Too Fat to Race?

Over the past few weeks, there has been a lot of talk of people cheating in races, be it cheating to get into Boston (a BIG DEAL) or cheating at the Tinker Bell Half (a less big deal).  But one thing that I’ve noticed throughout a lot of the conversations is a lot of body snarking.

“There’s no way that fat girl qualified for Boston.”

“Yeah, he totally didn’t run that fast.”

Now, let’s be honest, elite runners do have a body type.  I don’t know if that body type is what makes them good at running or if they get that body type from all the training they have.  So if someone built like me is beating elite runners, you can be pretty confident that some funny business is going on.

But for the average runner or triathlete, your size doesn’t matter.

20130609-145706.jpgThis is a photo of me at my first triathlon.  I had no idea what I was doing.  (I still have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m more experienced at it now.)  I was probably somewhere at my heaviest, and I post this because it’s not a particularly flattering or unflattering picture.  It’s just an action shot where you can see the shape of my body.  Do I look like a triathlete?

The answer is yes.  Because I am doing a triathlon.  That’s what triathletes look like.  People who do triathlons.

What’s awful is seeing how people cut each other down because of their size.  In a fairly popular women’s triathlon group on Facebook, a woman recently posted a pic of an Athleta ad with two women on stand up paddleboards.  One of the women was a bit bigger and wearing a bikini.  She had a belly and some thighs, but was probably a size 10 or 12, judging only by comparing to how I would look in a similar outfit.  And the comment, from someone who says she is a health professional, was how Athleta was promoting the wrong thing – specifically Type 2 Diabetes.

Yes, because all chubby people have diabetes.

Now, I’ve said before that I don’t love the way that the Health at Every Size movement has gone, because HAES proponents believe that you can eat what you want and do as much or as little physical activity as you want and whatever your body does is fine.  I disagree – you should try to eat well as much as you can (but not all the time, because where’s the fun in that) and you should get some physical exercise, though that can be anything from walking your dog to dancing in your living room to participating in organized activities.

But I do think there’s too much focus on weight when it comes to endurance sports.  Is it harder to do a race the bigger you are?  Probably, just because you’re moving more weight around.  Doesn’t make a bigger athlete a lesser athlete.  I’ve passed thin girls while going uphill on my bike – and then this weight makes me fly while going downhill.

It’s unfortunate when I see it from groups that are designed to support the sport.  “We support everyone, but not you, because you don’t fit our model.”  No, that’s not how it’s supposed to work.  Sadly, it wasn’t just this one person commenting about the Athleta ad.  Others chimed in agreeing with her, talking about obesity-related diseases.  Yes, those do exist, and I’m doing my best to avoid them.  By doing things like eating well and participating in triathlon.  If you want to help someone avoid obesity-related diseases, shouldn’t you be encouraging them in their active and healthy lifestyle?

I don’t understand why anyone has a problem with the size of another racer.  If there are runners or triathletes bigger or smaller than me in a race, why should I care?  Is it because I don’t want to get passed by a “fat girl?”  Personally, I don’t care, but I sometimes wonder if that’s it.  Or maybe they don’t want people to think less of them because “Hey, fat people can do that too.”

Either way, it’s high time we stop judging people based on appearances, and it’s definitely time to stop putting others down.  If you don’t want to be welcoming of others, then just ignore them and stay in your own bubble.  But if you venture out, you might just meet someone awesome.


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