Let me start by saying this is NOT a weight loss success story. In fact it’s quite the opposite. At thirty years of age, with fifty-plus pounds to lose, my goal to finish a half-marathon was supposed to springboard me into the greatest weight loss story ever told. Despite logging 130+ miles on the treadmill during two hour blocks of training, however, I weighed in on race day exactly four pounds less than the day I started. Four pitiful pounds.
Success? More like epic fail.
I spent several days leading up to the race fighting that old familiar voice telling me to bow out gracefully while I could, to save myself the embarrassment of failing by choosing not to try. After all, what would the other marathoners think if someone twice their size lined up beside them? They’d probably assume I was lost and try to redirect me to the spectator’s stand. They’d probably look at me like I didn’t deserve to be there or laugh at me outright.
Have you heard that voice? Have you heard the whispers from your past tell you there are certain things you just aren’t allowed to do or be? It seems like we all struggle with insecurity in one form or another. We all have a voice we are trying to prove wrong.
So maybe it’s time to start listening to a different voice.
On April 28, 2013, with my plus-size self still staring back at me in the rearview mirror, I listened to a different voice. I parked in the far lot and made my way to the race headquarters. I passed the crowds waiting to fill the stands. I passed the brightly-vested volunteer base. I passed the friends and family tent where people of all shapes and sizes gathered in support of their loved ones.
With a deep breath and an eager heart I stepped off the sidelines and took my place at the starting line. The gun sounded, the pre-race jitters settled, and my feet started moving one in front of the other.
Finish. Finish. Finish. The rhythm of the chant matched the rising of my chest. Breathe in. Breathe out. Finish. Finish. Finish. I could hear it echo with every pounding of my foot against the pavement. Finish. Finish. Finish. It was the singular focus driving each step forward.
I will never forget the whistles and encouraging words of onlookers cheering me on. I will never forget hearing my name announced on the loud speaker to signal my approach inside the stadium. I will never forget that first glimpse of the finish line or the look of pride on my husband’s face when he finally found me and wrapped me in a huge hug despite my soaking wet gear. (Did I forget to mention it rained for the entire race? How unfair was that?!)
My plus-size, half-marathon experience didn’t reshape my body, but it did reshape my sense of self. I discovered I had the courage to show up despite the disappointment of failing in my expected weight loss. I had the courage to start not knowing if or when I would finish. I had the courage to put myself out there and plug away at 13.1 miles of potential failure one rain-soaked step at a time.
I LOVE that I finished. I LOVE that I beat my personal best time by averaging three seconds under my fastest single-mile pace not just for one or two of those thirteen miles, but every…single…one. I’m still working to lose the rest of my fifty pounds, but I treasure this memory of my first big race. It was one of the most outstanding experiences of my life, and had I listened to the voice urging me to bow out gracefully and save myself from potential failure, I never would have known the success of simply choosing to start let alone the sweet, sweet victory of making it all the way to the finish. My plus-size half-marathon taught me that it is better to face the possibility of failing to finish than to never finish because you failed to even show up at the start line.
Today I proudly sport the popular “13.1” sticker on the back of our family mini-van. It’s my constant reminder that I have side-lined my plus-size self for too long. Today is a day to live, whatever the scale may say.
“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it…” Psalm 118:24