Thursday, April 21, 2011

The "You don't look like a marathoner" discussion continues

I want to thank everyone for their feedback on the "You don't look like a marathoner" topic from Tuesday. I like reading what you folks think about some of these topics, because  I almost always think "I wonder if it's just me that feels like this?", and it usually turns out that it's not. I got a response last night from George, (who read the site upon notice from his wife Kacie) that I'd like to share with you here:
My wife alerted me to your post. I give you credit for biting your tongue and for trying to understand why she might have said it (i.e. "this is probably the first race she's ever been around . . ."). 

I thought of your blog when I read Ted King's blog today. Ted's a professional cyclist on one of the best teams in the world. He's a two-time Giro d'Italia finisher. He's from NH, and he was in town (taking a break from his living/training/racing in Europe) for the Boston Marathon. In his blog today, reflecting on what he saw at Boston, Ted wrote, "The diversity of runners is phenomenal – all ages, all body types, all with a different reason or story for doing the race." 

Undoubtedly, Ted is in the top 1% of athletes on the planet, but to him, the fact that not everyone looks like him is a GOOD thing. And I think that it takes an athlete to understand this. The lady at the finish line had never actually crossed a finish line, and because of that, I don't think she gets it.
I am fortunate enough to have met Ted King at an event held at Landry's Bike Shop just down the road from my house last fall on weekend Rach was away with the hockey team. He's a good guy, and that's where I disagree slightly with what George had to say. I don't think it takes an athlete to understand that different people do things for different reasons and with different goals. Ted sees this because he's a good guy, not because he's an athlete. Because I've met plenty of athletes who will probably never understand that. It only takes a visit over to SlowTwitch to know there's a reason why triathletes are sometimes seen as Type A "jerks" who think if you're not fast, and don't look almost too thin, you aren't one of them. (Note: I hang out over there fairly regularly and there are plenty of nice people there, but there are absolutely some prime examples

Instead, I think it's about people's nature and experience. I'm making a lot of assumptions about the lady who said what she said to me, and frankly I've been trying to give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she meant it the way it sounded, the way some of the folks at SlowTwitch say it. Maybe though, she's the kind of person whose only exposure to running has been a grandson or daughters track meets and what she has seen on TV, which is almost always the lead pack of uber-athletes. Maybe this lady is a perfectly nice person, but she has a very narrow world view.

Maybe that world view is because of her experiences, and maybe it's because that's what she chooses it to be. The problem is that it's a still too common frame of mind. No, It's not 100% OK to be fat; it's unhealthy, it puts a fiscal burden on our health care system, and an emotional burden on friends and loved ones. But for those of us working to be healthier and stronger and weigh less, being fat doesn't take away the fact that we are athletes.

Plus, no matter what I look like, I will be a marathoner come 9/11.


  1. What a crappy thing for someone to say to anyone.

    I think anyone who chooses to live a healthier lifestyle should be applauded. I think a lot of folks have a narrow view of what athletes should look like, and the fact is, we are changing the public views of what an athlete should look like - or at least trying.

    And yes, no question, you are an athlete. And you will be an Ironman and a marathoner as of 9/11.

  2. I hope you see her again, I know that chance is next to none, but if you did, its a small world anyways, when she asks that question again, say "Hold on" but on your finisher medal and say, "Yep, now I look like a marathoner"