I always think deeply about thing on my long runs - I figure things out that have been bothering me. It's weird. It's like I have all this solitude and it affords me the quiet time that I need to mull over ideas that daily distractions would otherwise render impossible. It's especially true when I run along the bosque trail - out in nature, suddenly things seem clearer.
When I started this whole thing 3 years ago it was with one idea in mind: I wanted to be thin. More specifically, I wanted to be willowy. I wanted to be thin and gangly and long limbed and look super fit. The way athletes are "supposed" to look.
So I had this testing done recently and it says that I'm very, very fit, but only in a good week can I squeeze into a size 10. Most of the time, I'm a twelve. Not willowy. Not thin. But very fit.
There are only two times as an adult when I was "thin": The first was when I was 18. My high school sweetheart had committed suicide and I was an emotional wreck. At such times of despair and grief I lose my appetite, and I stopped eating. I was scheduled to have some surgery done, but at the pre-surgery meeting the doctor told my mother if I lost just one more pound before the surgery, he wasn't doing it. I weighed 118 pounds, about 50 pounds less than I weigh now.
Not healthy. Not fit. Not happy. But thin.
The other time was when I was around 35. I'd lost a lot of weight by limiting my eating and hiking a few miles each day. Then I stopped exercising, but also severely restricted my eating. I weighed 130 pounds, 35 pounds less than I weigh now. A picture of myself at that weight does not show a healthy woman. I was pretty happy about fitting into a size 8, though. But I was weak. I couldn't run; I could barely hike. I had no muscle tone.
I was happy. I was thin. But not fit.
It's almost like happiness takes up some palpable room in my body alongside the muscle, and the only way I can be that thin is to sacrifice fitness or happiness.
So, I was running along the bosque today and I suddenly heard a voice inside my head - I mean, I'm not psychotic or anything - but this thought popped into my head: Can I accept the hard work it takes to be healthy and fit, even if it means I will never look exactly the way I want to look?
Can I be satisfied to know that I'm fit and healthy, even if I look "ordinary" on the outside, I don't embody my idea of what an athlete should look like?
Can that be enough?
You know, whenever I run 15 or 20 or 25 miles I look into the mirror afterwards and always suprised to see a soft, 40-year old body. I'm stocky, with a little round belly that floats in the bathtub and full thighs that touch well along their length. No obvious musculature.
At those times I wonder, when will I start looking like an athlete?
As I thought that I tripped over a root and looked down at the ground, catching myself, and that's when I caught sight of my shadow.
Oh. I get it now.
That's me down there.
And I'm an athlete.
So, I guess, I'm what an athlete looks like, at least this athlete.
And yes, that's enough.