Weight Divisions for Marathons?

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On Monday night, I was on the Facebook page for Run the Bluegrass (I was there checking the progress of my submitted medals in the 2014 Medal of the Year bracket that is going on – vote for Oak Barrel and Navy Nautical 10 Miler) and noticed something strange. For this year’s race, the RD has decided to incorporate Clydesdale and Athena categories. For those of you that do not know, these categories are geared for larger runners. Clydesdale is for male runners in excess of 220 pounds, and Athena is for female runners checking in at over 165 pounds.

Film Title: Run Fat Boy Run

 

 

These are USAT certified divisions, but they are most often seen in triathlons, not half marathons, marathons, or any other running only events. Personally, I think that it is a neat wrinkle to this year’s event, and as a “Clydesdale”, I would be pumped to place in that division. However, the topic seemed to be very polarizing in the comments section (like everything on Facebook seems to be) and as of last night, tempers were flaring. After reading through both sides, I decided to post my thoughts on here so as to share with all of you, and not stoke the flames over there anymore. I just found the debate interesting.

On one side, you have a growing number of runners not cut from the traditional mold. They are heavier and less athletic looking than what a layperson would expect when they hear that the person is a runner. Several are on amazing weight loss journeys, some are deceptively large and will smoke you on the course, and some are out there achieving a goal, and quite possibly embracing a new lifestyle. This group very rarely gets to feel the joy that is associated with a podium call, and the additional accolades and swag that might come from the accomplishment. Often they are in the group of the back of the pack finishers that many spectators and fellow runners forget about once the medals are handed out, and the post race beer is enjoyed. They are running the same course as everyone else, but often feel like they are running a different race.

homer_simpson_run

 

On the other side, by classifying someone by a weight class can be demeaning. Being teased for my weight virtually my entire life, whether it be from family, friends, or foe has left some very real marks on my psyche. A major race labeling their in a manner that will only heighten the attention on this group seems off-putting, and in many ways cruel. Just because a runner is larger, does not mean that they should be forced to wear a scarlet letter as one more reminder of their size! This is just another form of fat-shaming and any race director that supports it should be ashamed of themselves!

And of course, there is also the notion that just because one’s weight is over a certain threshold, does not mean that they are fat! Their BMI (which in itself is a flawed metric) could be in a very favorable range, and they could be quite tall, thus adding weight without adding girth. There are several scenarios at play, and therefore pigeon-holing people into categories is wrong, and should be abstained from.

Last Place

Honestly, after reading the comments, I feel that in no way, shape, or form are the staff from Run the Bluegrass trying to fat-shame, embarrass, or ridicule anyone over the weight thresholds. Rather, they are simply trying to find ways to enhance the experience for ALL runners of the event. The fact that a race is trying to give this group a little extra incentive for the event, and maybe help boost their self-esteem, especially in regards to their running, is commendable to me. And honestly, as I told Susan last night, I wish more races would offer these categories for people like me! Who knows, I could be earning quite a few podium calls if they did!

This post was written a little over-the-top and dramatic for effect. I do not wish or intend to offend anyone, but simply lay out what some extremes of both sides of this debate might be. I would love to hear any input or insight that you might have about this topic.

Health Update

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Last Thursday I completed my physical as mandated by my new health insurance.  This is going to be a yearly occurrence for me going forward, which is not a bad thing.  Back in high school football, physical meant something else, but we will not delve into that on here.  Last May, my employer was having health screenings at the office, so I was able to get accurate counts for the majority of my health statistics.  I will be using those numbers for comparative purposes today.

The silhouette should probably be a little plumper, right?

The silhouette should probably be a little plumper, right?

  • Total Cholesterol: May 2013 score was 125. September 2014  score is 149. The desirable and lowest listed range is 125-199.  An increase, but not too big of one.
  • HDL Cholesterol: This is the “good” cholesterol and your want a higher number.  May 2013 score: 41, September 2014 score: 57.  This is in the decreased risk factor interval.  This score shows improvement from my last testing, so I have that going for me.
  • Triglycerides: May 2013 score was 100.  September 2014 score was 57. Optimal is anything under 150, so I’m golden, and much improved over last testing.
  • LDL Cholesterol: May 2013 score was 64.  September 2014 score was 81.  Optimal is 55-99, and I am creeping to the top of that, so I will watch it a bit closer.
  • Non-HDL Cholesterol: May 2013 score was 84.  September 2014 score is 149.  Optimal is anything less than 130, so I have some work to do here.  I am still in the safe range, but I want/need to get back to the optimal range.
  • Total Cholesterol to HDL Cholesterol Ratio: May 2013 ratio was 3.1.  September 2014 ratio was 2.6.  Optimal is less than or equal to 3.5.
  • Glucose: May 2013 score was 100.  This is 1 point higher than optimal, but upon reading the literature, the 65-99 scale they used was for fasting glucose (only water for 8 hours prior to screening) and since I had just eaten, my target range was 70-119, which I was comfortably within.  September 2014 score was 86.  I did fast prior to this test, so it looks good to me.
  • Blood Pressure: May 2013 score was 124/84, and September 2014 score was 129/86 which are both just over the targeted levels. The doctor did not seem too alarmed about this yet.
  • BMI:  May 2013 score was 36.  September 2014 score was 35.5.  This places me firmly in the obese range.  I’m working on that.  You can read an alternative take on BMI here.
  • Weight: May 2013 weight was 246.5 pounds.  September 2014 weight was 248 pounds.  I am obese by any metric and hopefully I will get a little more diligent about shedding some pounds.
  • Other Notes: The September physical also produced a few other results that the health screening at work did not. Most of my results were in line with where they should be with one notable exception.  I presented with a Vitamin D deficiency and advised to start taking a supplement.  This was actually a subject at boot camp a few weeks back.  I assumed I was OK in this regard and did not take any action.  I guess I was wrong.

After both screenings I was advised that I need to get more exercise.  I tried to explain about my running schedule and boot camp, but when you are 50+ pounds over your recommended weight, no one listens to you.

Motivation Monday: You Are What You Eat

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The silhouette should probably be a little plumper, right?

The silhouette should probably be a little plumper, right?

I struggle with this concept more than I should.  If I burn 3,000 calories, why can’t I consume 3,000 calories throughout the rest of the day?  I gained weight while training for the WDW Marathon, and I have not lost any of it since the event in January either.  In fact, I have gained some more weight since then despite running in as many have marathons in 2014 as the rest of my life combined!  Why?  I have not focused on my diet like I should.  There have been too many trips to Muddy’s for cupcakes and a reemergence of fast food into my diet.  I have always struggled with keeping a good balance in my diet.  If I log the miles, I should see the results.  Or at least that is what my food obsessed brain thinks.  I need to focus a little stronger on this idea moving forward.

USMC Fitness Boot Camp Enlistment

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I have been talking about my need to do more cross-training and focus on my total fitness for a while now.  And today I finally did something about it.  I have enlisted in the USMC Fitness Boot Camp here in Memphis.  The schedule does not conflict with work or school, it is near my house, and the cost is great enough that my cheap ass will go just so I did not waste the money!  This last reason honestly worked for me when I first started to lose weight and when I started training for my first half marathon.  By paying for a training group, mentally I could force myself to go on the training runs even when I did not want to (which was often).

USMC Fitness Boot CampMy first class will be at 5:30 am tomorrow morning.  There is a class tonight, but I do not think that I will be able to make it there in time.  But maybe.  I really do not want to start making excuses this early into the process! The website said that I need to bring the following items:

  • Exercise mat
  • Water bottle
  • Dumbbells (at least 10 lbs for men)
  • Running shoes
  • “Can do” attitude

I have three of the five items already covered, so that is a start, right?  I probably should have started this during a cooler month, but oh well.  It is too late now! Bring on the sweat and pain!

What It Is Like to be a Fat Runner

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So this site leaves little doubt about my physical stature.  I am a fat guy.  Or, at the very least, a recovering fat guy.  I have lost a considerable amount of weight, 116 pounds at my pinnacle.  I am physically nowhere near what I was as recently as 2010, and for that, I am very thankful.  It was not an easy journey to get here, both with my initial weight-loss and trying to maintain a healthy weight since.  Never once in my adult life have I been at my recommended weight, and maybe I never will be.  I am fine with that as long as the rest of my health  measurables as well as my physical activity are at the optimum levels.  My blood pressure, cholesterol, and the such are much more important to me than the number on the scale.  I know others do not agree with this approach, but seeing where I was a few years ago, I think that it is tremendous progress from a guy in college that would routinely eat his recommended daily caloric intake in each meal!

Lap Those on the Couch

This blog was started after the bulk of my weight-loss occurred and actually, I have gained a few pounds since I started blogging.  However, this blog was began to not only give some insight into my running and weight management journey, but to also give some advice on my experiences running large.  I have not given much insight into this field as of yet, but today will be a big one.  This post will share what to expect on race day when you are not the prototypical runner.

True Story

True Story

People are going to look at you funny.  Do not get too caught up in this.  You do look different from others out there, but you are running the same miles as everyone else.  Enjoy it.

Don’t take offense to what people say to you.  Often at races, after staring at me for a few moments, people will approach me to talk about why I am running.  I have heard a variety of things, both to my face and seemingly out of my earshot (little do people know that my hearing is great and I observe quite a bit around me).  The following are some of the most common things that have been said to/about me at a race:

“More people like you should run.” – The sentiment is in the right place, but it can come across the wrong way

“You’re running? Really?” – Yep, I’m fat, and I will be running this race.  It is incredible, isn’t it?

“Is this your first race?” – If you are fat, obviously this is your first race because if you have ever ran a race before, you would not be fat anymore.

“You finished how fast?” – I love this one.  This often is people who assume that I am going to lumber in front of the sweepers for the entire race.

Do not worry about what people say.  The vast majority of them have the best of intentions when they talk to you.  They may come across the wrong way, but they are not meaning to.  Just smile, thank them, and run the best race that you can.

If the race is giving away a tech shirt, chances are that they are going to be an athletic cut.  Some company’s have fuller cut versions of tech shirts, like Nike and Under Armour.  Others run a little tight.  I wear an XL in the vast majority of my shirts, but for certain races, especially the St. Jude Memphis Half Marathon, I need to order a XXL.  So when registering for a race, just be mindful that the shirt might not be a fuller cut.

Make sure to stay fueled/hydrated.  This is great advice for anyone running a race, however, when there is a little more meat on the bones, we think that our excess weight will fuel us along.  Fueling, regardless of the fuel, is vital to performance.  Do not try avoid fueling at a race to save some time unless you routinely run the distance at race intensity without fuel while training.  Do what you do on a training run during the race.

High fiving Mickey at the finish line - this is such a great feeling

High fiving Mickey at the finish line – this is such a great feeling

Finish.  This is why you are at the race in the first place, some complete the damn thing!  It doesn’t matter if it takes you 30 minutes or 4 hours, finish.  The sense of accomplishment and pride that you will get will circumvent any discomfort you might be feeling during the race.  The number of people who hate life while running a race that almost immediately register for another one after crossing the finish line is staggering.  This will likely be the same for you.

Every. Single. Time.

Every. Single. Time.

Your finishing time may be humbling…to you and others.  You will be surprised what a surge of adrenaline can do for you during a race.  You run one way during a training run, but when surrounded by several other runners and the prospect of finishing can boost your time quite a bit.

Slow still counts!

Slow still counts!

For others, they often see you and think “I can beat that guy.”  Often, they are right.  But you cannot judge a book by its cover.  In my first half marathon in 2011 I completed the course 15 minutes faster than my next closest friend, who happens to be the epitome of physical fitness.  I crushed his time.  It happens, so when it does, enjoy it.  A second example of this happened the same year for me at a 5K.  There was another runner there that I had some mutual friends with, but we never were that close.  We both set PR’s that day, but I happened to be about 30 seconds faster.  He asked what my time was, I told him, and his reaction simply was “Oh…” and then he walked away.  It happens.  Just congratulate others on their race, embrace yours, and go on.  There is no need for negativity.  Like I said earlier, you all ran the same miles.

You are a runner, embrace it and do not feel ashamed about it.  Wear your race shirt out, leave your medal on as long as you like, tell people about your experience.  You have earned it!

Congratulations on your accomplishment and I hope to see your out there one day!

Samoas Are My Kryptonite

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Yep, this sums up me vs Samoas

Yep, this sums up me vs Samoas

This time of year is brutal for those of us that battle our weight.  The full brunt of the winter blues is upon you and the little army of sugar pushers are in full force.  You go to Kroger for fruit and they are there.  You go to the Home Depot to grab something for your house, they are there.  You go out to dinner, and boom, they are there.  You come to work, and their generals, or mothers, depending on how you are looking at it, are there, pushing the wares.  You cannot escape their reign of terror, it feels like the Stormtroopers in WWII if you are a fat guy trying to eat right.

How can you resist?

How can you resist?

Of course, I am talking the Girl Scouts of America and their biggest money-maker, Girl Scout Cookies!  I am not trying to disparage the Girl Scouts or their cookies, rather just pointing out how pervasive they are in a community with their cookies, and at $3.50 a box, it is nearly impossible to say no!   Especially when Samoas are involved.  Seriously, they are my Kryptonite.  I cannot resist them, and they wreak havoc on my health.  I open a box, and before I know it, they are gone.  Every last one of them.  I even turn up the container trying to savor every last crumb!  It really is a problem.  I think I need to go to a support group for this addiction.

This is Kryptonite

This is Kryptonite

Of course there are other varieties that are tempting, but for me, Samoas are my biggest weakness.  In fact, this season I have ONLY had two boxes of Samoas, and I feel that it is a victory for my waistline!

Not the healthiest thing I had this week, but they taste so good

Not the healthiest thing I had this week, but they taste so good

If you want to delve further into the facts about Girl Scout cookies, there is a great infographic here.  One thing that stood out to me is that last year there were $714 million worth of cookies sold!

This post has both made me hungry and want to go for a run!  I guess I will be busy after work…

*Again, this post is not trashing the Girl Scouts or any of its members, rather just illustrate how weak I can be in my weight loss journey.