Like many runners, I love reading about running. And I look forward to my copy of Runner’s World coming in the mail each month. Flipping through it while soaking in a hot bath is one of my favorite ways to relax after a long day with my energetic kids. Reading about running gets me motivated to run. Learning about ways to increase speed and agility, tricks for overcoming nerves on race day, and what my protein to carbohydrate ratio should be after long runs are all beneficial to me. But you know what’s not helpful? Seeing women (and men, too) with perfect abs grace the cover month after month, comparing myself, and always coming up short. I understand that these are often professional athletes, and that Runner’s World and other running magazines are showcasing the best in the field. But sometimes I sigh, frustrated that these images are perpetuating the myth that *this* is what a runner’s body is supposed to look like.
Because here’s my truth. I am now 34 years old. I have grown and birthed two beautiful girls, and short of hiring a professional, full-time personal trainer and live in chef, my stomach will not look like the women on those covers. Anecdotally, my four year old asked me the other day why my tummy wasn’t flat like hers. My answer? “Because you used to live in there, and you liked to have dance parties inside my tummy, and you stretched it all out!”. This was perhaps said with a little more exasperation than the situation warranted. Most of the time, it really and truly doesn’t bother me. I’m healthy, and I’m in what might be the best shape I’ve ever been in. I set PRs in four different race distances last year and achieved a lifelong goal of qualifying for the Boston marathon. And while I wouldn’t mind losing about five pounds, I’m honestly pretty happy with my weight too. But sometimes when I see magazines constantly put runners with the same body types on the covers, I begin to doubt that I can be a great runner with non-perfect abs, or with a build that isn’t stocky, but definitely not lean either.
One of the best things I’ve ever read was a piece by professional runner Lauren Fleshman called “Keeping It Real” in which she posted pictures of her body from a runway shoot and then a few days later during her “real life”. I nearly danced with joy to realize that she has body fat in places she’d rather not. That every inch of her isn’t perfect. And that it’s OKAY! She is proud of her body, imperfections and all. She is proud of what her body can do, and the truth is that so am I. All runners, in all of our varying shapes and sizes, should be celebrated. So I’m hoping to see a little more variety gracing the covers of magazines soon. And I’m going to stop only posting what I consider to be flattering pictures of myself. And perhaps most importantly, I’m planning to fully embrace what my Creator tells me: that I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). Will you join me?