Along with many others this year, I joined the fun run bandwagon. I don’t know whether it was the enticing spectrum of instagrams of the Colour Run, or my discovery of the Bay Run that got my ass in to gear, but earlier this year I signed up for the Nike She Runs the Night 10km run in Sydney.
I have been hesitant to admit that I’m a runner. Hesitant because I didn’t want to tell people about my fitness abilities, and then have them see me failing. So I’m not a hard-core runner, but I do run. For about six years now, a few times a week (mostly), I’ve run.
I run because it feels good. I run because I can feel the fresh air. I run because walking doesn’t really get anything moving – if you know what I mean.
When the opportunity came to run the night, I thought this might be a good chance to see how much of a runner I actually was. So, I called a friend, signed up for my-shirt, and bumped up my ‘couple’ of runs a week to ‘a few’ runs a week.
On the night of Saturday May 4, 2013, I posted my own instagram. The caption said: Girls run the night, we run the night. #beyonce #runningplaylist #nikesheruns #feminism.
The hashtags were all semi-sardonic (I thought I was being very funny with the beyonce reference). I prepared myself to cringe at the many inspirational womens slogans that I would pass on the race. I pictured them: ‘never never never give up’, ‘you are who you decide to be’, ‘only you determine your steps.’ I’ve often found them hard to stomach. Sure, I partly believe in them, but the part-lioness, part-woman logo image that was splashed around the place, for me was hard to take.
I don’t feel like a lioness running in the wind. I feel like an awkward antalope attempting to steady my panting steps. I have always found it hard to say ‘I am woman, hear me roar’, because I feel more like, ‘I am woman with a couple of opinions, please hear them out with me as I share them softly.’ I am hardly the eye of the tiger. But while running, this got me thinking. Thinking about running.
Indeed it was the last hashtag on my instagram (#feminism (with some imbued lioness imagery) that I felt quite ambivalent about. (And thinking and running does work.) Have I taken the piss from a concept or abandoned a term that is in fact quite important?
As I ran the race I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the momentum (I should have guessed, it was a race), empowerment (some inspirational runners out there- I’m not kidding) and most of all, the overwhelming vision of so many women’s bodies. Now again, I’m not the type to put a spotlight on body image, but when you lump yourself on a track with 5999 other women in running gear, there’s not really anywhere else to look.
I saw pear-shaped figures, brick shaped, hourglass, stick-thin and apple-shaped figures. I saw the inspiration figures that lapped us in their stream-lined suits. I saw the packs of 19-years-old, 39-year-olds, and the mothers and daughters that ran side by side. I saw women who had obviously overcome health-related issues: broken legs, twisted knees and or weight issues. And, each woman was beautiful. I didn’t expect to feel so liberated.