Then I saw it. From across the street, and seriously, I swear, inside my head I actually thought a curse word. I saw this person, and I cursed in my head—that’s how SURE I was, how CERTAIN I was of what was coming.

Interestingly, before I tell you the rest, I will go ahead and say—that if I the opposite had occurred, I would have written about it, but in a “praise God” kind of way. Unfortunately, that is not this post.

So there’s the scene: a brunch patio, with a clear view. A group of four of the pretty people.

And here it comes… the sight that made me squint and turn away, for a split second.. A woman, a quite large woman, with headphones on… And for the love, she is running.

And I cringe.

No, I don’t cringe because of her. I see her. I see that beautiful human in all of her amazing glory, determination and hard work. I see the slight smile and grimace on her face, as she runs. And notably, I see how fast she is going (holy lord, you go girl—10:00? 9:45 pace?). She is so beautiful to me, because she is my people. She knows where I come from, even if she knows nothing about me. She is a woman, and she is not thin, and she is running.

She is a person I would like to have a cappuccino with.

But I see her, in this scenario, and I cringe.

Why?

Because, like I said, I saw what was coming—from a mile away. It was like I was Shonda Rimes and I was sitting there writing another Grey’s Anatomy episode, “Should I really kill off Derek?” Oh, but Shonda, that’s too awful! You can’t do that!

I wanted to think that I was making a really bad plot move, that would backfire on me. Surely, Meredith, you’ll be wrong about this. Surely.

But I wasn’t wrong.

The woman approached the table of fours’ line of sight. And there it was. Eight eyes. Squinted. Four heads turned. Four mouths did a twitchy thing. And then they turned to each other.

I didn’t have to keep watching.
I didn’t want to keep watching.

Because, for f-sake, I knew what that group of four people was going to do.

I KNEW because I have been that damn woman running, so many freaking times. SO many times. Especially on Sundays—the quintessential brunch day—I have run by, first seen the stares, then the glances at each other, then I have heard the giggles, and I have kept going. “Eff em, they aren’t my people, anyway,” I had learned to think in these situations.

One, because it’s true.

Two, because in the beginning of my fitness road, these type of people kept me inside. I wouldn’t run outside because of the fear of being seen running by these types of people.

The Do Nothing Brunch Laughers. (Yes, taking a twist from DNB, Rhonda Rousey… Credit where credit is due.)

So these Fantastic Four laughed. Then one of the guys made a gesture of WIDE and another of JIGGLE, and that’s all I’m gonna say.

“Oh but Meredith, maybe they weren’t laughing at her!”

Shut up. Just don’t even.

Then I wondered if a larger guy had run by, if the Fantastic Four would have noticed. Or a typical “beautiful” girl (would she have had it worse, in other ways? That’s another issue, I guess.)

Really, no way to know, I guess.

I wanted to run out from my perch inside, and scream, “You go girl!” —but then, that’s almost worse. I have felt this too, the “over encouragement” especially on a damn training day from people.

This is often worse, yes. Not really in a race, I love it. But just when I’m out for a run, yeah, it can feel weird.

“So what in the hell do YOU want, Meredith?”

Nothing.

That’s what I want. When a larger or slower or not-super-fit-or-whatever person runs by you, do absolutely NOTHING.

That would be a beautiful day, and that would be a beautiful sight.
A slight smile of appreciation. Yes, that.
Not pity.
Not “you go girl.”
Nothing. Or if something, then just a smile.

I mean most of us are just out there running, because we are runners.  We are running to save our sanity. To forget about what we look like. To just be.

When someone laughs that’s on them… but it doesn’t make it any better.

[Please note that I believe race day to be different. Please CHEER for everyone in races, for the love…]

I am proud of my running sister out there running. I hope she never reads this, like ever. And I hope she had a great run, and has a great day, and she’s none the wiser.

After all, where our focus goes, energy flows (Tony, of course). What we choose to focus on, we will breed.

So let’s not focus on the others... let’s just see what it is.

A runner.  (Not even a female runner. Just a runner.)

When I see people laugh at me or whatever (and dude, I get it—when I run, I jiggle like jello. And it’s even actually worse after losing weight—stuff wiggles everywhere)—I see it, and I just don’t care anymore. I know what I look like. I also know that I have worked HARD for this, and have come to a place of “screw ‘em,” and it’s a good place to be. It really is.

But it still sucks, to see this stuff happen. To sit here and pray that what I swear is about to happen, won’t happen.

And then, to see that it does. It just sucks.

If you are one of these women; if you don’t run outside just because of this—do not let my post keep you inside.  Who cares about those people? Really. Who cares. Go out. Run, in all your glory, at whatever size or age or whatever you are.

Because here’s the thing:

For those of you who are the “victims” of something like an incident by a Fantastic Four, know that while it sucks and hurts, there’s more to it. Understand that while you may ONLY see and feel the treatment of the Do Nothing Brunch Laughers, there IS more to it.

For if you squint your eyes ever so slightly, and look beyond—you will see the woman inside the patio—the one who knows what running means to you. The one who knows how awesome and powerful it feels to get out there and run, even if it’s weird or awkward or painful. Just look beyond, and find those who see you… look for the ones who really SEE you. Look at the woman who will refrain from judging OR shouting “you go girl just because you are ____” — but is simply nodding at you in appreciation.

Focus on that.

When you feel alone, know that there’s an army behind you—large or small, fat or thin, slow or fast, and everywhere and every “label” and untruth in between. Focus on that truth.

And just keep going.

#JustKeepMovingForward

12 Comments

  • Melanie J.

    December 4, 2016 at 7:33 pm

    Goodness, but I love when you speak up like this. As a large woman, just starting to get healthy once again (again, always again), who bypasses yoga in the studio sometimes because she’s feeling particularly large, even with the body-positive wonderfulness of people like you and Dana Falsetti in my head…as a woman who dances to her music as she walk/jogs at her rural track and knows people might laugh as they drive by…it’s only by speaking up when things like this occur, that we spread the word that their casual laughter is not OK, that it’s not “just for fun,” and that it shouldn’t be acceptable in any situation. I don’t know where our kindness has gone, but when we speak up, we bring it back, step by step. Thanks again, Meredith!

    Reply
  • Karen Okupniak

    December 5, 2016 at 6:48 am

    I just did IMMD with John Young, a triathlete with dwarfism who was the first little person to complete an Ironman. He posted what he described as his one of his favorite race pictures — he was on the run surrounded by people who weren’t giving him a second glance. He was just another guy running through the flooded streets of Cambridge, MD on a tough day. The ultimate acceptance of a norm.

    Reply
  • SoAnyway

    December 5, 2016 at 11:06 am

    I try not to be too self conscious about being out running, but every time I pass a patio full of eating/drinking people or a doorway full of smoking people I’m pretty sure they’re all laughing at me. Of course that’s probably just some left-over adolescent-ego-centrism. But I’m still pretty convinced 🙂

    Reply
  • Helga

    December 5, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    In the past few years, I’ve seen quite a few ladies of a certain age and a certain size taking part in triathlons. I’m over fifty and always get a kick out of my age group and older.. When I see a fellow racer wearing a SBM tri-kit, I always say “Hi” .. either on the beach waiting for a swim start or during the run if I pass them or on the bike…and I’ve often thought that there is probably no way that they would be doing triathlon if it wasn’t for SBM and the SBM Army’s encouragement. Of course I could be wrong, but I love the way that we recognize and encourage each other….. we’re both competitive and kind! And then that gets paid forward. Always. There will always be detractors and beautiful people and fantastic four’s who just don’t get it.. because they never had to… I don’ t think there is much that can be done there. Human’s are not inherently kind..unless we are actively taught to be so. My 2 cents.

    Reply
  • Jennifer Gibbs

    December 5, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    I’m going to say something that may sound absolutely ridiculous, but here goes:
    I’ve often wondered if things aren’t really “real” for everyone. Like what you saw happened for your eyes only, and not to the woman runner. As in, the universe put that scene in front of you to teach you a lesson, or for you to teach yourself a lesson, or for a lesson of some sort. You get it. In other words, everyone does not have the same reality. And we know this is the case based on perspective, etc. But I have just started to think this may be the case. And if you contemplate that, you may not feel so awful about the woman running, and you may not feel so hateful for the fabulously-rude foursome, but you will give a wink and a nod to the universe for allowing you to see it and to witness it and to process it. I know, weird. But that’s sort of what I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

    Reply
  • Heather

    December 5, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    Thank you. I have lost 125 lbs over the last 18 months (still a long way to go) and the most embarrassing and demotivating thing is when people would come up to me at the gym and interrupt my workout to “encourage” me. It reminds me that I stick out. I want nothing more than to be another normal person sweating buckets on a spin bike. I get plenty of support from my husband, family, and trainer. Don’t make me take off my headphones to congratulate me like a freak.

    Reply
  • Nancy

    December 9, 2016 at 11:01 pm

    Next time, smile and wink at them. Shitty people being shitty are always embarrassed when they get caught being shitty. And knowing the world recognizes your shittiness makes you self-conscious pretty much forever.

    Reply

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