Years of fatphobia and a comment from my doctor inspired me to become a marathoner.
I'm plus-size and don't fit the image of a traditional runner but have finished eight marathons.
This is an adapted excerpt from "Slow AF Run Club" by Martinus Evans.
"Mr. Evans, you're fat. You have two options: Lose weight or die."
It was 2012. I was sitting in my doctor's office, in my 360-pound-plus body. I was fed up with the world telling me all the ways that I was wrong. Getting this fatphobic bullshit from my doctor was the last straw. I was hurt, sitting there with my arms crossed, with a tight-lipped smile plastered on my face. While I furiously tapped my right heel in the ground, something else was brewing up inside me too — defiant anger.
A wave of all my experiences of fatphobia rushed over me at once. From being bullied to being forced to shop in the "husky" section while I was growing up to being called names (who could forget being called "tittie boy"?), not to mention all of the laughing and pointing and all of the times that I fought back …
My anger inspired me to get on a treadmill
"Screw you," I said with a half-cocked smile. "I'm gonna run a marathon." Those seven words changed my life. Something switched on, even as the doctor laughed at me and said that was the stupidest thing he had ever heard in all his years of practicing medicine. Eyes open wide and head cocked to the side, I nodded emphatically as I sucked my teeth and angrily curled my lip. I was using every bit of effort to prevent myself from lunging at him, picking him up by his shirt collar, and tossing him against the wall like a balled-up piece of paper.
"If you run a marathon, you are going to die." Lose weight or die. Run a marathon and die. Let's just say I left that appointment looking for an option C.
I bought running shoes and climbed onto a treadmill that same day. That was the beginning of my journey.
I've been harassed and got lost during races
Since then I've run over eight marathons and more than a hundred other distances in my 300-plus-pound body. I created the Slow AF Run Club and I've coached hundreds of other runners, becoming a global ambassador for Adidas. I have also been featured on the cover of Runner's World magazine.
My journey has been far from traditional, and it hasn't been easy. I ran mostly alone and braved just about everything out there on the open road. I've been heckled by people in cars and on bikes, and I've even been harassed by race spectators. People have stopped me countless times to inquire how much weight I've lost (it's none of their business, plus this isn't a weight-loss journey). Friends and family have asked me why I participate in "white people sports." I've participated in races where I've come in DFL (dead fucking last). I've run races in which I got lost because they started taking the route signs down. I've run races where they've run out of water and finisher medals, unprepared for the slower runners at the back of the pack. I've written an open letter on behalf of those at the back of the pack, and the response was "lose weight and get faster."
Not all runners want to win — some want to celebrate their bodies
When I began my now more than ten-years-and-running journey, all I wanted was someone to talk to who had experienced exactly what I was going through. Someone to push back against the stigma and the doubt, to put a hand on my shoulder and tell me I was going in the right direction. Now, having learned all my lessons the hard way, I'm ready to share my knowledge and be that voice for the next generation of runners.
Runners who aren't running to win, but to celebrate their bodies. Runners who run because they can. Runners who have been told that they can't because they look a certain way. Runners in the back who have been forgotten about and left to fend for themselves. It's been a long time coming for us in the back of the pack, but change is coming and I've got your back.
Resources for plus-size runners are limited
The good news is that the recent cultural shift toward wellness and body acceptance/body neutrality/body positivity is empowering more people of all ages, sizes, and motivations to lace up their sneakers and give running a try.
The bad news? Nontraditional runners in larger bodies are extremely underserved when it comes to resources tailor-made for us. Most instructional books about running are written by elite athletes and former Olympians. They provide advice and plans that are useless for the fat, plus-sized, slow, or whatever-you-wanna-call-yourself runners. People like me. The same goes for runners who are beginners, disabled, or dealing with any kind of physical issue that slows them down.
Let's face it: An elite marathoner or an Olympic runner can't and won't give tips about how to prevent brutal thigh chafe or provide running plans for those of us who run 18-minute miles. We are both just like any other runner out there and also completely different. We need specific advice, training plans, and strategies. We need encouragement in a world that has traditionally excluded us at best and bullied us at worst. We need role models.
Excerpted from "Slow AF Run Club" (Avery, June 6, 2023). Reprinted with permission from Avery.
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