Look What My Queer Feet Can Do: Running into 2014

In the past few months, this non-athletic human has surprised herself and become a runner.

Sports were always an intimidating endeavor for me. They were defined by unnecessarily mean little league softball coaches who informed me of things like, “My grandmother could swing the bat harder than you!” and high school gym where they made me take off my glasses to wear safety goggles during mandatory floor hockey, when I played defense against the offense comprised of my classmates on the football team. I was convinced to run cross-country in eighth grade, and I came in last in every race. I could never wait for these activities to end. I would much rather have been reading a book.

Why would I possibly want to play any sports when I could instead read this riveting chapter book?

Why would I possibly want to play any sports when I could instead read this riveting chapter book?

I cast off sports, especially running, as “not my thing,” and mostly took to ignoring them. I was frustrated that I wasn’t athletic, but I had no idea how or where to begin. I tried individual things once in a while – bouts of going to the gym, stints with yoga, a couple of epic bike rides, some solid hikes. They all seemed to require major investments of gear, time, or money before I could do them seriously, but it didn’t make sense to make the major investments if I didn’t already do them seriously.

I owned my non-athlete identity right into college, ignoring the rugby team’s invitations to first year women to join, “no experience necessary,” and rolling my eyes at my roommate’s new-found love of frisbee.

Then one day, during one of my gym phases, it was hot. The walk to the gym seemed long. So I decided to run, and was surprised to find out that I actually could do it. I got to the gym in record time.

It wasn’t the real beginning of my running, but it planted the seed. Running to the gym that day, I felt alive in a way that I never had in yoga or in a session at the gym. I surprised myself.

I began to question why I thought that I couldn’t run before. Why had I dismissed sporty things, while so many around me embraced them? I uncovered a heap of fears about my body and ideas about its limitations that I had developed while growing up with a very sick mom. Hidden beneath my scorn of athletics were a bunch of worries about not being physically able to do things.

I decided it was time to try to trust my body and see what it would be capable of. An experienced runner friend helped me create a plan to start.

Now, with 2014 arriving in a second, I am about to start training for a major running endeavor. In April, I will run way further than I’ve ever run – more than twice as far as I ran today. Here’s what I’ve learned about running in 2013 to carry me into this next phase:

1. My running is for me.

I like running because I get to watch my body grow stronger and more capable. I am really, really proud of what my body is doing. I wasn’t as fast as those girls I ran and played with in my earlier years, and assumed I never could be. Now I don’t compare myself to anyone, which is why I’m not telling you how far or how fast I go. Those numbers make me proud, and they are a reflection of me. Wow! That’s my body making it happen!

These are my running feet!

These are my running feet!

2. Sometimes when you fall, you can get up and keep going and it’s awesome.

Today, when I was almost done with my run, I was feeling tired and suddenly my foot caught on the pavement. I was down. My knees hurt beneath my running tights, but I was fine. I got back on my feet, flashed a thumbs up to the car that had been driving by, and continued on. A new wave of adrenaline pumped through my veins and propelled me through the end of my run.

Wow, what a badass.

Wow, what a badass.

3. Sometimes when you fall, you can’t keep going. Or you could, but you shouldn’t.

This summer, I was running with my iPod (an older Nano with pointy corners – this is foreshadowing) in my hand. I wasn’t even a full song into my run (it was “Drove Me Wild” by Tegan and Sara), and I tripped. I put my hands out to break my fall, and I watched as the corner of my iPod buried itself in the palm of my hand. I bounced up. My legs were fine, but upon closer examination, I discovered that I could see layers of skin in my hand that I had never seen before. Though I could have kept running with blood dripping down my hand, skin open to the world, I decided to turn back and go to the emergency room, because sometimes you need to abandon your running plans to take care of your body.

And see, look: I needed stitches.

Skin is so weird.

Skin is so weird.

4. Cheer yourself on.

Some runs are going to be shitty. It’s just true. Maybe I didn’t sleep well the night before. Maybe I didn’t drink enough water in the few hours leading up to it, and now I have a cramp. Maybe I drank too much, and I have to pee the whole time I’m running. Often, if I push through (sometimes I don’t, and that’s ok, too), I have to give myself encouragement. Maybe I’ll just yell, “YEAH!!!” into the woods or neighborhood. Or maybe I’ll yell how much further I have to go – “ONE! MORE! MILE!!!”

5. Have a routine, but keep it interesting.

Part of what I really like about running is that it isn’t particularly complicated. I put on my running clothes, pull up my running playlist and run on the same trails by my house. It helps me keep my pacing consistent and it also helps me zone out, so I’m not constantly asking myself, “Ok, how much farther? How much longer?”

As I keep running further and longer than before, I add new songs to my playlist, and new pieces on my route. I explore new streets and paths. I recently added a bunch of Tegan and Sara collaborations to my running playlist. “Every Chance We Get We Run,” their collaboration with David Guetta and Alesso is an obvious ideal addition to a running playlist.

It’s fun to pretend you’re a backup dancer in the “Body Work” video. via amazon.com

6. Take care of yourself, and ask for help when you need it.

Hydration, nutrition and stretching are real things. Also, while it’s important to push yourself to meet new goals, it’s also important not to go to far too fast. Running can be really hard on the body. A few weeks ago, the top of one of my feet really hurt, and I dismissed it until it was hard to walk. I went to the doctor, and he told me to use an elliptical to run on it for two weeks. I did that, and the pain went away. Magic!

What a powerful human! via shutterstock.com

What a powerful human! via shutterstock.com

7. BE SO PROUD

I ran so much further today than I ever would have imagined I could!

Avatar of Maddie

Maddie cooks without recipes and writes without outlines, generally with good results. Maddie graduated from Vassar College with a degree in Women’s Studies and a strong friendship with the Geography department. Read her thoughts on border politics and trains, among other things, on her blog.

Maddie has written 40 articles for us.

24 Comments

  1. Thumb up 9

    Please log in to vote

    Yay! I’m so excited to see this because running has been so important in solidifying my sense of self. Seeing a running article on Autostraddle makes me realize that my running mantra, “run your own race” is a restatement of “you do you”.

  2. Thumb up 2

    Please log in to vote

    Nice one! It’s such a shame that P.E in schools (at least my school) had a very narrow focus on team sports with balls (lol). So basically if you didn’t like football, hockey or netball you were pegged as ‘not sporty’ and that kind of thing sticks with you. I always thought that I hated sports, when really I just hated the few sports we were made to do in school. It’s a huge world out there and it’s such a great feeling discovering a sport that you really enjoy!

    • Thumb up 2

      Please log in to vote

      Seriously! I’ve been the fat, weird book nerd my entire life. My main exercise after 6th grade was dance class and walking to/from places. I hated exercise until I started doing the Couch to 5K in 2009 and Bodypump classes in 2012. I found more fun in cardio and weightlifting than I had ever done before and more important, I got a sense of what I could accomplish physically if I wanted to.

      If my PE teachers took us through similar programs instead of just setting everyone loose to run a mile (a huge exercise in humiliation for the fat/slow) when the presidential fit test came around, I think I would be a completely different person, at least when it came to physicality and inhabiting my body.

  3. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    RUNNING! I so feels you. I remember when I first started, I thought ‘I can’t do this’, ‘the cold is killing my legs and I haven’t gone a quarter of a mile!’ but surprisingly enough, I DID get through it. It gives me such a sense of accomplishment. Running is a you do you thing you know? Number 1 is very true, you have to do it for yourself and only yourself. It’s a lot like going to the gym, it’s for you.

    I’d like to add that if you have the extra cash, to invest in some decent running shoes like ASICS or brooks or Mizuno. Your feet may be flat (like mine) and putting on any ol’ sneaker may cause you more harm than good in the long run. (Get it?)

    And one more thing,

    STAY HUNGRY

      • Thumb up 0

        Please log in to vote

        Shoes are important! I am personally a fan of the “barefoot” variety of sneaker (not the five-toed shoes, but a similar concept because they have very little additional padding). I had some knee issues a few years ago, and other sneakers tend to make my knees flare up.

        • Thumb up 0

          Please log in to vote

          I just learned about these insoles called SUPERFEET and they are amazing. I’ve tried them on with my new hiking boots and man they are the BEST. I believe they have one for ‘minimalist’ shoes and also have one specific for women as well as a universal one. The lady I talked to said her superfeet have lasted at least 2 years and that’s her using it daily to run and go to work.

  4. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    I love running! And I miss it. Lately I “just don’t have any time” which is such an excuse but I also justify it by biking to work errday. One thing I really miss about running for “me doing me” vs biking to get to and from, is listening to music, which is terribly unsafe when biking the streets of Mexico. You really need to be present and pay attention to traffic. With running I could listen to music, zone out, and, when using the nike+ running app, which connected to my Facebook, I would even get cheers in my headphones in real time!!! I really liked that.

  5. Thumb up 1

    Please log in to vote

    This speaks to me. I always thought I hated running too, but it’s because in gym class I was always the slowest. And by slowest I mean everybody had already finished 5 miles by the time I was through half of one. Plus asthma (like the stereotypical nerd I am). I was always so self conscious about my physical ability because I felt like everyone else was a thousand times better than I could ever hope to be, so it seemed pointless to even try. Doing it by myself and learning to compete with MYSELF instead of other people has made such a world of difference in my abilities and my self confidence.

  6. Thumb up 2

    Please log in to vote

    I love this column! Running is the one thing that keeps me sane, my parents encouraged me to do cross country in high school and I never looked back from there. I would second the recommendation to either get good running shoes, or new ones if yours have already logged a few hundred miles on them. I have low arches so the insides of my feet get really sore when it’s time for new shoes!

  7. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    I grew up thinking I was unathletic and didn’t like exercise, and I was really self conscious because the other kids AND MY TEACHERS made fun of me in PE class when I tried to do the activities. So I really avoided exercise for a long time.

    Then in college, I was feeling like I needed to re-invent myself, so I decided to try to get into athletics and take up running. Turns out, I really *am* unathletic and I really, REALLY fucking LOATHE physical exertion. It’s just pure, unadulterated misery from beginning to end, both physically and mentally.

    Then my joints went entirely to hell and I can’t even stand up for more than 15 minutes without needing extra pain medication.

    But you know what? That actually makes me a little sad, because I found out about this interval training game called Zombies Run! which sounds like so much fun, I actually wish I could run now. You go on missions! It uses music from your own playlists! It tells you a story! That’s brilliant.

    So I can’t use it, but maybe one of y’all would like it?

  8. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    Love this article!!
    I always thought I wasn’t cut out for sports even though I have always loved them and had tried (and failed) at everything when I was younger. But then I started playing rugby and LOVED it! It doesn’t matter to anyone that I’m fat and sooo slow at running. As long as I can tackle and ruck the shit out of people then its all good :)

  9. Thumb up 2

    Please log in to vote

    It is truly empowering to find a place for a few hours where you dont have to prove anything to anyone but yourself. I dont run for a personal record, nor a future race – I was even slightly admonished when a fellow runner said “I wish I could just run for the fun of it”. But I think a few of us know already how much running has saved our lives. For me, my rituals of self love dont get any better than when I put on my running shoes and pack up in the truck with my dog for the forest. Peace.

  10. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    I love this article!

    Like a lot of the people that commented, I never considered myself to be a very athletic person growing up. I never played any sports and I was always incredibly self conscious in gym. I got into running halfway through college after a shitty break up because I thought it would help me get out some of the anger and anxiety I was feeling. At that point I couldn’t even run half a mile without stopping. But I loved the peace that came with clearing my head and getting away from everyone and everything. I felt good about myself after running and overtime I saw HUGE improvements not only mentally but physically as well. I lost over 20 lbs without even trying and I was so excited to see the changes in my body. I ran my first half marathon this past November in awesome time when just two years ago I never thought I could run a mile. Today I’m training for my first full marathon and couldn’t be more proud of myself for sticking with something that I came to love. Most importantly, running is something I do for me! Not anyone else. It’s a good place to be.

    So as an aside, if you think you suck at running, don’t give up on it just yet! And don’t compare yourself to all the other runners you might come across. Everyone starts somewhere :)

  11. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    I was always really active as a kid, climbing things and having sprint races with the neighbor kids and my sister, but I really hated organized sports. Drove my parents crazy, because my mom played baseball with the boys through high school and my dad played was a star basketball player.
    I played soccer for my boarding school in high school and that’s when I got into an exercise routine, but after I graduated I sort of fell out of it. I walked a lot until I discovered the bus system.
    So this year is my year. I have a shitload of weight to lose, and I know that getting in better shape will make me healthier and happier. Endorphins and all that. So I got myself a gym membership and a dog and now I’m forcing myself to run every day. My big goal is a half-marathon in August, with a 5k and a 10k in between now and then.
    I REALLY like the Nike+ running app. It’s free and it’s absolutely fabulous. People also like the C25k and the C210k but the Nike+ running app has programs for a 5k, 10k, half-marathon, and plenty of other things and IT’S FREE. I also like having accountability. I’m sort of trying to develop a better bond with my aunt and uncle and cousin by doing it with them, which the Nike+ app helps with, because you can sort of compete with each other.
    Yay for non-runners becoming runners! Pushing past that wall is a glorious feeling.

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.