In, two, three four. Out, two, three, four.
Step, two, three, four. Stride, two, three, four.
I can’t do this. I’m out of shape and I can’t hit the three-mile mark. I suck. I don’t deserve to be out here with the real runners. I can’t even fit in my running skirt anymore. And my socks look dumb.
I wipe the back of my hand against my forehead, moving my sweaty bangs to the side. They probably look ridiculous. Why did I get bangs in the first place? I’m such an idiot sometimes.
The song on my iPod switches. Nelly comes on, heavy breathing. “Gotta work,” he says. “Push it. Five more, five more.”
Five more steps. Five more. Five more after that. I match my breathing to the music. In, two, three, four, five. Out, two, three, four, five.
Careful to look nonchalant, I let my hand graze my stomach. I feel for the fat and pinch it. I have to run. Have to get this fat off. Nelly echoes my thoughts, “Can’t stop, won’t stop…”
My face scrunches into a grimace and I remember something a colleague told me once, about how your brain mimics how you represent your feelings on your face. I force a smile. A few more steps. A few more calories.
At three miles, I slow to a walk. I smile for a moment; I haven’t run three miles in a long time. Way too long. My mind replays the feeling of victory I got after my first half-marathon. Crossing the finish line at a jog, a stupid grin on my face.
Suddenly, three miles doesn’t seem like such a big deal. I shake my head and press the skip button on my iPod. I don’t want to hear Nelly tell me to go five more anymore. I’m worthless as a runner. Why do I even bother? I’m never going to run this weight off, and I’m never going to run a half marathon again. I can barely run three miles.
A runner passes me with a quiet, “on the left!” I glare at his back, at his Spandex running shorts and the tiny water bottles on the belt around his waist. His calves are tight and golden and his glide is even and smooth. I hate him.
I hate every runner on this trail with me, with their perky bounces and colorful shoes. I hate that I’m not one of them, yet I want to be so badly. They say that if you run, no matter how far or how fast, you are a runner. But I don’t feel like a runner. I feel like a fatty running wannabe.
I’m too fat to run, too big to be one of them. But I can walk. I can walk until my feet hurt and my knees ache and my mouth is dry as cotton. And I do. Then I turn around and walk the ten miles back home, blistery feet calling out with each step.
I hate myself. Loathe my lack of running prowess. Abhor the noticeable non-gap between my thighs.
I deserve the blisters on my feet and the friction rash between my legs. I deserve to feel like I’ll never make it as a runner, or a skinny person.
I reach home and guzzle a bottle of water, use the bathroom, stretch my aching legs. In the bathroom mirror, my tank top is matted against me by sweat. It accentuates my curves, the ones I like and the ones I don’t. I pinch my stomach again, turning sideways to really see myself in the mirror. Frown. Sigh. Let tears roll uninhibited down my cheeks.
And I head back out the door, for another round.
Debbie is an addiction counselor and yoga teacher in Indiana. She is an avid reader of any genre, and has published fantasy short stories; she is still working on the elusive novel. Recently, Debbie has ventured into non-fiction writing, in hopes that discussing her life with an eating disorder will help someone in need. Debbie’s loves include her niece Lillie and her girl-cat, Emilio Estevez. She is passionate about mental health awareness, especially related to addiction and eating disorders.