Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Picture Worth A Thousand Words

For those of us who have been obese, the journey to physical and mental health travels a very indirect line. It isn't as simple as "lose a few pounds, feel better about yourself."

The truth is, once we're fat, we may spend the rest of us lives seeing that same overweight person in every mirror and photograph taken of us. We can drop the extra pounds, tone up the muscles, and update and improve every part of our bodies. But still, we see the flab and fat and the rolls that once defined who we were.

But every once in a while, a miracle of sorts occurs. We see a photo of ourselves and we don't see the mistakes of yesterday. Instead, we see the promise of tomorrow. We look at the picture and we see the person that we believe we are becoming.

That miracle occurred for me this morning. I received an email from the AFC Half Marathon photo team letting me know that my race pictures were available. I reluctantly clicked the link, because truthfully, I never really like to look at pictures of me from races. I hate how I look, short and fat and awkwardly slogging my way to the finish line.

But still, I clicked. And I looked. And I couldn't stop looking. Because one of those photos leapt off the screen at me and said, "hey, look at me!" So I did. And I stared at it for a very long time. And the voices in my head weren't saying bad things. They were stunned into silence, I suppose.

Here I am, in the last mile of the America's Finest City Half Marathon.


I'll say it. I love every single thing about this photo. I'm not wasting a second on false modesty. And why should I? I can always find mean and insulting things to say about photos that I don't like of myself, so it's only fair that I say good things about this one that I love.

Visually, I appreciate that my running shirt and my shorts look good in the photo. Usually, the camera captures one leg of my shorts way too high or way too low, or they catch the shirt in some weird fold and it looks like it's too small for me. But this time, the clothes look like they fit well and are draped right where they're supposed to be. I love that.

And it's not just how the shirt looks. It's the shirt itself that is important to me. This picture shows the shirt I am wearing. Other than my wedding ring, this shirt is the single best gift I have ever received. It came from my Marine Brother, Jeff, who gave it to me to celebrate my completing the Pasadena Marathon. On the back of the shirt are all twenty-six names of the Marine Corps Heroes I honored along the marathon route. And on the front, in addition to "US Marines" and the Pasadena Marathon logo, you can see the Semper Fi Fund logo. With the help of friends, I raised $2,000 for this organization and I am proud to share their story with whomever will listen.

And what of me? Well, I'm not even going to pretend to be objective. I think my arms and legs look great. My form looks good, strong, and I'm covered in sweat from the heat. Heck, I might even be glistening. And who doesn't like that?

The look on my face reminds me just how grueling this run was. Physically, I had really struggled with the heat and the humidity. And mentally, I was exhausted from two hours of worrying about my Mom. (I received a voice mail just minutes before the race began letting me know that she was in the ICU in Texas, unable to breathe on her own.) I was tired in every way possible at this point in the race, but I knew I was going to make it. And I respect my own look of determination.

I realize that all of this praise for a photo of myself might come across as vain. Quite honestly, I don't care. I have beaten myself up time and time again over photos that I felt showed me in a less than flattering light. This time, I'm taking a different path. I like this picture and I think it captured every good thing about the AFC Half Marathon experience. More than that, it offers me a glimpse of the person I have been working so hard to create.

Arrogant? Perhaps. But I'm not apologizing for it.