Running for Dummies

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."

"Oh man."

"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.

14 thoughts on “Running for Dummies

  1. You never seize to amaze me. And you always make me smile! But then,if Julia, your sister and The Boy had no luck in persuading you for the obvious, who am I to even try? Besides the woman who has bought 17 tank tops the last 3 years to have only worn 3 in the safety of her own house?! Till last wednesday tho! So cheers on a succesful third trip!

  2. Good for you! Running really IS for everybody. I was well over 200 pounds when I started running. That was 2.5 years ago, and since then I’ve completed 2 10k races, 3 5k races, and a super 45k run/walk. I’ve kept it up in fits and starts and the next event is a half marathon next year. I’m down to 180 now and still losing, but there’s something to the runner’s high that’s kept me coming back for more. In Canada we have the Runner’s room, which is a great store that organizes running clinics.. I’m a “graduate” of three clinics – they have them for all race distances . . .I wonder if your running store or local gym does these . . they’re a great motivating force for running, since you do training runs with a group. Best of luck on the road!

  3. Good job! I’ve been trying to work up the courage to go to our local running store for the last four weekends. Something (no money, no time, too far away, why not next weekend..) keeps stopping me. But really I’m just being a chicken! I’m going to use your brave example to get my butt in there tomorrow!

    As always – love your journal! And good luck with the running!

  4. YOU CAN DO IT! Run Diet Girl Run.
    You continue to articulate- my thoughts and fears- so well. I can’t begin to tell you how much I enjoy your postings.

    Good luck with the jogging- I know you can do it.

  5. Oh yay! [solemn headbow] You are soon to join the ranks of The Initiated who count their lives in Splits and Minute-Miles/Kilometers.

    We welcome you. Ha HA!

    Look out, girl. It’s gonna be a weird (and wonderful) trip fo’sho.

  6. I really felt for you throughout that story. Why is it that we feel that we must make ourselves feel like fat idiots!! I know I do it so that at least I have done it before someone else does. I had a similar experience when buying a flash exercycle and a gym gear shop last year. The sales woman was a superfit athletic type but was really helpful and I walked out of the place feeling normal and not FAT. You are an inspiration and I will be following your escapades over the following weeks/months/years.

    Good luck


  7. I felt exactly the same way buying my sneakers a couple of weeks ago. And the tiny, super skinny girl that served me could not have been more helpful, noting the way I rolled my feet and making sure my ankles were supported.

    It’s a hard mindset to get out of, but we need to stop justifying our presence to other people!

  8. Hi! I just found your blog and wanted to tell you that your story is inspirational and your posts are hilarious. I like the line, “I have no technique”! Anyway, I’ve lost about 40 lbs. in a year by healthy lifestyle changes and racewalking. Good job on your weight loss.

    Good luck with the running. There are lots of running blogs out there if you are interested, and many people are just like you, trying to lose weight and get fit. Check out my site for links.

    Good luck!

  9. That’s exactly how I felt about joining the gym. Even now, I have to psych myself up every single time I go. And of course I bought the OFF PEAK membership which limits the times you can go to when the gym is less crowded so as to be exposed as to few people as possible.

    How are you getting into running? I’m curious about your plan. I did the Couch to 5K last summer, though suffice it to say that I didn’t make it to 5K.

  10. Congrats. Running is one of my favorite things–when I can work up the nerve to get out the door. Years after my first 5K, after a half marathon and countless jogs around town, I still find myself taking a big gulp before heading out to tramp down the street. But it is always worth it. Always.

    The feel of a strong run is incomparable.

    Great work on the new shoes. It takes a lot to buy that first pair. It will get easier–the buying shoes part. I’m curious what kind you ended up with. And have fun taking them out for a spin around the block(s). I hope you like it.

  11. I’m a little late but I just thought I’d tell you how much I enjoy your journal! Today I had a similar experience trying to but a bike. I wanted a certain one but they didn’t have any in boxes, only a display model. I should have just asked a salesperson if they had any but couldn’t stand the notion of them thinking “if she sits on one of these she’ll bust the tyres, better just sell her a forklift instead!” So I remain bikeless for now, but having read about your courage I might be able to find some of my own.

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