Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Women's Running put a heavy woman on their cover. Why doesn't that impress me?

I've seen a lot of talk on social media and the blogosphere over the past week about the August cover of Women's Running. Instead of the usual cover with a woman with a typical runner's body, the latest cover features an overweight woman runner. A lot of people thought that the cover showed big progress. I myself was at first excited by the picture, but then I read about the model and felt very mixed emotions, including feeling more than a little cheated by the whole thing. Let me explain.

First of all, the article on their website describing Erica Schenk, the "cover runner," as they call her, does not list her age, but says she has been running for 10 years. Really? That depressed the heck out of me. I've been busting my butt to get in shape for roughly the past two years, and have lost 45 pounds so far. But I still have a ways to go, and I would hate to think that eight years from now, I still wouldn't be thin again!

Schenk is in the magazine promoting, as they call it, "new running gear for women with curvy frames," and she talks about how while "some women believe that since they have curves they can’t run or shouldn’t run," that running is for every body anytime." I may be in the minority on this, but I really hate the word "curvy" being used to describe what Schenk is, and what I am, which is fat. Curvy is a ridiculous euphemism. After all, I was curvy when I was thin, as many women are. If you want to say overweight or big or plus-size, that's fine. But enough with the "curvy" sugarcoating. There are plenty of thin and curvy runners out there, but they aren't the ones who have had issues buying running gear. It's the fat folks like myself who have!

Then I saw some articles elsewhere about the "cover runner." Turns out, according to People magazine, this woman, who has been running for 10 years, is 18 years old and is a plus-size model. Not exactly your typical overweight runner. Funny how Women's Running never mentioned either of those very relevant facts in their gushy story about her. (And frankly, I thought she was at least 10 years older. Would never have guessed from the cover that she was 18.)

Eonline also did a story on Schenk, in which it says she runs once a week. So this is role model for the rest of us? Somebody who runs just once a week? Then I looked up Schenk on Athlinks, a website that tracks race results throughout the United States. There isn't a single record of her doing any races. Hmmmm. Again, I am supposed to be inspired by this runner? Isn't there anybody else in the United States that Women's Running could have found to put on their cover? Like a heavy runner who actually is out there in the trenches running regularly?

In that Eonline article, Schenk says: "Many companies are making money off women's insecurities," she said. "With diets, workouts, pills, surgeries, and everything else we forget to love ourselves and our so called flaws. Real change takes generations. I am so proud that I am here not only to witness but to help with the effort towards body acceptance." She also says, "I've had so much positive feedback. I can feel the masses begging for more. They want to be able to relate to the struggles, success, and celebration of people just like them."

I don't really see my struggles in an 18-year-old plus-size model who is literally making money off being overweight. Sorry. And the reality is that being fat IS life-limiting behavior. Sure, it would be wonderful if overweight people didn't experience prejudice and judgments, but this is not the world we live in. Since I was thin until I quit smoking when I was 37, I know that all too well. It was a real eye-opener to experience that for myself.

Everything is harder in your life when you are fat, from exercise to dating to even looking for a job. Across the board, you get treated worse than thin people do. That is reality. Not to mention the health issues involved when you get to a certain age when overweight and find yourself winded just climbing the subway stairs. It's no picnic. Again, it would be great if fat people didn't experience prejudice, or health problems. But that is not reality.

Runner's World magazine also recently did a story about an overweight runner, but I could relate to her much more. Mirna Valerio, 39, lost 50 pounds from running, but is still fat. However, even at 5 feet 7 and 250 pounds, she does trail running and ultramarathons. She has completed six marathons, two ultramarathons, and a slew of road races (she has a big record in Athlinks!) She also writes the Fat Girl Running blog.

The article does a pretty good job of capturing the double takes people give Valerio when they see her running -- double takes I know all too well!

I also could relate to what she said about her weight: “Of course, deep down, I would like to be thinner,” she tells the magazine. “Accepting my weight doesn't mean I'm satisfied with my weight. You meet a fat person who says otherwise, she's lying.” She also admitted: "I'm just not interested in starving myself on some 1500-calorie-a-day plan, losing a bunch of weight, then gaining it right back because my diet is totally unrealistic," which at least explained why she is still overweight despite all of her races.

But I could have done without this snarky remark from the author in the article: "Valerio runs at about an 11-to 13-minute-mile pace, roughly the same rate at which Terry Fox ran across Canada on one good leg and one prosthetic leg in 1980." Geez, I wish I could run 11 minutes a mile! Sorry that Runner's World thinks that is such a pathetic number.

Anyhow, while I am more interested in weight loss than Valerio is, I was very impressed by her mileage and her speed and her endurance. Interesting story, too. Much more relatable story than the Women's Running cover.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good post. I wrote a post about it as well on my own blog. The more I think about this the more ridiculous I believe it is.

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