I was the fattest person at the AIDS Walk today. There were other large people walking, but they ere like black bears compared to my Kodiak size. Something triggers in the brain of a fat person when they are at an athletic event and they are the largest one. It is a level of perseverance that can only be felt when in that situation. When you look around and see that there are people bigger than you or more handicapped than you, you think “If they can do it, I can do it.” That’s a lot of pressure. But, even if you aren’t thinking that, the fat girl at the 5K awareness walk is thinking “No matter what, do not give in to stereotypes.”
May in Maine has two weather forecasts: Death heat or Freeze ray. We had death heat. The sun was bearing down on us, people were sweating before the walk even began. “Hydration” and “Sunscreen” were repeated like the winning lottery numbers. The trail for the walk started with a hike up a small mountain (okay, it was probably considered a hill, but it was a steep hill). For every half a mile of uphill walking, there was only about 1/16th of downhill and even less of flat ground. I had to sit a few times because my asthma was getting bad. Some walkers stopped to talk and told me I could tap out if I wanted.
It was a beautiful walk though. The leaves were so green and there were dandelions everywhere– I don’t care what people say, dandelions are a flower and they are pretty.– On one side of part of the trail was a stream and there were birds flying all around.
Despite enjoying the sounds of nature, I needed to block out the sounds of my asthmatic lungs, so I put in an earbud to listen to my mojo mix. Josh acted like a cheerleader at every new hill and when I wanted to give up he acted like your friendly neighborhood drill sergeant.
We got to the halfway point where water and sunscreen was provided. I sat for a bit to cool down in the shade. The walkers who I had talked to along the trail were with us. They gave up. Another walker came along to hydrate himself. We continued the trail with him, but he was much faster than us and was soon ahead.
The latter half of the walk wasn’t as intimidating as the first half. I was thankful they had started with the endurance challenge first. We continued walking up and down hills for what seemed to be forever. We could see the other side of the trail along side us as it looped around somewhere. Our hydration buddy was on one side, this gave me hope that we were almost finished.
“I cheated. The trail keeps going, but I am headed back.” He said, turning my joy to sadness.
At one point I needed to sit again to allow my asthma time to pass. A lady came along, cleaning up the signs indicating the walk’s path.
“You can stop early and head back,” She told me, “No one will judge you for it.”
“I’ll judge me,” I said. “I am training to run a 5K, I need to be able to walk one.”
I walked the entire thing. When we got back to the tent I learned that most people turned back early due to the rigorous trails and the heat. Not only was I the fattest person, but I was one of few who walked the entire 5K. Maybe next year I will run it!
I am not judging people who dropped out early, I thought about it many times myself. However, what seemed like an act that might kill me only made me stronger. We judge ourselves, often holding ourselves to a standard we would not require of other people. Sometimes that is a bad thing, but sometimes, like today, it is a good thing.
P.S. I clearly wasn’t dead afterwards, I went swimming at a favorite pond and even attempted to get a bit of a run in that evening.