Definitions that don't define who we are

When I was in middle school, we held a local event for the Special Olympics.  My school was looking for volunteers -- kids that that would help escort each participant (who were the same ages as most of the middle school volunteers) from event to event, kids to help the adults report the results of the events, and most importantly, kids to help cheer on the participants. 

A few select volunteers got special positions as huggers.  As a hugger, you would be paired off with a Special Olympian for the day, and would be there at the end of every event to either be there to hug them or for them to hug you.  Early that day, a representative from the Special Olympics met with the volunteers and said something to all of us that has stuck with me for a while, something to the effect of "We're all running our own races at our own speeds." 

I've had to touch on this moment many times over the years when I've felt like I'm not "part of the pack" — i.e. people that are out there running 5Ks, half-marathons, marathons, triathlons, ultramarathons, etc. — because my body restricts me to the elliptical.  Many of my wise friends reminded me running comes in all shapes, sizes, forms, distances, and speeds.

The next part of this blog entry comes with a big disclaimer:
I don't want any negativity directed toward the person I'm going to talk about. 
There's no room for that here on FatGirlvsWorld.

Tuesday I posted this picture on Facebook and Twitter with the caption "Eff yeah. Good run": 

A friend of mine replied to the photo, "Isn't that an elliptical?" 

I replied "Yes. So running uphill with resistance. To each their own."  I could feel myself getting defensive and protective of my run. 

She then replied "True. I just feel like actual running is so much harder and a better workout. Better than nothing I suppose!"

**raises an eyebrow and tries to come up with a measured but constructive response**

"Just to be clear, you arent negging my run, right? Running is harder on one's body as well. My spine doesnt need the added compression from pounding pavement or even a treadmill. I burn around 650 calories in 5 miles per my BodyMedia FIT."

She replied "Not at all, the elliptical is a great workout and a good alternative when you have medical issues as you do. I'm just saying it isn't the same thing as running. Which you agree with."

And I said the only defense I really needed to say:  "It is how I run."

Thankfully someone else chimed in and said "It's kinda like running in quicksand. Good work, Robby!"

I understand what my friend was saying, and on the surface running on the elliptical is not the same mechanics as running on the treadmill.  Running on the treadmill is not the same as running on the ground.  Running on the ground is not the same as being chased by a bear uphill without any shoes on.

The whole discussion reminded me of Oscar Pistorius -- the runner who fought to run in the Olympics despite having double below-the-knee amputations.  Some people saw his prosthesis as giving him an advantage, and some people argued that losing parts of both your legs were no advantage.  No one would ever say to him that what he does isn't running because it doesn't fit the definition of "both feet leave the ground" because he technically doesn't have feet. 

I thought about Megan Vogel, the long distance runner, and many others who have helped their competitors (or their loved one) across the finish line when they could not do it under their own power. 

It's been a few days, but I've come to the conclusion that running isn't about the mechanics; it's about the spirit. Running isn't about picking up one foot, and the other foot. Its about moving forward, together, towards our goals and meeting each other at the finish line, wherever that line may be, whatever that line may look like.

Oh, and today's run was fantastic: 

Make no mistake, I am a runner.
No one can tell me otherwise.


Interesting, Robby. I've found when I own my own stuff, that I don't have to defend, explain, or convince anyone of anything!!!

You are both athletic. You are both choosing choices that make you well. I gave up walking half marathons due to plantar facitis that kicks up after about 5-6 miles.

People look down on me all the time for walking. I laugh at that. I laugh my assets off, because it's my choice. The judgement doesn't matter, my health matters. Zip - hear that? My pants fit
and I'm in an emotional and physical healthy place. Other opinions don't matter. I'll be walking well into my 80's or 90's- God, willing.

Anyone who looks down on another persons form of exercise - well, that's a reflection of their emotional health. That's okay, too. We're all in different places.

Run on!!! :)


Karen :

I think what i needed to wrap my head around, and what I didn't quite say in the post is that my definition of "run" does not diminish her definition of "run": it enriches it.

Like the verb "to sing" -- just cause someone sings in a different style or genre, just because they have a different tone or even a different song in their heart, doesn't mean that person isn't a singer or their song is any less joyous.


Do what you do, Robby, with no apologies. Don't feel like you ever need to explain/defend yourself to others. Especially when you know dang well you're busting it out in badass beastmode. ya know?


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<3 Robby