by Elizabeth Comeau, digital editor at Runner's World and Zelle
I was a gym rat. I was the woman who took every wacky class my gym offered; I swam laps in the morning with masters swimmers; I lifted weights with the frat boys in the afternoons; I did TRX in the corner by myself.
You name it; I'd mastered it.
Except the treadmill. The women who came into the gym on icy mornings and cranked out five miles like it was no big deal? They terrified me.
They were thin. And vibrant. Legs for days.
And there I was: overweight, according to the BMI chart, a toddler's exhausted mom with dark circles under her eyes, standing a whopping 5 feet tall.
These "gym runners," as I called them in my head, were quite lovely people to talk to in the locker room, but they were their own group. Exactly the type of women I was convinced were SUPPOSED to be runners.
Me? No. I was NOT supposed to be a runner. My "type" told me so.
One morning, the "gym runners" decided to skip their typical treadmill runs and headed for the pool instead.
It was my TRX/weight-training day, and from where the equipment was set up, I had a clear view of an entire, giant, open row of treadmills.
There was not a single soul to be seen.
I let go of the TRX bungee and cautiously walked over to a treadmill. I stepped on.
I had been running outside (alone, in the dark hours of the morning where no one could see me) for months. But I had never, not once, run on a treadmill at the gym.
I ran three miles that day, without the "gym runners" nearby to see.
I liked it. Hmm. I could stay warm and dry and not break my ankle on invisible ice? This was awesome.
The next day, I wanted to try it again. Another three miles -- only this time, the "gym runners" were there alongside me.
There I was, feeling as graceful as a water buffalo, running next to what I felt like was a pack of gazelles.
Only, as I got farther into my run, I came to realize they were just like me: hitting the "next" button on their iPods, flipping through the channels on the TV overhead, playing with the speed and incline, sweating, sweating, sweating.
That experience is exactly why we created Zelle, a site for women runners. We are fast and slow, tall and short, thin and fat, grumpy and happy, and everything in between.
Looking back on those "gym runners," I wish I had asked each of the ladies on the treadmills that day how and why she found this crazy sport. Why she loves it. Why she hates it. Why she runs. What makes her tick?
Zelle is my chance to do that. Because I have discovered I missed out by never asking questions, by being intimidated by the vision in my head of the "woman runner type."
I realize now there is no "type" of woman runner. There are only "women who run."
Elizabeth Comeau is a marathoner, journalist, triathlete, coffee addict, mother, and writer. She worked as a journalist at The Boston Globe for 14 years, first as a reporter, then in marketing and events, and is now a digital editor for Runner"s World. To Elizabeth, being a runner means more than just racing fast or running hard: It's also about pushing herself to do things she didn't know she could do. Her philosophy is that if it seems impossible, she simply has to try it.
For more from Maria Rodale, visit www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com