A problem with organized races; why I keep showing up…

Notice I said “a problem,” as there are many that go far beyond that which I’m interested in addressing right now.  I wasn’t planning on blogging right now. In fact my original plan for the evening involved the “hacking” of my race t-shirt for tomorrow’s San Jose Rock n Roll 5K. Although I usually find it a fun and stress-relieving part of the process of preparing for a 5K, I’ve decided not to do said hacking this time. Mostly because I’m pissed off.

I’ve actually been pissed off about organized races since April, when me and a couple of friends walked The Great Race 2014 sponsored by the Los Gatos Rotary. What pissed me off about that race is that as I was walking the 4 miles of uphill/downhill terrain, with a growing blister on my foot in my Wonder Woman tutu, I shared with my friends how it was a very personal goal to do these races, to show up and be a person of size amongst the hundreds of other “average” and “athletic” participants. And that although I’d done a handful of other organized races, this was the first “timed” race and the first time my name would be recorded amongst all the others, publicly on the race website. I was lagging quite a bit at the end and one of my friends, in her kind wisdom, called ahead to the finish line where another friend was waiting and she convinced them to keep the finish line up and the clock on just for me. A few days later when I visited the race website for times, this is what I found.  Screen Shot 2014-10-03 at 7.19.17 PM

Now I can tell you that the clock read 1:46:27 and I was the 985th person to cross the finish line that day. All of which I’m incredibly proud of, because I could have chosen to be home on my couch, but I didn’t. Instead I actively chose to participate in a public organized activity that publicly supports health and well-being, and yet actively participates in size discrimination.

One of the things I’ve become known for is “hacking” race t-shirts so they actually fit me. I shouldn’t have to do this, but I’ve chosen to because I want to be a part of the event; “fit in” so to speak. I’ve yet to encounter an organized race that offers a t-shirt larger than a 2XL. Again, what this says to me, is that they don’t want to make people who are larger than a 2x feel welcome to participate in their event that is all about health and well-being. It’s the very ugly, yet not said out loud statement of “damn girl, you need to exercise but we don’t want to watch you doing it.” That is bullshit double talk, cause they will take my money to participate, but they won’t accommodate my need for a 3XL t-shirt.

Let me paint you a picture of tonite’s adventure picking up our race #s for tomorrow. I waited to go with my friend Kim to pick up our #s because she has been very kind enough to keep me company during the 5K even though she is running the 1/2 marathon on Sunday. She’s amazing by the way!! So anyway, we went at 5pm after she got off work, which meant traffic and we had to go to the convention center downtown San Jose because this particular race makes you pick up your race #s at the “Health and Fitness Expo” which was closing at 6pm. We finally found parking and made our way up to check in. The lines were long. After getting our race #s and t-shirts, they forced us to walk through the entire rest of the convention center floor through the “Health and Fitness Expo.” This was not fun. We were both hot, tired, hungry, and grouchy. In hind sight however, I kinda wish I had felt up to a little activism.  If I’d gone earlier in the day and had to walk through every single vendor both selling nothing that would even remotely fit me, I pretty much would have made my presence known and I may have even gotten a personal escort through a quicker exit. I would have liked to share my thoughts with each vender about how I can’t find work-out gear that is both comfortable and functional. That I often have to “hack” clothing to make it functional enough for a good work-out or I have to shop online for “special” sizes, none of which any of these vendors would carry. And why not? They are after all at a “Health and Fitness Expo” and I imagine that many of those companies spend a great deal of money on advertising targeted at people my size about how wonderful the world is when we work-out and are healthier.  News Flash Biotches…I’m already perfectly healthy and fit! You just have a problem with the size of my healthy and fit body!!

So, I’m not hacking the shirt. I’m not gonna wear their gear. I won’t take pictures in it and say “look mom…I did the walk and got the t-shirt.” EF! the t-shirt and EF! them. I will take pictures, because really…when don’t I?

You might read this and think I’m being just a little bit ridiculous or over sensitive. You might believe that organizers of these public races don’t go out of their way to make larger people feel unwelcome at their event. You might even take the side that they can’t possibly accommodate people of all clothing sizes because their event costs would be higher. That’s fine, we don’t have to agree. But I’ll leave you with the thought that based solely on the data gathered from my registration form, which included gender, age, and t-shirt size, they estimated my 5K completion time to be 2:15:00. Tell me there’s not some bias in that formula.

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I’ll see you at the finish line more than an hour earlier than that!

Here are some pics from previous organized races.

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