In the past few years I have taken up running. I didn’t like it at all when I was growing up, but once I got a bit older I started to appreciate what a run could do for my mood after a long day of studying at the library or being at work. While I run I tend to let go of any residual anger or annoyance that might have built up during the day, I focus on myself and I usually come back with more energy than I left with.
Now, I like to set goals for myself and so I decided a while ago to take part in a half marathon. This gave me something to train towards and I was motivated to make it to the finish line. Came race day, I put on my coolest running outfit and felt quite good. Despite the fact that I had severely neglected my training in the weeks prior to the race since I had been moving from one cold to the next, I was actually excited, if slightly nervous.
However, even before I arrived at the start, all my thoughts about running 21.0975km (13.1094mi) suddenly vanished. Looking around the subway I saw a sea of runners next to whom I looked like the cream in an Oreo (the regular Oreos, not the mint ones at least). I looked at them in wonder – how could they be SO tan? – and they looked back at me with a similar expression – how could I be SO white?
I suddenly felt really self conscious and started worrying much more about looking like I’d been training only on a tread mill while everyone else looked like they had just gotten back from training camp in Hawaii than I was about the race. Somehow I felt that all these tanned and toned bodies belonged there while I felt so out of place.
To this day, I have the same feeling whenever I participate in such an event and it is the strangest thing. If I were even slightly tanner I would not be a second faster than I am now. If everybody else was pale like me, they would be no slower. So once again, it’s all in my head, it’s all about the appearance and the association we – or at least I – have with being fit and a friend of the outdoors. After all, isn’t it just natural to be tan when you train outdoors several months per year?
No, no it is not! Because the amount of time you spend in the sun doesn’t noticeably change the color of your skin when you are that pale. While other people go for a run outside maybe once or twice and come back with golden skin, mine is stubbornly white no matter what.
So here’s the deal: I am taking a decision that will hopefully change my life for the better. I decide not to let the tone of my skin define my performance as a runner. I also decide to not let it tell me that I cannot pull off a sporty outdoors look or that I don’t belong in such an environment. Instead I will train hard, focus on the finish line and act like I belong!
Love – The Fairy Pales