It took three attempts to get inside the door of the running store. The first time I sat on the bus as it sailed past, too nervous to ring the STOP bell. The second time I stood on the opposite side of the street, looking across, getting myself so worked up that I was in tears.
Why get so stressed about a pair of running shoes? It seems so ridiculous now, but I was a wreck last week. A few months back the lovely Julia from Italy (who you may recall kindly sent me a huge parcel of sporty clothes last year) wrote to me when I mentioned that I’d like to take up running. She trains people for running events and offered her help. Of course I was chuffed but got all caught up with my Russia trip.
When I got back there were no more excuses. But first, running shoes. My four-year-old cross trainers weren’t going to cut it. All I had to go was go to the running store, get my hoofs fitted and I’d be all set. Instead I wasted another week trying to psych myself up for the task. My main points of concern:
1. I would be laughed out of the shop by skinny salesmen, because why the hell would a fatty fat guts need running shoes?
Well that was really my only point of concern. I just felt I had no right to go in there. You know what it’s like, people. That inferiority complex that comes from being fat. It is a paralysing, paranoid and unfounded fear that so often gets in the way of me achieving anything in life. No matter how much lard I lose, I still cannot shake this idea that there are things I am not allowed to do, places I do not belong, because of my weight.
All this was despite ample reassurance and encouragement from Julia, my sister and my boyfriend; who all insisted running was for everyone. You don’t have to be some freaky athlete to run, said The Boy, They’re a running shop, they’re there to help. Everyone’s gotta start somewhere. My fatty fat gut dollar would be just as welcome in the store as some string bean marathon dude’s dollar.
Annoyed into action by everyone’s logic, I made my third trip to the store last Friday afternoon. My heart was in my mouth. There was a sign on the door, We are closing at the earlier time of 5.30PM today. Sorry for any inconvenience.
It was 5.05PM. "Oh! Well," I thought breezily, my stomach sighing with relief, "May as well head home then. There’s four customers in there, they’ll never have time for me, tra la la la."
I was halfway up the street before I stopped and realised it was pretty dumb to leave work early and come all this way without at least going in the door.
"I’ll just stand here at the back of the shop," I told my fraidy cat self. "And if anyone notices me before the shop closes, we’ll take it from there."
So I slinked in, hiding behind a rack of Very Tiny Shorts while the staff sold some socks to a nubile blonde. Sadly the other people were just browsing, so before I knew it I was spotted.
"Can I help you?" asked the saleswoman.
"Oh, hello," I said meekly, "I’m looking for some running shoes."
"Excellent," she smiled.
"I’m just starting out, you see," I said in a rush, "Well, obviously."
D’oh! Must stop feeling the need to justify my presence to skinny people. Why must I rush and establish, Yes, I’m Know I’m Fat, Beat Ya To It!
But this woman just focused on the task at hand. She asked me a bazillion questions, got me to take off my shoes and roll up my jeans (hello hairy calves!) and walk up and down the shop. She instantly spotted my wonky right foot that tends to roll inwards. She returned with a mighty stack of shoe boxes and asked even more questions as I tried them on.
All that attention made me squirm. All that attention on my body made me squirm. I am so used to being anonymous with exercise, hiding up the back of the class and muddling my way through. It felt strange to have someone treat my fitness so seriously.
"Okay, just have a wee run up and down the shop so I can see how your feet like those shoes,"
I froze. "What? Me?"
She smiled, "Don’t worry, no one’s looking at you."
"I’ll just be looking at your feet, not analysing your technique."
"I have no technique."
I remained frozen for another 30 seconds before finally doing a half-hearted little trot up the store. My face was burning red.
I must have tried on ten different pairs. I kept blurting, "These are okay, yeah, I think these’ll do," anything to get her to stop paying so much attention. And wasn’t the store closing soon? But she was in no hurry. I was appreciative of her friendliness and thoroughness, but it made me feel so weird.
Finally at 5.29PM we found the right pair. She wished me luck and gave me an entry form for a Win A Trip To The Chicago Marathon contest.
"Maybe just be a spectator this year," she smiled.
I felt so relieved and so stupid as I walked home. I was so proud of myself for finally making the purchase, yet felt like a dimwit for making such a big production of it. After all, the hardest task was ahead of me – to actually get my arse out there and start running.