This is my friend Jane (right). Jane is vivacious, engaging, caring and determined. She’s a mom, a wife, a nurse and a dog lover. She is a joy to know and is a great cheerleader to have in your corner.
Jane is also a very fast walker who has completed many marathons and half marathons. I know she’s fast because I have managed to (and, other times, tried and not managed to!) keep up with her on the race course.
She is training for her next race and posted recently on Facebook about some people she encountered along the way.
“Over the last few weeks,” she shared, “I have been taunted by rude remarks from some women…. One said I didn’t look like marathon material…. Another felt I wasn’t ‘skinny enough’ to complete a marathon! Little did they know I completed a lot of them.”
Jane’s reaction: to call for more positivity and kindness rather than the alternative, and I couldn’t agree more.
I’ve been on the scene for many marathons and half marathons, both as a participant and on the sidelines/finish line as a team coach. I’ve seen people of ALL shapes and sizes on race courses and coming across the finish line. (I’ve previously written about my friend Lana, who, yes, was obese but defied judging a book by its cover.) All of that has left me with the knowledge that we do not know someone’s capabilities, their strength, their stamina by simply looking at them.
Why doesn’t Jane look like marathon material to the observer who said so? Because she doesn’t fit a predetermined stereotype about marathoners? Who’s to say what a marathoner should look like? Believe me, they look like any random cross-section of the population.
Many people are surprised to learn that you can walk a marathon instead of run — I’ve mentioned this several times in several posts — and sometimes we walkers find ourselves on the defensive when other racers (read: runners) imply that we don’t belong.
Anyone who trains and prepares is qualified to participate in a race. If you reach that benchmark, more power to you! Why anyone would seek to tear down someone who is working hard to achieve a physical goal is a mystery. I’m not sure why someone would seek to denigrate a stranger based on surface assumptions. Let’s seek to lift each other up and celebrate others’ accomplishments rather than belittle and assume that someone can’t or shouldn’t.
It’s easy to look at someone and think, “How could she possibly run/walk 13.1 miles? She doesn’t look fast/strong/dedicated enough.”
But look deeper.
(And then, for fun — with a warning in advance for some strong language — read this.)