Once upon a time about four years ago, I bought my first adult bikini. Like, my first two piece suit. I agonized over this process, having gone to the mall alone and feeling incredibly overwhelmed by what I should buy and if I really should be prepping to bare my midriff to the world (at least, to Tahoe, where I was headed that weekend). I was so nervous about buying bikini bottoms that I called a friend and asked what he thought of the whole endeavor, despite him having only the ability to hear my description of a pair of brown speedo-y looking bottoms that showed off more than my mostly hip underwear. Sean, bless his heart, listened to my concerns as I wailed and railed about if I should get board shorts and if I had to wear a bikini anyway. And then he said, “You know, the likelihood that those bikini bottoms are ever going to see the light of day is slim to none. So I say just get what fits and get out of there.”
Ah yes, Sean knew me well. It’s just not my style to wander amuck in clothing I deem “revealing” even if it’s at the beach or on a lake, where certainly less is more. Been that way for as long as I can recall (oh, ballet class and having to wear a black leotard was trying), and it’s something I haven’t considered changing about myself.
Until this weekend, when I ran the San Francisco Half Marathon with Mala.
See, Mala and I have actually never run together before. I knew nothing of her running style until the morning of the race, as we got dressed and caffeinated ourselves. She mentioned she preferred to run with music and played it loud so to get her attention I’d probably have to use hand gestures, and she then said she usually took her shirt off and ran just in her sports bra.
At that exact moment, I was relatively certain she’d be in the sports-bra-only boat solo. It could be 110 degrees with 99% humidity and darn it if I’m not wearing a shirt (preferably one that does not really show off what I look like…so basically, a potato sack) regardless.
So the race starts, and that’s a story I’ll spin for another post. Mala has her tank top tucked into the back of her shorts like a fox tail instantly, and we’re dodging through runners (“Dodge the People” is one of my favorite ways to entertain myself during a race) and at about mile 3 I look over at Mala and she just looks so…liberated.
And I got to thinking: I’m 29. It’s only going to get less and less appropriate to run with a shirt off as I get older, not magically more appropriate. In fact, the San Francisco Half Marathon might be one the last times I could feel air on my stomach while I run. It’s incredibly possible that this, right here right now, is the best I will look for the rest of my life.
All this whirled and swirled as music ran through my ears and I hopped around brightly-clad runners doing their running thing (wearing shirts, mind you). But I knew I had to do it. Off my shirt came, tucked neatly into my own yoga pants, a tiger tail swishing as I kept moving.
I realized I had nothing to lose. Everything anyone could judge me about or even say to me about how I look is not worse than things I have said to myself. I also realized, I had everything to gain. I’d have a new experience, I’d know what it was like to run free, and I hoped hoped hoped I’d have that same nonchalantly liberated look Mala was running with.
Running without a shirt and just a sports bra – kind of delightful. Nothing between you and the air, certainly more cooling as you sweat and the wind hits your body, and it made me feel…well, it made me feel confident. Like maybe I looked like a runner. And better yet, maybe I looked like someone who simply did not care what other people thought of me and was going for comfort of myself not the comfort everyone else.
Me, no shirt, just running. Kind of great.