April 28, 2014

"Pain is Temporary, Tiffany's Lasts Forever"

The blog title is my favorite sign from along the course at this weekend's half marathon.

There were definitely a few others I chuckled at along the way, but I've forgotten most of them. (Of the ones I can remember, a Breaking Bad reference, "Jesse says, 'Run, b***!', a guy holding a sign that said, "Your pace or mine?", another guy with a sign that said, "I like your stamina, call me!", a sign with a picture of a cow that said, "Bessie says keep Moo-ving!")

A half marathon is a 13.1 miles, for those of you wondering, and I ran the Nike Women's Half Marathon in DC. Nike has a Run Women's series where the emphasis is on female runners and their accomplishments in the running field. Instead of a medal, the runners receive a special edition Tiffany & Co necklace - which after a few races, those medals sit forgotten and overlooked in a box, so the functionality of the necklace is very much a plus.

My Little Blue Box - a Tiffany's necklace for finishing the Nike Women's Half Marathon DC
As a Muslim woman who grew up with a Pakistani heritage and culture, I experience that the fitness for women was discouraged either through jest or simply the mindset that it was "too hard" or "too dirty". In many cultures, isn't there an idea that women shouldn't sweat? The mindset was fully a result of the culture the immigrants brought over from their originating countries and passed down to some of their first-generation kids.

Thankfully, my parents weren't like that. I played soccer and pursued my beloved sport, gymnastics, for years, sometimes at the dislike of my parents (sports = their time + money) though they never say "no" to any of my fitness interests. As a result, I developed a lifelong belief that a person is meant to move.

After college, I picked up running as a way to combat the ortho issues I was seeing manifest in my aunt and mom - issues that were hereditary, but also preventable. Running was also a way to get myself back down to a more acceptable body weight (I'd added a few pounds in college), and overall to stay healthy. At first the goal was to run a few minutes without stopping, and slowly a few miles, until now...when I plan to run my third full marathon in November (a full being 26.2 miles).

There have been a number of challenges along the way: backhanded comments from members of that immigrant and first-generation community about being "too fit", backhanded hospitality to overeat foods without quality nutrients at social gatherings, and of course - finding modest clothing to wear while running or lifting weights.

However, there's also been a lot of support, primarily from women who've been victims of the mindset I managed to escape. For the many reasons I keep doing this, it's also with the hope to inspire them to lace on a pair of sneakers and set out for a mile-long run, even if it feels slow or they're teased as they head out the door.

(Various photos of me running over the years)

At 31, I'm fit, happy, and confident. I can physically and mentally propel myself on my own two feet to cross 13.1 or 26.2 (and many distances in between) miles, a gritty mindset I can apply to other challenges that seem "too hard" for women. I'm proud to be the type of woman who earns her own fortune, rather than has it handed to her.