Unnecessary Asshattery

So I truly loved Barry Bearak’s article about masters runner Kathy Martin, “After Late Start, Runner Is Speeding Through Records” at The New York Times. It is, well, inspiring to read about someone who didn’t start seriously running until her late forties and who is not only still well into and enjoying it at age sixty, but who is also setting national and world records. I found running again last year at twenty-nine and though I don’t hope for record-breaking (really, I have very little desire to compete), but I do hope to be enjoying running well into my retirement. (And as a public school teacher in Arizona, I estimate that I will have sufficient money to retire long about age eighty-five, so that’s saying something.)

That is, I loved it right up until this remark from the reporter:

But there is a marked difference in durability between the fat and the fit, the layers and the players.

The first thing I have to say about that is FFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK YOOOOUUUU. While there’s certainly still some scientific debate as to the long-term correlations of fat and adverse health issues in general, there really isn’t an established dichotomy between “fat” and “fit.” For example, is my own durability of indiscriminate determination because I am both fat and fit?

In other words, they are not necessarily two separate things. Similarly, rhetorically assigning all fat people as “layers” — that is, as people who are sedentary and implicitly lazy — that is both lazy thinking and lazy reporting.

Additionally, I’m doubly irked for a couple of reasons:

One, given that there is no mention of Martin or other runners ever being fat, there is no reason to bring fat into the narrative. It’s more or less completely irrelevant to the story at hand, so it’s like its own Bonus Edition of Gratuitous Fat Shaming. FFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK THAAAAT.

By the way, I only say “more or less” because the article does mention Martin’s body size in relation to fitness as she’s beginning her running career:

Ten minutes into the trot, she lay down exhausted in the middle of Clark Drive in East Northport. “Get up or a car is going to hit you,” her husband said. And when she caught her breath, she answered, “I hope it does.”

The misery was ultimately redeeming. Martin, a 30-year-old nurse back then, assessed her cardiorespiratory future. On the plus side, she was trim, barely 100 pounds, and she did not smoke. But she was also woefully out of shape, one of those people always on her feet but never exercising. She wondered: If I cannot run a mile at 30, will I even be able to walk one at 60?

So not only is the author’s fat-shaming unnecessary, but it’s also actively countered by the subject’s own story. Gratuitous and inaccurate: two for the price of one!

Don’t get me wrong: I’m thrilled to have read about Kathy Martin, and I’m inspired by her story. I hope the miles ahead of her are as many as she wants and as happy as she wishes them to be.

Barry Bearak, on the other hand, can kiss my fat ass should consider taking an intensive course in logic.

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7 comments on “Unnecessary Asshattery
  1. I keep thinking that all these “Does Fit Trump Fat?” type articles will help decouple the two for people, and I keep being proven wrong.

    • Tori says:

      Yup. I keep hoping that even if people disagree about the interplay of how the two factors affect overall health, they will at least start wrapping their heads around the idea that they are two separate types of measurements, rather than measurements at opposite ends of a spectrum.

  2. Lauren says:

    What is the deal with running? I’m asking this seriously. It seems like everyone I know does it and loves it, and it sounds like torture to me. How do you get into running? How do you not hate it?

    • Tori says:

      I think the biggest factor for me was — and still is — to keep it manageable. In terms of speed, in terms of distance, in terms of adding on to an established run, etc. My partner and I started with the Couch 2 5k at the beginning of 2011. We ramped it up maybe even more gradually than the program prescribes since we repeated both single runs and full weeks until we were comfortable with each one.

      Also, related, was learning to pace myself. I am not a fast runner at this point, nor do I feel any particular pressure to be. On any given run, I might be looking to shave 10-30 seconds off my last time, or I might not be. There’s nothing wrong, as far as I can see, with making a point to keep myself deliberately slow enough that it doesn’t hurt.

      Third, as you might have guessed with the whole yoga thing, I’m pretty into using physical movement as an aid for meditation. Running does that for me — and, at least for me, it does it better when I’m at a place where I know that I’m physically safe and reasonably comfortable. In other words, I might be picking up the pace in my last half mile of a distance, and I might be feeling that, but I only push it enough that I know I’m not going to hurt or hate myself at the end of it.

      Finally, I do combine my running with an equal amount of yoga. Physically, that helps me out because I focus on stretching muscles and connective tissue that end up being tightened by my running. That lets me start out each run in a good physical place as well as helps to correct any issues that might be developing over time.

      • Lauren says:

        Do you have an iPod or whatever, with the c25k app thing? Seems like that helps a lot of people, but I’m such a tech loser I have no way of listening to music while moving quickly (which seems fairly essential). I used to walk a ton, which I loved for the meditative factor, but now that I have kids going on an hour long stroll seems fairly impossible. Thanks for your reply.

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