I'm just gonna put it out there: I look at my reflection when I run by store windows.
Forget that I’m at mile sixteen and it’s a gazillion degrees outside. Forget the sweat, tears, and gastrointestinal discomfort I’ve suffered to hold tempo pace. Forget that I asked my body to cap off a sixty-mile week by cranking out another twenty.
I gotta see what I look like, yo.
I’m not talking a quick glance at my reflection either. This is a full visual assessment to determine my eternal happiness (or, at least, my happiness for the next couple of miles).
Are my legs really that big?
I feel like I’m running faster than that.
Where did my waist go?
I need to open up my stride.
Gah! I look like a man!
Needless to say, it doesn’t always go well.
I’m such a seasoned window-looker, I even have preferred establishments. The pet store? Fattening windows. The movie theater? Super fattening windows. (Surely, there must be some distortion occurring, right?) The PNC Bank on the corner? Now we’re talking!
I think I’ll do another loop around PNC.
Here I am, fresh off a handful of spring half marathons, a happy baptism into the world of track, and a new 5K PR. I’ve got a 50K in July and a marathon in the fall. I’m healthy. I’m (relatively) injury-free. I ask my body to go, and it goes. Fast. Slow. Hills. Valleys. Dirt. Pavement. For miles and miles.
It makes total sense, then, that for a fleeting moment, my entire self-evaluation hinges on a phantom image on a piece of commercial glass.
You know what else? Sometimes I’ll look down to see just how much my thighs are jiggling beneath my split shorts.
Oh, man. Am I an elephant?
Why is everything so flabby?
Are these shorts too short?
If I wrote a letter to my quads, it would look something like this:
How are you? I really appreciate you being there for me during my last race. (Sorry about that whole “I didn’t taper” thing!) Also, thanks for rocking that track workout last week. I know you were tired, but you gutted it out. Oh, and you were a star on Saturday! (E’rybody who hammered that hill at mile eighteen say, “HEY!”)
Anyway, I did want to bring up one tiny issue. I couldn’t help but notice that you have a rather embarrassing tendency to wobble. A lot. I’m going for the “lean and mean” look, and you’re making it difficult. I mean, I basically have to take Dramamine when I look down. It’s not that I find you offensive. I’m just, you know, self-conscious. Could you please get your act together? Thanks.
P.S. I have to run twenty-two miles tomorrow. So if you could pick up your game by then, I’d really appreciate it. Also, pass the word along to my stomach if you get a chance. Thanks.
There. I said it. It’s superficial. It’s illogical. But I do it. For all my grandiose talk about strength of character and moral fiber, about being strong and persevering despite pain, despite setbacks, despite fear; for all my talk about reaching deep into the mind, beyond fugitive motions and into the very essence of who we are, I have moments when I am soul-crushingly shallow.
Sometimes I’m less “Nike commercial” and more “Someecard meme.”
Sometimes I speed up when a car goes by and then slow down again when it passes.
I may look annoyed when I have to stop at an intersection, but half the time I’m two seconds from keeling over and praying the light will never turn green again.
When another group of runners approaches, I’ll pick up my pace and try to look like it’s effortless until they’re out of sight, at which point I start gasping for dear life.
I’ve stopped my watch at 5.82 because I was too tired to care.
I’ll compare myself to the runners around me at any given start line and psych myself out because I’m convinced that everyone else is fitter, faster, and more prepared than I am.
I’ve let track workouts beat me and called it a day.
I love to run, but sometimes I just feel tired.
My name is Amy Marxkors. And I suffer from occasional bouts of doubt and vanity.
Well, folks, there you have it. They’re not my proudest moments. But they’re real. I may dream of being Shalane Flanagan, but sometimes I’m mind-bogglingly trivial.
The good news is my mental lapses aren’t my every moments. They’re not even my most moments. And it doesn’t take much to defeat them. Just takes a swift kick in the mental pants.
And maybe a quick lap or two around PNC Bank.
Amy L. Marxkors is the author of The Lola Papers: Marathons, Misadventures, and How I Became a Serious Runner. Her second book, Powered By Hope: The Teri Griege Story, will be released in 2014. Click here to receive Amy's weekly article via email.