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Body Image, Boobs, and Running

One Marathoner's Powerful Response to Comments About Her Body

If someone asked you what a "runner" looks like, do you know how you would respond? Self-trained runner and marathoner Nicole Bedard of The Girl Who Runs Everywhere shares with us the outlandish questions she is asked on a regular basis because society thinks she "doesn't look like a runner." Whatever that means . . .

"You Don't Look Like a Runner — You have boobs!"

Let's start at the beginning: I have big boobs.

YEAH. I said it. When I was a teenager? They were GIGANTIC. Of course, way back then, I was allergic to exercise. I was a cheerleader during my mid-teen years (that didn't mean I liked to sweat though!), and if you would have told me that when I was a little older that I would LOVE when I am SO SWEATY that you could wring out my shirt — I would have told you that you were actually insane.

When I started running (at 18-19), boobs factored into the picture . . . sports bras (I originally bought COTTON because Dri-FIT just wasn't a thing yet!), running shirts, every small detail was a factor. My boobs were massive. I'm a small girl — my whole entire life I've been a small girl. I'm 5 feet, 1 inch. Having a rack wasn't really the easiest thing for a small, petite gal!

Growing up, it seemed that the fact that I had a "large" chest dominated every decision I made. I was constantly aware of my body's every move. To say the least, high school was uncomfortable for me. I actually got into fights with boys who teased me over the size of my breasts . . . I punched (at minimum) four different boys directly in the face for their cruel teasings. Looking back now, I know that I obviously wasn't comfortable with my body. I hated any comment made or a stare that lasted a little too long.

It wasn't until I became a runner that I became at home in my own skin. It's funny and amazing what exercise can do for your confidence and your body. As I began to run more consistently, my body naturally lost weight and settled at a more comfortable place for me. My boobs were smaller! I became more self-confident with my strong body.

I always tell people that if you want to get to know yourself, find out what you're capable of, and test your mind to the breaking point — become a runner. Once I started running, I became a lot happier with my image and myself: running gave me a part of myself that I didn't even know was missing — it was like a whole new side of me was created. Running became more than just an outlet. It became a passion. Through running, I learned that I am strong — I can run 20 miles a day like nobody's business! Because of running, I learned that I should not care what anyone thinks of me — let stupid comments roll right off because they aren't important in the long run. Much like yoga does for those who practice it, running centers me and gives me a peace unlike anything else. A way to block the noise.

So . . . You're a Runner?

The first few years after I started to run, when I would encounter someone I hadn't seen since high school, the person would ask if I had a breast reduction. (I don't know why people ask such inappropriate questions?) I would delightfully tell them "no, I'm a runner."

But, No matter how many miles I log, I will always have (still a little larger) boobs. I can't help but notice how the typical female runner is practically concave in the boob-age area. This is not me. It most likely will never be me. All these years of running and "being a runner with boobs" and I'm still sensitive about this topic. As much as I say or think "I don't care" there are moments when it does bother me. Those moments mostly come when someone has discovered that I run. First, I will see the slight flick of their eyes over my mid-section and then suddenly, I am hearing my favorite phrase uttered to me: "You don't look like a runner."

Really, I can't hear it enough. "Please, tell me again!" I would like to shout at them. And because people will always be people, I get some terrific questions thrown at me about being a runner with boobs (I always know when one is coming at me . . . I have a sixth sense for dumb comments.) I will share a few of my favorites with you:

"I saw you running the other day . . . I said to my friend "Just look at her running WITH THOSE BOOBS." (I thought to myself, am I supposed to leave them at home when I go?)

"I just have to ask . . . How in the world do you run without your boobs knocking you in the face?" (they're not that big, people can be just THAT obtuse)

"Do you like having big boobs and being a runner?" (this one just makes me want to say something so rude back!)

Isn't it funny how you can forget some of the good stuff that people say to you but will never, ever forget a stupid offhand comment? I try to let it roll off of me. I remember the lessons the early "me" learned through millions of hours pounding the pavement. I tell myself these things so that I forget about any silly comments and remarks about something as trivial as "appearance." I remind myself that:

  • I am really strong.
  • I am pretty fast!
  • I should never care what someone else thinks or says about me. I care about being a good wife, a good person, a good friend. OH, and being a good runner.

Being a runner has nothing to do with appearance, as many of you might know. It has to do with the fact that you are out there RUNNING. Whether or not you look like the stick skinny runner is really and truly irrelevant. If you find yourself feeling judged for not looking like a typical runner, I want you to tell yourself these things:

  • That person is obviously not a runner. DUH. And you ARE.
  • YOU are strong. Your legs can take you ALL OVER the place! Their legs probably don't do that.
  • When you get upset about something someone says to you, you're allowing them the power to make you feel that way. Replace any negative things with the good things about YOU.

Runners come in all shapes and sizes. Your waistline, your shoe size, your bra cup size — these are not important even one little bit. What IS important is that you are out there, RUNNING! So the next time somebody tells YOU that you don't look like a runner . . . invite them along for your next run. That'll teach them!

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