“Struggling and suffering are the essence of a life worth living. If you’re not pushing yourself beyond the comfort zone, if you’re not demanding more from yourself – expanding and learning as you go – you’re choosing a numb existence. You’re denying yourself an extraordinary trip.”
American Ultramarathon runner – Dean Karnazes
I’ve always been a big girl, born fatter than the average baby weighing over 3.5kgs and these chubby thighs haven’t changed one bit. If anything they are even bigger. I’ve always been taller too, and with smaller friends I have always stood out physically and awkwardly.
Some people like being different. Managing the attention, positive or otherwise just comes naturally for them. I’m not one of these. I prefer to blend in with the crowd primarily so I can be my mischievous self without everyone noticing. This is not a lack of confidence; I’m just introverted.
To come off emotionally strong, I’ll say the first reason I started running was for weight loss, but honestly, the reason was to look better than my ex’s new girlfriend. Yes, I know. No one likes to admit it, but when your ex moves on and you haven’t, let me express this in pidgin English please “E dey pain!” You tell your friends “Yeah, whatever. I don’t care” and since I am a Christian the right thing to do was to wish him well.
But he was the love of my life! I had to know who she was and how she could replace me, so of course I went snooping. The thing with snooping is, if you have to even do it, you know you won’t like what you find.
I found her on Facebook. You see, when you weigh over 90kg and your ex moves on to a slimmer girl, Sweet Jesus; and forgive my pidgin “e dey pain diiiiie!”. She didn’t even have to be supermodel-slim. She was slimmer than I was and Lord, my confidence fell to pieces faster than I could close that webpage.
However, this pain motivated me to do something about my weight. I did some research and bought a good pair of Nike running shoes, and to make sure I had no excuses, I got a treadmill too and began running.
In the words of John Bingham “The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”
I started slowly. Like a lumbering elephant, I ran. Thighs clapping and clashing, stomach jiggling, but I ran at least 6kms a week and over about 6 months, I lost 15kg. I felt so good about myself I even contemplated walking out of my house and down the street in a bikini, just to show the world I did it. And yes, I did get the love of my life back. He totally loved my new body but I still didn’t get to keep him because my body was not the problem in the first place.
The next reason I run is to fit into clothes, nice clothes not those terrible ones these designers make for bigger girls. A lot of people underestimate the value of looking good as often as possible. By looking good I mean looking trim, well dressed and with good carriage. But I can tell you authoritatively that the person next to you subconsciously judges you by your looks before you even get the chance to open your mouth and prove that you are worth something.
Research has shown that fatter people are perceived as slower and lazy. They are perceived as boring and unhealthy. It will be quite staggering to know how many opportunities have been denied very capable people simply because they don’t “look” the part.
Now, if you have never struggled to fit in your favorite pair of jeans, you won’t understand. When I say struggled, I don’t mean wriggling. I mean jumping, pulling, kicking and panting.
If you have never walked out of a boutique with tears welling up in your eyes because the perfect dress was too small, you won’t understand.
If the zip of your dress hasn’t burst open as you were hurrying out to get to a friend’s wedding, just thank God you don’t understand.
My third reason for running is to bond with my family in our Team Lagos versus Team Abuja Competition. So whenever I’m going home, the first thing in the box is my pair of running shoes. I represent Team Lagos while my brother and sister represent Team Abuja.
My sister is as slim as she is strong. She has the body of a Victoria Secret runway model, no bulges or jiggles. My brother is all muscle and a total fitness junky. He gets no greater pleasure than when he is teasing me, poking or pinching my bulges.
My siblings are both fitter than I am and I used to feel bad about it. But running changed all that. Even though I always come in last with my heart thumping like it’s about to burst right out of my chest, staggering, whizzing and sweat stinging my eyes, I don’t stop till I get to the finish line.
Now they don’t laugh at me anymore, they actually cheer for me and are genuinely proud of my effort. Now, as Christopher McDougall said in his book Born to Run “the reason we race isn’t so much to beat each other but to be with each other.
The final reason I run is simply to survive. Christopher McDougall also said “Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle- when the sun comes up, you’d better be running”.
You all probably think I’m a little paranoid but you can’t blame me. In the past decade, there have been over 100 Zombie movies depicting the end of the human race as we know it, where the undead roam the streets killing and infecting everyone.
One thing you’ll notice in every zombie attack or war situation is, there’s a lot of shooting and running. I don’t know if I will ever own a gun or be able to pull a trigger, but I know I can at least run and maybe carry my mom too if such a situation should arise.
Given that our country’s current socio-political environment is characterized by violence, I like to think that I can out run whatever danger there is.
So every morning when I get on that treadmill, I push myself to go a little longer or just a little faster and now, I run an average of 20 kilometers every week.
I run to feel better about myself, boost my confidence and feel like the hottest thing under the sun. It works most of the time. I run for my health, for time with my family and for my life, and I hope that these are some of the reasons you will start running too.