Svelte I am not. Petite doesn’t fit and neither would that size. Slender and willowy? No. Sturdy and solid? Yes.
I embrace this about myself today, and really have most of my life. My poor body image was usually about more specific aspects than size. Still, I did wish for single digit sizes for jeans and pants, and that my size 11 feet weren’t so prominent.
One thing that helped me accept the build I was destined to have is that with it came athletic ability. I wasn’t confident at all that I was a pretty young woman that young men might find desirable. I didn’t feel attractive, and that showed in the way I carried myself and my feminine assets.
But I was confident when I stepped on to running tracks, softball diamonds, and basketball courts. When it came to running, I didn’t look like a distance runner, but I was. That may have surprised some, and clearly caught the attention of a local newspaper reporter at the district track meet my senior year of high school. He paid me some nice compliments while simultaneously hitting the vulnerable spots in my body image.
Here is what he had to say:
“My favorite Monday was South Winn’s Lisa Holthaus. The SW track team is only about seven in number, but Holthaus was a diamond in the rough. She won the discus and one look at her, a coach or fan might say she can’t run the 800 meters. The large framed gal not only ran the 800 but won it in 2:27.5, six seconds faster than her nearest competitor. She’s one fine performer and a treat to watch.”
Thanks. No thanks. His words left me feeling the mixed emotions of pride and self-consciousness. It’s an odd mix, and certainly felt so to me as a teenager.
I loved that race and was not going to be denied a trip to the state meet as a senior. (I had gone as a sophomore and finished last in my race, but was thrilled to be there. I lost at districts as a junior and had to stay home. There was no stopping me in my quest that early May day in the spring of 1983.)
This was before video cameras were common. I have no footage of me running high school track. If I could make a special request for video coverage of life events, the 800 meter dash I ran at the district track meet my senior year would be high on my list. I still see it in my mind’s eye. I still feel it in my runner’s soul.
I won by 6 seconds because on the back straightaway of the 2nd lap I left the pack behind and brought my large frame around the final curve and across the finish line in rare form. I got 10th at state and took a couple seconds off of my time. Success in my book.
I never forgot the news man’s words. I had something to prove I guess. As much to myself as to anyone else. Years later, when we had started running marathons, I came across the article and made a copy for our marathon file.
Every time I read it, those mixed emotions surface. They also serve to motivate me. This large framed gal has run hundreds and thousands of miles and millions of steps. If I want to see what a real runner looks like, I just look in the mirror.