This weekend I did what I said I would do. I did Parkrun. To be honest I really didn’t want to. I’d had an awful night’s sleep, been tossing and turning and woke up about 6. I wasn’t really in the mood for a soggy 5k. As I was messaging my friend to say I wasn’t coming I remembered I’d promised myself I would and that a change needed to happen so I got up and got ready.
Parkrun itself was fine, as my friend is coming back from injury and I was a weekend between 10k races we went at a 1:1 run/walk and it was easy enough. We were actually having a good time taking it slow and being able to catch up with a chat on the way round. Then something really quite weird happened. Now the reason this post isn’t titled about this incident directly is because I really don’t think the person in question meant any harm but that’s the whole point really isn’t it? Sometimes people just don’t think and don’t understand how what they’re saying might hurt someone’s feelings.
I’m a proud clubhouse member of The Fat Girl’s Guide To Running/Too Fat to Run? but it just so happened this was the first parkrun when I wasn’t wearing one of those shirts. Oh the irony. So basically, this guy, mid to late fifties came jogging up to us with the usual friendly parkrun “you can do it girls” and we had a bit of a chat. Then out of nowhere “well as soon as you drop a few pounds you’ll get quicker” I kind of smiled in a confused way. At no point had I asked this complete stranger for running or weight loss advice but for some reason he felt like he could just dole it out. We carried on chatting and I mentioned I’d done the Great Bristol 10k the previous weekend and he asked what my time was. When I told him I’d completed in 1:32, his reply? “Well at least you did it”. Excuse me? Did you enter the race? No. So technically I beat you mister.
I think the reason this caught me so off guard was mostly the location. My local parkrun is my friendly safety net. I know I can finish in whatever time and still get a cheer. Secondly, the sad fact is, of course I’ve been made fun of while out running but by teenagers and the odd escaped gym bunny giving me a dirty look but I have never had anything from male runners before. If anything while out on runs I get more encouragement from men who are also running. Now this is not a gender thing it’s just for me personally I would think if a fellow runner was going to comment on my weight I’d always figured it would’ve been a woman because from my experience women think about weight a lot more. So anyway. That happened.
I guess I was upset. I mean how dare this man take away from my accomplishment of the previous weekend? When you see the comments in black and white it does seem bad but I genuinely don’t think he meant to upset me. He seemed pretty old school and maybe it’s a generational thing. I think maybe what I’m trying to get at is it’s not so much the fact that it was said or who it was said by but the fact that they thought it was ok to say. It was like he was reassuring me that I’d lose weight and I’d run faster. Not even contemplating for a second that maybe I’m ok with being a fat plodder. Maybe I don’t run fast but I’ve always finished.
So now part of me is a bit “bet you wish you didn’t go to that parkrun now eh?” but actually I’m glad I went. In someways (but not many) I’m glad those comments were made to me because it made me realise I’m strong enough to not let them hurt me. The thing that worries me? What if it hadn’t of been me that he’d said it to? What if it had been someone who’d got up that morning after months of building up to it and mustered the courage to go to parkrun for the first time? because believe me if someone had said that to me when I first started running I probably would’ve given up then (after crawling back under my duvet as soon as I got home and not coming back out all day). That’s what worries me. I’m lucky and I’m well aware of it that when my self esteem is dropping I have someone at home who tells me I’m beautiful everyday no matter how I look. Not everyone has that. These comments matter and it’s wrong that people think that it’s ok. I even feel as if I’m sweeping it under the carpet a bit by saying it’s a ‘generational’ thing. I mean that’s a bit like saying it’s ok for older people to be racist or homophobic. I know these are exteme comparisons but it’s true.
So what now? Well if I see that guy at parkrun again, which I probably will, I’ll give him a smile. I don’t do grudges. No one suffers but yourself. I do think however, if someone were to make a comment like that to me again I might just reply with a simple “I’m happy the way I am thanks” not in a sarcastic tone but just to let them know they don’t have to worry about the fat plodder. She’s doing her thing.
I would just like to say that this is in no way a general reflection on parkrun, possibly one of the most inclusive and friendly (and free!) public runs there is. Run completely by volunteers and always with an encouraging smile.
Happy walking/jogging/plodding/running and being you.