A couple weeks ago I ran The Biggest Loser 5k. (I also came in 2nd place in my age group for the first time!) This is a run/walk race sponsored by some former contestants of The Biggest Loser. It was really inspiring to see people of all shapes and sizes out on the course, a lot of them participating in their first race ever.
That’s when it occurred to me.
In my experience, when I am at races or just running in general, I don’t hear the things I hear in other situations. For example, no one is whispering about someone else’s size; that they are too big or too small, or how could they possibly go out in public in that outfit or with no makeup or with their hair like that. No one is judging someone else’s sneakers because they didn’t cost $100+. No one is saying you’re too slow, you don’t belong here. In fact, it’s just the opposite; I find runners to be so supportive and encouraging and complimentary, no matter the situation. I love passing a runner on the path, giving a smile and a wave, telling them they are looking good. I love having little exchanges with other runners at races — I love your shirt — you’re doing great — are we almost there? And I love receiving these exchanges too.
Unfortunately real life does not mirror my running life. Racial slurs, homophobic slurs, catcalling, weight jokes, welfare jokes – we are bombarded with all of these. Sometimes it is overheard, sometimes it is in a Facebook or Twitter post, sometimes it is from a friend or family member who should know better. Why is it still okay to use the “n” word or the “f” word, or to refer to someone in such a demeaning manner that it could make them cry? Why would anyone ever use the word “retard”? Why is it okay to use those words in jokes, when it is so offensive?
It’s not okay. It makes me mad. It makes me want to run away, literally, to be with my fellow runners who don’t see differences but our common thread – people who run.