Last Saturday, I decided to take advantage of the brief break in the bitter cold weather to go for a run outside. I don't see the sun during the week, which means I always half-joke about being at risk for rickets. (Yes, I know. It's a pediatric disease. And vitamin D deficiency can be easily prevented with supplements. But really, how awesomely dire would it sound if I got to call in sick with rickets?!) The sun was out on Saturday, so it seemed like a damn fine time to head outdoors.
The only problem with this plan was my running pants. My old, terribly lame running pants that my post-collegiate roommates said look like something off the set of Spiderman. Even worse, they show off my soccer thighs like woah. I mulled this over for a moment, and then, feeling horribly self-conscious, decided to go for it anyway. (I rationalized this by deciding that I'd run in residential neighborhoods a few blocks away, thereby avoiding the pedestrian-heavy commercial area where I live. Fewer people will see me, I thought, and with these pants and my soccer thighs, fewer is better.)
I furtively ducked out the back entrance of my building. Looked around to see how many people might be seeing me in this getup. Made a dash for the residential streets.
But then, when I was nearing the relative safety of the side streets, I saw That Girl. You know: the one who looks absolutely fabulous in her capri running pants and super-trendy puff vest. The one with skinny legs that look like they were body-snatched from Heidi Klum. The one who positively prances when she runs. The one who makes passers-by think, "I want to look like her." And then, there I was -- as if placed in that block, at that moment, purely for the sake of contrast -- soccer thighs on display in my Spiderman pants, desperately wishing that I could find an invisibility cloak and not be seen anywhere in the vicinity of That Girl.
She pranced on, looking skinny and trendy, which only irked me further. I kicked it up a notch just to get away from her, and as I took off, it finally hit me: screw what I look like compared to her. No, I don't have trendy gear. No, my legs aren't made for photo shoots. But I also don't prance. I run. My soccer thighs mean that I'm built for power and speed. They're what enable me to have good running form, to sprint like hell up a hill, to be faster than women who prance.
The moment I realized this, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I wasn't built to be a supermodel, but I was built to be strong. I might not always love the way I look, but the fact is, there are some considerable merits to the very qualities that I sometimes get self-conscious about. (Soccer thighs and child-bearing hips, I'm looking at you.)
As I kept running, I kept feeling better. Forty minutes later, feeling much less self-conscious than I'd been before, I decided to double back through the dreaded commercial area. As I ran through the crowd, dodging shoppers and dog-walkers, I felt better than ever. Were people looking, aghast, at my legs and my Spiderman pants? Maybe. But maybe, just maybe, I was running too fast for them to look for very long.