Vanity versus Joy – A Running Photo Victory

OK, I will admit it, I am vain and I often scrutinize photos before I put them online or share them (or just decide to keep them to myself). Last week, I made a bit of a breakthrough. I ran the Brewers Half Marathon with my friends on September 22nd. We started the day with a crazy rain storm and lightning that delayed the start of the race. We nervously laughed and considered what running in a chilly, full on rain storm, might be like. Fortunately after the 20 minute delayed start, we had a very nice, (a bit windy) cool run.

I wrote a post on reframing negative thoughts recently and my goal for this race was to be positive and run smart. I started with the 1:35 (7:15/mile) pace group and enjoyed chatting with the other runners for 5 miles. They were running a bit erratically to stay on pace – fast one mile, slower the next, etc. This was tough for me. When Amy came up just past mile 5, I cautioned her about this and then we ran together a bit and got separated by about 15 ft. I watched Amy and ran consistently (but a bit slower) for the next 5 miles. My average pace fell off about 15 seconds per mile. Typically, I would stay at the slower pace – or go even slower – while beating myself up about it.

The good news for me is that Amy was picking it up. I tried to catch up to her and picked it up some. She was flying the last 2 miles and instead of letting her get away, I kept pushing. At the end of the race (Mile 12.6 or so), I hit the half mile to go sign and we entered Miller Field to run around the baseline. It. Was. Awesome! I ran with such joy and soaked it in. We came out into the wind to finish and I happily crossed the line in 1:36.33 (7:22/mile).

I am very proud of this race. I fell off pace (but not too badly). I ran the last 5k stronger than the second five miles. I had positive thoughts and was so grateful for my healthy legs after a few years of disappointing running. I told my friends about my ear to ear grin in the stadium and we shared our stories. Amy and Stacy ran personal bests. I ran my second best time of the season in the half marathon. I even placed in my age group. It was all good.

When the photos came, I immediately posted this one on Facebook.

I loved this part of the Brewers Half – can you tell?

There was a photo where I looked slimmer. I am not going to lie, I almost posted that one (or neither). I have always felt “big for a runner” and have had body image issues since – well since forever. I love this photo, because it captures the real sense of joy I felt running through that stadium. It was novel, I was finishing strong and I was taking in the moment. After I posted it, I scrutinized the “Grandma Betty” arms (may she rest in peace!) and how unfortunate it was that the shutter went off as my leg was carrying all of the force of hitting the ground. As my friends started “liking it” and commenting favorably, I realized that what everyone liked was my joy and no one is scrutinizing my body except ME.

I found a really cool blog called Stop Chasing Skinny this week. A woman in her forties decides to stop focusing on her weight and exercise and to focus on really living her life. She shares many stories from women like me. I am not sure if this is my “stop chasing skinny” moment, but it is certainly a move in the right direction!

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9 Comments

  1. Anne Bailey says:

    Erica, I loved this post! And I totally hear you – we’re always the most critical of ourselves, right? And I love that picture of you running – wish I’d ever felt that happy running. :-) You look happy and strong.

  2. Maggie says:

    This is a great post. I think you make a very true point that nobody else cares about your body more than you do. Everyone is so critical of themselves and the weight they want to lose … why? If it’s to be healthy, great, but if not, what’s the point? I’ve lost some weight recently (the weight I gained post-college), and while I appreciate how I look, what’s truly amazing is how I feel. I feel better than I have in years. My health stats are all great. It wasn’t until I started looking at diet and exercise in [mentally] healthier ways that the weight actually started coming off. Once I stopped forcing myself to exercise, and instead began enjoying running, and starting thinking about how food fuels my runs, instead of mindless eating, I lost weight.

    • Erica A says:

      Thanks, Maggie! I find that the more I focus on losing weight, the more weight I gain. Last year I had a health issue and focused on getting better and being smarter with exercise and also lost weight “without trying”. Now, I try to maintain by eating as many whole/real foods as possible and try also to remember to be grateful for my health and all of the cool things my body can do – like run fast, bike, even paddle board (which I tried today!)

  3. Maureen Ryan says:

    I love this post Erica!! Your photo is awesome because it really shows just how much you’re enjoying the experience. I think that’s what living a sustainable healthy lifestyle is all about! When we chase after ideals of what we think we “should” look like, we zap the fun out of fitness. I really appreciate the joy and strength that this picture captures. Congrats on another great race and experience:)

    • Erica A says:

      Thank you, Maureen! I really appreciate the positive feedback and I know this is one area that many of us can relate to. I have to keep focused on what really matters to me- fun, health, strength and good energy.

  4. […] She does!  Erica ran the Brewer’s Half Marathon on September 22 and wrote a fantastic blog post about her experience and the relationship/competition between vanity and joy. (Anyone who has had a […]

  5. Brenda says:

    Erica, you look beautiful, strong and happy! That picture absolutely speaks volumes! And gurl…you need to celebrate how frickin’ awesome you are. 1:36 is a rockstar time! I WISH I could run a half in that!!!

    Love the new site too!

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