Everyone’s journey is different!
The joy of running! It is a feeling that cannot be conveyed to a non-runner. The non-runner views running as a form of punishment or self-torture. They cannot imagine running a marathon. They also will never know the deep feeling of personal satisfaction a runner feels after completing a marathon.
A runner runs! It’s who we are, it’s what we do, and it defines us. We are on a journey of self-improvement. All runners are not created equal. Each of us is unique in our own special way, and we come to the sport of running from different places in our lives. Everyone’s journey is different, and how we got here is not that important, what is it that we made it! Five years ago running a marathon was the furthest thing from my mind. It wasn’t until Nathan Maxwell (a Twitter friend who is an ultra runner) inspired me and encouraged me to start with a 5K and work my way up. Since I began my running odyssey three years ago, I have been smothered by accolades, encouragements, and numerous ‘thumbs-ups’ from the running community. I have been called ‘amazing’, ‘awesome’, an ‘inspiration’ and a ‘rock star’. I have made many friends. Iron sharpens iron and I would not be where I am today were it not for my running friends. In my division, I have placed in the top five twice, and the top four once. So what’s my division you may ask?
I am a Clydesdale. In addition to being a breed of horse, Clydesdale is a term applied to larger runners. We are in a different category because of our larger size. Distance running is broken into different divisions by sex, age and weight. A 4O year-old runner would have a hard time beating a 17 year-old. Same for a woman out-running a man, and a larger person beating a smaller, faster person. So by competing within your division, with similar athletes, you are encouraged to do your best without being discouraged by others outside your category.
The Clydesdale movement began in 1988 and was started by Joe Law who wanted to level the playing field to encourage larger runners. Their motto is “You don’t have to be thin to be fit.” There are male and female Clydesdale divisions as Clydesdale is a breed and not a gender of large horse. None-the-less, some women opt for the cutesy term Clydettes, or prefer to be called Athenas after the mythical goddess of strength and wisdom. I’m not a fan of the last term, but that’s just me.
WHAT’S THE SKINNY?
If you saw a man exercising alongside a woman, you might think something like ‘good for them’.
They’re both doing the same exercise. You wouldn’t think ‘she can’t do that, she’s just a girl and he’s so much stronger than her’. You’re a judgmental bastard if you do. Yes men are bigger and tend to be stronger than women, but this is just a physical reality. It is not an indication of one being better than the other. In reality, the woman is working that much harder than the man to accomplish the same exercise.
Now compare the next two athletes doing a simple planking exercise:
Again, if you though ‘kudos for her’ on the first athlete, but laughed at the second athlete, you’re not a very nice person and you need to check yourself. The overweight woman is working that much harder to do the same exercise than the skinny girl is. There is NO SHAME in trying to improve your health. This is the real importance of having a Clydesdale division in running. Winning a medal in a race is an incredible ego booster. Being able to say that I got off the couch, I trained, I worked HARD and I WON THIS! It’s an amazing feeling. Every person deserves to feel good about themselves and have a great life. The Clydesdale division gives us our moment to shine!
There is no such thing as a FAT PERSON.
Fat is a component of food. It is something that gets stored in our body for energy reserves when you overeat and do not exercise enough. As such, overweight people get slapped with the stigma of being lazy, gluttonous, or both. Every person you know is struggling with some inner demons or internal conflicts that you know nothing about. Fat-shaming is a real thing and overweight people are constantly humiliated by people mocking or criticizing them about their size. When I tell non-runners that I have a race coming up this weekend, I sometimes get comments like ‘you run?’ My former boss was famous for this. When I ran my first marathon, he asked me “how many days did it take?”.
Overweight people are laughed at and rejected in so many situations in the real world that they tend to believe that they are worthless, or not good enough. As a result, they lock themselves away from the world. It takes an incredible act of courage to make that first step and take action to improve your health.
You may be laughed at by callous people being jerks. Ignore them! I was 322 pounds before I started running. When I signed up for my first 5K race EVER in 2019, my non-running friends informed me that it takes months of training to run those races. I told them I had already been running treadmill for the past 8 weeks at that point. When I finished the race, Helene Horn told me I was amazing. Not one of my non-running friends showed up to watch my race.
FAUX PONY BALONEY
When is a Clydesdale NOT a Clydesdale? This is a controversial gray area. Some of my fellow Clydesdales and myself included are slightly upset when we see a runner who looks way too light to be a Clydesdale walk away with a medal. Is this stolen honor, or just sour grapes? The category is not a perfect division. Muscle is much denser than fat, but a pound of muscle is equal to a pound of fat. Some race directors rely upon a BMI formula based on weight and height, while others go by weight alone. In the weight alone situation, the limits are usually men: 210lbs+ women: 160lbs+ . Now here’s the thing what if a man is packing a lot of muscle on his frame, very little body fat at all, AND weighs in at 210lbs 1oz ONLY because he ate breakfast that day. Is he REALLY a Clydesdale? According to the rules of that race, yes.
A 250lb Clydesdale packing an excess of body fat, with a BMI of over 35 is going to get clobbered by such an athlete.
What if a very tall, skinny girl with very long legs and who weighs who 160lbs 1oz decides to sign up as a Clydesdale? Should she? Is it a fair race against a short plump woman with short legs who weighs 230lbs and is running her heart out to try to get a medal, only to see the tall girl walk away with the prize?
What about the 20-year-old Clydesdale who is competing against the 45-year-old in the same division?
The above situations have occurred at various races and at various times. Everyone wants a medal. Not everyone is going to get one, and there are some who never will. The Clydesdale division is a necessary race class, but it is NOT a perfect division. Until a greater number of overweight runners begin signing up for races there is no fixing this imbalance in the class. Unlike professional boxing which has 17 different weight classes, there is no way to subdivide the Clydesdale category when Clydesdales on average make up less than 10% of the runners in any given race. It sucks, it’s not fair, but no one ever said life was fair. Participation medals are worthless trinkets. If there is an imbalance in our beloved Clydesdale division, we need to use that to encourage us to push ourselves that much harder. And when we do earn that medal by our own merits, it will be the greatest feeling in the world!
You can find me at these upcoming local races:
Ugly Mudder 9.5K Trail Race February 19 @ 10:00 am Reading PA
Shiver by The River 10K Winter Race Series #4 of 4 March 13th @ 10:00am Muhlenberg PA
Be sure to check back on February 27th 2022 for another article.
As always, I wish you success and happiness!