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iRun because I cannot say no to a second slice of chocolate cakeEmily Shandruk , Vancouver, BC

iRun to stay fit and release those running endorphinsLiliana Plava , Calgary, AB

iRun because I want to qualify for Boston and raise money for charities near and dear to my heartChristine Gracel , Calgary, AB

iRun because it makes me feel good, allows me to spend time with my friends and gives me a feeling of accomplishmentHelen Kolodziejzyk , Calgary, AB

iRun but not enoughMichael Shaw , New Westminister, BC

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iRun to challenge myself, physically and mentallyKathleen Keenan , Brampton, ON

iRun because people around me inspire mePina Bevilacqua , Caledon, ON

iRun therefore I amDuncan Walsh , Nottingham, UK

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iRun because pecan pie, french fries and beer are chasing meTeresa Sterling , Ottawa , ON

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iRun because it reminds me that I am capable of so much more than I have doneJames Sauve , Ottawa, ON

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iRun because all the ladies are chasing my sexy runner’s bodyChris Baker , Etobicoke, ON

iRun because I can and I’m gratefulTerry SanCartier , Gatineau, QC

iRun because when I run I feel most aliveMeghan Lynch , Ottawa, ON

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iRun because it cleans up my life, because I drink more water, sleep better and eat healthier foodsRobin McIntyre , Ottawa, ON

iRun because of the peace and strength it brings meMichelle Jordan , Ottawa, ON

iRun because I need it to soothe the soul, keep me in shape and for overall wellbeingBeth Neil , Lombardy, ON

iRun because it is my tonic and my salvation Georgia Ioannou , British Columbia

iRun for relaxation and to motivate my two sonsKeith Bradbury , Newfoundland

iRun because endorphins are freeCassandra Chouinard , Ontario

iRun because somebody once told me I couldn’t Heidi Abbey-Der , Saskatchewan

iRun because couch potatoes die young Cathy Andrew , Ontario

iRun because it’s cheaper than therapy Leah Boulter , Alberta

iRun because I like buying running clothes Pamela Blaikie , Ontario

iRun slowly!Jason Hoffman , Manitoba

iRun because it gives me freedom to relax my brainMarie-Claude Gregoire , Nova Scotia

iRun because I learn more about who I am with every kmSteph Mansell , Quebec

iRun because iEat Sherry Maligaspe , British Columbia

iRun and run, and run, and run, and nobody can stop me Andrei Lucaciu , Ontario

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iRun at 50 years old because at 43 I couldn’t Peter Cicalo , Ontario

iRun because it's better than almost everything else Nathan Carey , Ontario

iRun at 50 years old because at 43 I couldn't Peter Cicalo , Ontario

iRun because it is my tonic and my salvation Georgia Ioannou , British Columbia

iRun for relaxation and to motivate my two sons Keith Bradbury , Newfoundland

iRun because endorphins are free Cassandra Chouinard , Ontario

iRun because somebody once told me I couldn't Heidi Abbey-Der , Saskatchewan

iRun because couch potatoes die young Cathy Andrew , Ontario

iRun because it's cheaper than therapy Leah Boulter , Alberta

iRun because I like buying running clothes Pamela Blaikie , Ontario

iRun slowly! Jason Hoffman , Manitoba

iRun because it gives me freedom to relax my brain Marie-Claude Gregoire , Nova Scotia

iRun because I learn more about who I am with every km Steph Mansell , Quebec

iRun because iEat Sherry Maligaspe , British Columbia

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iRun to inspire my children! Wendy Bowen , Manitoba

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iRun all the livelong day Pierre Saint-Laurent , Québec

iRun to challenge my perceived limitations Cassandra Williams , Ontario

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iRun so that I can live longer and stronger Derek MacPhail , Ontario

iRun to feel great Kathryn Rachar , Saskatchewan

iRun because I like to be healthy Melanie Oickle , New Brunswick

iRun to eat more, especially sweet potatoe fries Joanna Skomra , Ontario

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iRun for the individual pursuit Robert Pelletier , New Brunswick

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iRun because I love the sense of accomplishment Amber Moase , Nova Scotia

iRun to challenge my mind, body and soul Sonia Mendes , Ontario

iRun because walking is too slow Barry Knapp , Ontario

Motivation

My Body, My Business, Back Off

Kate Van Buskirk, bronze medalist at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, weighs in on the Rio Olympics, women’s magazines and how a love of running trumps negativity in the end.

2013 IAAF World Track & Field Championships, Moscow, Russia. August 13, 2013 Evening Session. Photo : Claus Andersen

This was disheartening, but not surprising. Glance at the cover of most female-oriented “health and fitness” magazines and you’ll find articles like, “How to get a flatter tummy almost instantly.” The danger here lies in the association between how you look (low body fat and muscular, while retaining an air of femininity) and what it means to be “fit” and “healthy.” Never mind setting unattainable ideals for girls and women; what’s most concerning about this focus on the female body is its detraction from a woman’s character and accomplishments.

To be clear, I don’t believe that this is solely a female issue; there are pressures placed on men to adhere to a stereotypically ‘masculine’ body type. However, the extent to which women’s bodies get scrutinized, dissected and judged is relentless, as is the evaluation of a woman’s worth based upon her appearance.

I’ve experienced this many times, and there seems to be a strange implication that it’s acceptable to judge elite female runners because a) we’re often in the public spotlight, and b) our competition uniforms consist essentially of a two-piece bathing suit. It’s as if competing in tight and minimal clothing is implied consent for our appearance to be picked apart, commented on and criticized, and that being public figures makes us immune from the sometimes hostile judgement of strangers. My friends and I often feel as though we’re walking a fine line between adhering to pressures around the embodiment of perfection, and not wanting to represent the unrealistic body standards perpetuated by the media.

I don’t like my appearance being critiqued any more than the rest of the world. My body looks the way it does not as a result of wanting to appear a certain way, but because I’ve scientifically sculpted it in order to maximize its potential; function over form.  That said, I think that there can be an appreciation of both the form and function, without the corresponding sexualisation. Women can and should be proud of their bodies on their own terms without worrying that ­­expressions of self-appreciation will be construed as attention-seeking, or permission to be scrutinized. When I choose to post photos of myself running in briefs and a sports bra, I do so with pride because I know how hard I’ve worked to feel good in my body, and I like the way that it looks as a result. Wouldn’t it be awesome if girls were encouraged to feel good instead of being bombarded with messaging that reinforces their worth and desirability as being inextricably linked to their waist or cup size, or ‘flat bellies’?

This fall, I came across a tweet by Women’s Health that irked me into action. The tweet featured a cropped photo of a woman bending forward with a caption that read “How to rid yourself of belly pooch forever.” Not only was the model in the least flattering position possible, she appeared to me to have a lower than average amount of belly fat. I snapped a shot of myself in the same position and wrote:

“Hey @womenshealthmag, every normal person has belly rolls when they bend forward, even elite runners w 14% body fat.”

My reply garnered 172 retweets, 573 likes and dozens of comments. This response was encouraging and I was proud to showcase my own “belly pooch” on social media. But no one’s immune from criticism and I admit that my selfies decrease when I’m in my heaviest, noncompetitive months of the year. It’s something I’m working on.

At the end of the day, I don’t run to look a certain way, or solely with the goal of winning races. I run because I freaking love it. I love the feeling of my body in motion; of becoming stronger and faster; of challenging myself. I love the endorphin rush, the sense of accomplishment, the connection to my community and to a primal part of my humanity. In essence, I run to feel good. My wish would be for every woman to experience this type of joy and empowerment, and to find beauty in her body’s abilities.

November 30th, 2016

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2 Responses to “My Body, My Business, Back Off”
  1. Joan Cochrane Says:

    30 years ago, I was a sub-elite female runner. I was not super skinny, but I ran some good times. I sometimes felt like I wasn’t disciplined enough to be anorexic. I went to a national championships for 10 k road race. The sponsor took all the invited athletes out for supper. I was the only runner who ate more than Diet Coke and a salad. I felt like I was an oddity, and that I did not belong in this crowd. Women in sport do face many different challenges than their male counterparts. I have experienced many catcalls from men while out training. My thoughts at the time were, hey, I am not doing this to look good to you. I am training to run faster, could not care less what you think I look like doing it. we run wearing what we feel like we can do our best in. We don’t really care what you think!

  2. Timiji Says:

    Interesting comment, Joan! Both you and the original author are commenting on different aspects of the disconnect between performance and health. Eating Diet Coke and a salad for supper isn’t healthy, even if it does contribute to world class performance. 14% body fat for elite female athletes might be ‘normal’ for elite athletes, and has a performance advantage when lighter bodies are easier to move quickly from A to B, but also carries long term health risk.

    At the end of the day, it sounds like you’re both comfortable in your own skins… and for that, I’m glad.

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