Today I saw an overweight runner – she was clearly hot and tired and if I’m honest she looked utterly beaten. Her hair was windswept, her face was red and she was sweating buckets – her running kit didn’t fit well and she’d clearly had to force herself into her workout clothes.
It was me.
I’d caught a glimpse of myself in a shop window as I’d run past and I was horrified at what I had seen. I always imagined I looked free and in control as I ran – sometimes I even imagine I look strong and happy but that wasn’t what I saw in the mirror. I just looked tired, overweight and unhappy – I didn’t look healthy and I looked weak. I looked fat. Really fat.
I was about 3k into my run at this point and knew I had another 2k to go to reach my 5k target and at that point I pretty much just gave up. This wasn’t the sport for me – clearly I needed to go back home, sit on my sofa and stay where I belonged. The longer I stayed in one spot the more horrified by my own image I became. I could feel all the confidence I’d gained over the past couple of months slipping away and I nearly burst into tears right there on the high street.
Not being a fan of crying in public I walked away and headed down a different street. The further away I walked the better I felt – it was like the further I walked from that image the more I could visualise the me I wanted to be when I ran. I could restore that image I had of myself as a different person, a person who was slim, fit and strong. A person who was in control and who could do anything she set her mind to.
Because that’s the person I need to be when I run. I need that utterly false illusion of myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other and to keep moving. Only by keeping that illusion of myself intact can I ever actually be that person – if I’m a realist about my actual figure or level of fitness I’ll never change anything. My self confidence and inner demons will make sure I’m forever consigned to the sofa and I never change anything. Those inner demons who long for me to fail – those inner demons born years of bullying at school, crappy boyfriends poking fun at how I look and giving me crippling levels of self confidence and bad friends who made me feel like a second choice. Those people (and cake) helped to caused this situation in the first place and if I pay attention to those voices I’ll lose this fight.
So illusion me wins – yes it might not be how I actually look and it’s probably not healthy to recognise that and ignore it but that’s the way it is staying for the moment. Illusion me gets to stay so one day I might actually look and feel like I imagine I do.
In the meantime I’ll not be running past any shop windows until I can be sure I’ll be able to keep going past with a smile on my face.