Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Oh really Bob? Challenge accepted.

Misery, thy name is Bob.  Let me tell you about my running week.  On Saturday, Brian and I headed out to our go-to long run spot, the American Tobacco Trail.  It's an old railroad that they turned into a trail as part of the national Rails-to-Trails system.  Because it used to be a train track, it's pretty much nice and flat with a few looong, gradual hills here and there.  Perfect for a long, easy training run.

I ran 7.5 miles, and just barely finished before the first lead runners came down the trail for the American Tobacco Trail 10 miler!  Those were some speedy people!  We hung out for a bit to cheer on the lead pack, and in the meantime, met a very nice guy who is a member of the North Carolina Road Runners club.  They're the local running club that sponsors a lot of the races in the area and holds weekly group runs and track workouts.  I told this guy about my training and he surprised me by telling me that he's run the National Marathon/USA Rock 'n' Roll marathon in D.C. three times!  He told me that he really liked the race, but that the last 6 miles or so were pretty dead and not too scenic.  Luckily, I've done a LOT of reading about this race and was ready to hear that kind of assessment of the course.  Don't worry, I plan on planting supporters along the last 6 miles or so to cheer for me/run with me at the end of the race :).

And now about Bob.  This very nice man suggested that I go to the weekly NCRR track workouts, because a coach named Bob would be happy to work with me.  I thanked him and headed home, excited to email Bob and learn more about how I could improve my speed and my overall marathon time.  

When I emailed Bob, I explained to him that I wasn't looking to win the marathon, I would just like to finish under the 5.5 hour course time limit.  I wanted to get faster, but realized that I wouldn't be qualifying for Boston anytime soon.  He emailed back with a questionnaire that required me to list things like my fastest 5k time, fastest 10k time, fastest half marathon time, gender, age, height and weight.  I quickly filled out the form and sent it back.

Not too long after, I received an email that went like this:  

Looking at your history, if you don't mind I'd like to ask you a few questions and make a few comments only to help you understand a few things about running faster.

I noticed that you have been running for 8 years and weigh 165 lbs. 

**Note:  normally this would be unthinkable for me to tell people/everyone/the internet how much I weigh, but the truth is, I'm not ashamed of it (anymore).  If you know me well, you know I've struggled with weight and eating issues most of my life, and I'm proud to say I'm dealing with it and seeking advice from people who can help me take care of myself in a positive way.  Clearly I'm not a slug, as I've run three half marathons and many other races.  No reason for me to be ashamed of what I am :).  I work hard to be my best every day, and that is only getting better as I get older!  On to the rest of Bob's note...

How much did you weigh when you started? Has your weight varied much over the years because of pregnancy or some other reason? Do you have children or anything else that impacts your running negatively?

The reason I ask is because the easiest way to get faster is to get lighter. 

Now Bob, first, let me say thank you for your insight.  It hadn't occurred to me that I am not the skinniest of runners and that losing weight might improve my running!  Stroke of freakin' genius there, Bob!  

Ok, but seriously with all sarcasm aside, I truly think that Bob was trying to be helpful, as he went on to explain how weight affects your running, and how he has struggled as a "yo-yo dieter" all of his life.  The feminist in me wanted to shoot off an email that basically said "HECK WITH YOU" old man!  You don't know me!  But I realized (with the help and advice of my sisters and my mom) that I could go one of two directions with this.  I could get pissed off that Bob had been insensitive to the weight and self-image issues that I have (unbeknownst to him), forget going to the track workouts, and train on my own, or I could allow Bob's slightly backwards yet (I believe) genuinely well-meaning advice to motivate me.  I chose to take his words and run with them, literally.

I took my time and wrote a note back to Bob that ended like this:  

If you think you can work with a slow, slightly chubby but eager and determined student, I would love to come out for track workouts.  I am a little intimidated by speedy people, but I want to try.  

Which brings me to this evening.  I showed up to the track at the local middle school and immediately had bad flashbacks.  It was like my 8th grade track unit all over again, only with better hair and less acne this time (thank goodness).  There were lots of fit people running around the track, and I as I stood their watching them and shivering in the chilly wind, a tall, lanky, older man walked up to me.  Our convo went something like this (brace yourself, y'all):

Bob:  You must be Emily!  Nice to meet you.

Me:  Yes!  Hi, nice to meet you too!

Bob:  You don't look like you weigh 165 lbs.!  


Me: Oh thank you, lots of people say that when they learn how much I weigh (awkward silence, dumbfounded look, supersideeye)

Bob:  You must just be very muscle-y! (Cheerful look like he just doled out the biggest compliment ever)
Me in my head:  You are about to get a swift kick to the knee, grandpa

Me:  Haha yes, I like to think it's my large brain!  (even more awkward silence)

We stood there as he greeted the other runners who were making their way by us on the track.  One lady jogged past, and Bob greeted her cheerfully.  She was much older than the rest of the running contingent at the track, but was holding her own as she glided along.  Bob quickly explained to me that she was in her 70's, and then looked me square in the eye and said (I kid you not), 

"That old lady can run a faster 5k than you can.  How do you feel about that?"

Ummmm, freaking great, Bob!  Freaking spectacular, as it has ALWAYS been a dream of mine to get beat out in a foot race against a lady who probably had a Victory Garden and remembers when sanitary napkins were a. called sanitary napkins and b. came with straps and buttons.  GAAAAAHHHHHH!!  POINT.TAKEN.BOB!!!!!

And from that moment, it was on.  No way was Bob Barker on steroids over here going to discourage me from reaching my goal.  Again, I truly believe that Bob had every intention of being funny and helpful, but this is not usually the style of encouragement that oooooh, you know, actually encourages me.  Today, something was different.  Today I was running for the chubby girls.  

I took my 6 minute time test, where I had to run as far as I could in 6 minutes.  I ran with determination and a sense of wanting to prove something.  And you know what?  I ran pretty darn fast for me.  I think Bob was even the slightest bit impressed :).  

I will go back to Tuesday track workouts, not because I want to run to lose weight, and not because I want to be the fastest person on the track so I can feel "good" about myself, but because I have a goal that is JUST for me, and I want to reach that goal.  

It's the same goal that it's been since I started training.  Train for a marathon so I can bring a greater awareness to the need for more funding for Ovarian Cancer research.  Finish the marathon to prove to the people who have been generous enough to donate that I love and appreciate their support.  Run to make Lizbeth proud.  

If I lose a few pounds along the way, that's fine.  If I stay exactly the same size, that's all right too.  I'm not about changing myself on the outside, because I know that this journey has already changed me so much right where it counts- in my heart.  

And to all the other "chubby" girls out there, don't let the Bob's get you down.  Get out there and do your thing anyway, and don't forget to be so insanely proud of everything in your life that you've accomplished.  I know I am :)

PS- I think I like Bob.  I think we're going to be good friends.  I think I'm going to get my butt kicked by him.  And I think I'm ok with that.

**Want to support this chubby runner and show your love for Lizbeth?  Donate today!!  

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