The following is a guest post by Jennifer Graham, Author of Honey Do You Need a Ride? Confessions of a Fat Runner.
There once was a time when coaches could talk overweight people into running by asking “Have you ever seen a fat runner?” That time is past.
As anyone who’s run a road race lately can tell you, fat runners are everywhere: running up city streets and down country lanes, energetically circling the high-school track, stampeding past the skinny people to get to the finish line at the local 5K.
Over the past 20 years, the sport of long-distance running, once dominated by human gazelles, has been co-opted by walruses in Sauconys. This is, perhaps, the biggest story in athletics today, infinitely more important than who won the Marine Corps Marathon or made the U.S. Olympic team. And it’s very good news for the two-thirds of Americans who are either overweight or clinically obese, and those who will join us after a summer of high-intensity ice-cream eating.
It means that you, too, no matter what your size or shape, can don a pair of shorts, lace up a good pair of shoes, and take to the streets without shame or fear. It means that you, too, can run a half mile without stopping, and then a mile, then three, then 13; that you can compete in the very same races that will be won by professional athletes like the Kenyans. It means that you, too, can be a runner.
Endorphins – they’re not just for skinny people anymore.
When I first started running 25 years ago, I thought running would make me thin. My Uncle Lloyd ran marathons, and I – chubby since childhood – wanted to look like him: long, lean, angular. Running, I just knew, would make my body look like his. I took to the sport enthusiastically, trotting down streets in unflattering Lycra with all the grace and speed of a glob of mayonnaise edging down the side of a bowl.
Five thousand miles and a decade later, it hit me. I wasn’t getting any faster, nor was I getting any thinner. I could run long, slow distances, go on for seemingly forever, but I hadn’t achieved my original aim, nor was I likely to.
But then I realized this: In becoming a runner, I’d simply taken a shortcut to joy.
Running made me happy; running, all by itself. Running delivered the dopamine and serotonin that my brain craved, gave me the peace and contentment I’d tried to find on my plate for so long.
Running gave me happiness, and all the ice cream I wanted. And, just for the record, the best ice cream I’ve had this summer is the Bourbon Caramel Pistachio Brittle at the Handy Hill Creamery in Westport, MA. (Honorable mention to Wendy’s new Frosty waffle cones!)
Anybody else? What’s the best ice cream you’ve had this summer? And please tell us where we can find it!
Jennifer Graham is a writer in the suburbs of Boston, and the author of “Honey, Do You Need a Ride? Confessions of a Fat Runner.”
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