Elizabeth Bennett (the famed heroine of Pride and Prejudice) might have had it wrong about pride.
In Elizabeth’s estimation, pride is a wall that a person erects to keep others out.
In a Big Girl/Guy Runner’s world (BG for short), pride isn’t a wall to keep others out – it’s a path – to health, better relationships, and the ability to look yourself in the eye, each and every day.
I got to thinking about pride after this article in the New York Times this week, talking about how men and women without jobs keep up appearances. They go to coffee shops, and dress for “work” each day – because, in tough times, especially after a job loss, pride in yourself disappears. In these times, pride helps – it can keep depression and anxiety at bay, and can also help motivate folks to keep looking for a job.
So what does pride have to do with BG Runners? Simple. We are all carrying around some extra weight. We wish it were less. We dream of being defined by something other than our weight. And when we become runners – or walkers – we are creating a new definition for ourselves. And that definition, frequently, is one we draw on as a source of pride.
Before I was a runner, I was just a Big Girl who could drink many beers with her colleagues, make anyone laugh, and quote a Cubs box score. But now, I’m a Runner. And as a Runner, I have a different identity. I’m the half marathon expert. The person who can tell the new runner about the best place to get shoes, and the best “getting started” races in the area. The woman who knows the course map for a dozen races, and can help you train. The person who finished all those races with all those extra pounds. The person who prevailed.
Running has added a dimension to my life that forces others to see me as more than the funny, entertaining, yet predominantly Big Girl, defined by weight alone. And I’m not alone – many of my BG running friends realize that we created a new identity when we began running – one that expanded over time. Today, we’re not just runners – we’ve become athletes, regardless of size.
For those of us who wage an ongoing battle with food, identifying as a runner, or a walker, or an athlete, is all about pride. It’s our way to say to the world “yes, I am capable of doing hard things”, or “yes, I have the capacity to prevail even when times are tough” or “yes, I even surprised myself”. We are capable of consistent effort – and a consistent feeling of accomplishment – that we don’t normally exhibit in an area related to our personal health. We know we haven’t conquered the food (or the beer, or whatever else leads to our pounds). But we also know we’re capable of doing something to help ourselves feel better, and we’ve chosen this life.
So yes, we’re proud. We’re proud that, even though we still battle food issues, we run. We walk. We kayak, and play soccer, and bike, and run the stairs. We are proud every time we get a workout in. We are proud every time we complete an event we never thought possible.
And it’s that pride that gets us out the door the next day, and the next. So don’t be afraid to be proud of who you are – regardless of your weight. You are a runner, or a walker, and of that you can be very proud.