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October 29, 2015

How to Have a Runner’s Body

BY CASSIE WATT, MLIS

Hint: Have a body and run.

While fangirling on a recent Saturday night, I saw that Lauren Fleshmen would be at the Oiselle Flagship Store the next day signing copies of her new book. I tweeted that I was excited to attend, and Lauren Fleshman replied. Thrilled, I had Twitter­-committed to meeting a hero and finding new running gear.

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Despite my initial excitement about new gear and personal heroes, I woke on Sunday trepidatious. A not­ so nice inner voice said, “It's raining. Maggie won't like the long run. Your back hurts. You’re too big to fit into those clothes. You’ll embarrass yourself.”

I was scared of walking into a store where nothing would fit. And I am also scared as I am writing this blog. Speaking publicly about my body is not unlike walking into a store in which you may not fit anything; it is terrifying and wrought with pitfalls and the worst comment trolls.

“In high school I was a cross­ country star who quit the sport because of anorexia...”, I began. Then I paused. I did not want to tell a story about my worst moment in a sport I love.

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I next cut everything except for, “Kara Goucher favorited a tweet and I was like: HUSBAND, PEEL ME OFF THE FLOOR FOR I HAVE DIED.” This was an acceptable tweet, but it was not a compelling blog.

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I need to be brave and tell my whole story, because I am not alone. Women runners come big, small, short, tall. We are fast, slow, and everything in between. But the images we often see of runners are idealized and homogenous, and rarely are there positive images of runners who do not meet that ideal.

I AM a runner. I am a very good runner. I do not run a sub­20 minute 5k right now, but love the sport, set and meet goals, gut it out at workouts, face my fears, and race with my heart. I am also a mother of two young children, a running nerd, librarian, formerly ranked #9 in the state for cross ­country, and I am struggling with my weight.

In Lauren Fleshman’s viral blog post “Keeping it Real” she shares her amazing abs in a runway shoot and then her “belly roll” and “thigh cheese” at practice. In her follow-up in Runner’s World she admits that because of nerves the blog sat in her drafts box for months. I thought, “If Lauren Fleshman was nervous to write about her body and found the courage, maybe I can find that courage too.”

Women’s bodies are miraculously diverse. Even throughout our lives, our bodies can change dramatically. Once, while in recovery, someone asked me what I had done to look so good. I answered cheerfully, “Gained forty pounds!” After having my second child Maggie, I became ill and was on bed rest for two months post­partum.

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When I was allowed to move again, I was a size 18 (above right), significantly bigger than my pre­pregnancy size 8 (above left). I wanted running gear, but shopping in my new body was hard. Stores I frequented pre­-baby had nothing in my size. I felt uncomfortable entering a running store when I couldn’t identify with the images I saw of women runners. I doubted that clothes that fit models would be comfortable on me, and I was often correct as cuts were too short, too snug. I looked at Oiselle months later, after getting within range of their size offerings, and had a nagging hesitation, “I don't have a 'Runner’s Body' yet, there's nothing for me.”

Then with the blog post We Work for Women’s Bodies Oiselle did something that struck a chord. They published images of fan runners of various body shapes and sizes wearing Oiselle gear with each runner’s size noted. All the runners looked amazing and comfortable in their Flystyle, and each was equally recognized as a runner.

On Sunday morning, I found my courage and told myself, “You ARE a runner, and you are going to take your runner self on a run, and run all the way to that fantastic running store, meet Lauren Fleshman­­ (do not actually do a cheerleading routine at her!­) ­and get yourself a pair of running tights. And if, my dear, IF you do not fit into their clothes, you are still a runner.”

I strapped Maggie into the stroller and I ran the 5.5 miles to Oiselle. Upon meeting Lauren Fleshman, I did not yell, “You are my hero!” then faint to the floor. And, despite initial fears of embarrassment, I left Oiselle with gorgeous, perfectly fitting gear for MY runner's body.

Fear hems us in, and silence begets shame. Here is the thing: Even if nothing in the Oiselle store fit my size and I left without anything in hand, I believe no one in that store would have thought I was any less of a runner.

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I ran ten miles today, the farthest I’ve run since before I was pregnant with my daughter. Later this fall I will be running the Moose Pond Half Marathon, and I will not PR. I will certainly PW (Personal Worst), but that seems fitting with the lessons I am learning about owning my runner’s body.

Lauren Fleshman signed my book, "May the next year be full of awesome runs and some hard fought lessons." As a runner, I am challenged to push myself past my comfort zone and come face­ to­ face with potential failure. Once I get to the other side of the pain, embarrassment, and gut it ­out decisions, I might find that failure realized. But, I know that I will often find joy, triumph, and pride.


Cassie is a runner and librarian. Originally from Maine, she resides with her husband James and two children (1 and 3) in Seattle, WA. Cassie is the cofounder and main media­gopher at the Tatyana and Rory Wingham Charitable Projects (www.tatyandrory.org). Her current project is www.run2016in2016.com, a challenge to all runners to log at least 25 miles per week for 2016 to raise money for homeless pups. You can follow Cassie on Twitter at @CassaLaCassa.

Comments

Jen | October 29, 2015 at 11:05am

Inspiring!

Thanks for your honest take. We all have doubts and fears, but at our best, we just feel the fear and do it anyway! I recently ran my first half marathon and I'm in my 50's and haven't really run since my late twenties (before kids). It took a serious amount of determination and motivation, but I felt prepared and finished it! My twenty-two year old daughter surprised me and flew in for my race - and cheered for her mom! I was very proud and so was she.

Beth Squire | October 29, 2015 at 11:51am

Moose Pond

What a great story! I wish I were running Moose Pond too! Are you from the east? Im a volee as well!!!! Good luck and remember we are all beautiful and keeeep running to feel amazing!

Cassie Watt | October 29, 2015 at 4:17pm

Thank you!

You go! That is awesome, and it sounds like you have so much to be proud of! -C

Erin Templeton | October 29, 2015 at 5:19pm

Thank you for Keeping It Real!

Thank you Cassie. Thank you for your courage and your willingness to speak about your struggles and your journey. I'm sure I'm not the only Fangirl who will be cheering for you from afar when you run your Half this fall. In fact, I'm sure I'm not the only one cheering for you after reading your post.

Catherine Raynor | October 29, 2015 at 5:42pm

Love this

Love this

Shannon Pipes | October 30, 2015 at 2:38pm

Oh my gosh, LOVED this blog!

Oh my gosh, LOVED this blog! Thanks for sharing! :)

Jewels | October 30, 2015 at 5:16pm

You rock!

Thank you for writing so eloquently about the struggle to have a "runner's body." I have struggled and still struggle to like what I see in the mirror. I love what Oiselle does for every single woman that tries on their clothing. I see one bad ass runner in the mirror. Now if only I could just wear my running gear all day every day. Keep on, keeping it real, Cassie!

Nora | October 31, 2015 at 9:18am

Wonderful

Loved every bit of this! This is the reason why I fangirl so hard for wonderful, running ladies.

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