by Marcella Messina
Running is a personal journey. Mine has been long. Mostly it has been slow, and at times very frustrating.
Since I rejoined the world of running in July 2016, I have realized that running has been two important things for me: freeing and rewarding. It sets me free from the societal constraints on what my ability should be, because of the size that I am. It’s rewarding because I know my ability within myself without the need for confirmation from others.
As a plus-sized runner, I have had a myriad of thoughts. For example, I have thought that running is only for my thinner, more fit counterparts. Or that I can only begin running if I get to a certain weight. I subscribed to conventional thought processes that dictated I can’t possibly be a runner if I’m that slow, or that heavy. We’ve all either heard or maybe even said these things aloud. My fear held me back. The body positivity and Health at Every Size (HAES) movements helped me overcome those fears.
In the summer of 2016, I decided to forget these thoughts and embark on a journey to a half marathon. I wanted to complete it prior to turning 30 at the end of 2017. I didn’t want to wait until an arbitrary number came to start tackling my goals and reaching the potential that I had within me. I needed to prove to myself, and in the process I managed to prove to others, that a plus-sized runner does exist. We’re not unicorns. We can cover the same distances. Sometimes we’re slower but sometimes not!
I owe my success in part to working at the Running Room. I’ve been here since May 2011, and it has been a huge driving force that has kept me circulating within the running community, meeting new people and seeing all these fun races that occur all over the country and the world. It made me want to truly be a part of that community instead of simply working in the store, on the fringes. A friend and I joined the Running Room Learn to Run training program.
I started just as slowly as other runners, working from the original interval of “run one minute, walk two minutes” all the way up to 10-and-1s (run for 10 minutes, walk for one). I realized that as a plus-sized runner, I had to make some adjustments. I had to protect my knees and my ankles, and make sure I had properly supportive shoes. My legs were going to be handling a larger impact of weight with every footfall, and in comparison to those who don’t weigh as much, I needed to be prepared.
I finished my graduation 5K race that fall. I then moved on to my first-ever 10K race and my first 10 mile race, all with other 5K fun runs and a second 10K in there too. Then, finally, onto the big one: my first half marathon! I completed it on November 12, 2017 in Las Vegas (with more than a month to spare before my 30th birthday).
Beyond the physical strength that it takes to be a runner (thanks to the training and hard work), I now have an inner strength that keeps me going. On the days that I’m extra slow, or in extra pain, or I’m the last runner on the race course, it takes an immense amount of mental fortitude and strength to keep going. I’ve learned that covering a distance, regardless of the pace, is still an accomplishment to be proud of. I cannot and will not look at my time and be disappointed in myself anymore. I will take on every distance with enthusiasm and put in the work to get there. I am a half marathoner. More importantly, I am a runner.