The Road To Fitville 7.10: to Athena or not to Athena?

This week I faced a tough decision, one that seems easy enough, even inconsequential. But for me – a former chubby child – it was a decision fraught with wild emotion. To Athena or not to Athena?

For those uninitiated in the ways of running races, Athena is a special category for, um, heavier women runners. By signing up for this oh-so-special category, those of us over 150 pounds can compete for honors among our own crowd as well as within the overall race roster. For men, the equivalent is the Clydesdale category, with its own weight guidelines and all the glory that being a “Clydesdale” can possibly entail.

This week I signed up for the All Women’s Sprint Duathlon, a very small race that is part of a much larger women’s triathlon. Last time I did the du I was one of 26 participants and I came in dead last. I ran the last mile with another slow run/walker who, like me, admitted to not training enough beforehand. But she crossed the finish line one second before me. What can I say? I let her win.

This week as I filled in my online registration, I realized that since the duathlon competition was so slim (pun intended) I could have been the #1 Athena in that duathlon, even though I came in last in the entire race! Then I realized right away that a) this would have been a very dubious achievement and b) for me, it would have symbolized something that I never want to happen again.

It would have singled me out as heavy.

Suddenly, as my fingers hovered above the keyboard, signing up for this race brought back a flood of painful memories. All the times I didn’t make cheerleading and wept (my poor mother!). All the kickball captains who picked me very last. My best friend’s brother chanting “She’ll eat us out of house and home” whenever I was invited to dinner. And the insensitive doctor who told me “Fat little girls grow up to be fat ladies.”

I thought for a tenth of a second about being the leading Athena in the duathlon, about embracing my stature and being proud of the fact that despite being 160+ pounds I run, dammit!

But then I thought about the sweet anonymity of being just like everyone else. The loveliness of not being special because I’m heavier than most female runners. Of just running, as if nothing – not even gravity – can stop me.

I decided to run plain, without distinction. And as I clicked “register now” I felt free. I was light as a feather.

Author by Larissa Brown