She stood in front of her bedroom mirror, tracing rib-cage indentations with her fingertips. She was naked except for her padded bra and Victoria’s Secret underwear that she bought with babysitting money. Her eyes rolled up and down her body. Pumping her belly in and out, she was, by her own accounts, “fat.” Her hair had been hot-rolled; the heavy curls dangled around her shoulders and fell to her back with each belly push. She didn’t belong in track and field. She was curvy. She didn’t have a runner’s body. She should be a swimmer, not a runner—she lived many years believing that lie she sold herself.
My rainbow sneakers slowly ran along the rows of historic homes and arching trees. I dodged the sniffing golden retrievers and exchanged smiles with other moms trying to complete their workout before their kids awoke. My bun bounced and soaked up the sweat that swirled on the back of my neck. The goose bumps normally reserved for the moments I convince my daughter to brush my hair appeared. My body was saying, “Thank you. I love this.”
My eyes looked down and ahead, watching for cracked sidewalks. But sometimes I’d look up, and I’d watch the runners that dotted the neighborhood. Some were old, some curvy, some tall, some small. They all had perfect runners’ bodies.
After two babies and 10 years of marriage, I don’t see the girl in the mirror now. She has been happily replaced. My body ripples on its frame and is checkered with “mama stripes,” evidence of my belly growing rapidly to make space for my babies. I see a perfect runner’s body now.
When I run, I watch as my shadow dances alongside me. When I first started running, I stared, disgusted, as I saw my body’s puckered pieces dislodged from tight workout clothes outlined in the shadows cast upon the grass. I don’t see those puckers anymore. I see a strong mom. I see a woman taking time to reflect and write words in her head. I see a new definition of a runner’s body. A perfect runner’s body is a body that runs.
Just like a dog that paces around the living room with angst to release energy, I need my runs. Don’t get me wrong; I dread them and force myself out of the house. I do love to make excuses: I need more time with my kids, I’m exhausted from a night of interrupted sleep, the heat, a full stomach. I have excuses, but when I get there, I belong.
This is my perfect runner’s body. It slowly ticks away mileage, steady and strong. My runner’s body is peppered with stretch marks and folds of skin, but it doesn’t care. My perfect runner’s body doesn’t read magazine covers. It disregards the lies I’ve told it. It is free and ready to run.
Release the expectation of what your body can do. Release the lies you have told yourself about what type of body you have and of what you are capable. Only you must bear witness, because only you must believe you have a perfect runner’s body.