I’m the Fat Nike Mannequin — Wanna Race?

There was a time when I would have agreed with that fatphobic Telegraph column. Then my fat ass started running.

Ugh, that Telegraph column. That lazy and dangerously fatphobic Telegraph column.

Haven’t read it? Good. I’ll save you a click and give you the summary: Writer Tanya Gold saw Nike’s new fat mannequin in the company’s flagship store in London and lost her goddamn mind over the sight of a plus-size body in a sports bra and skin-tight workout pants.

In her column titled “Obese mannequins are selling women a dangerous lie,” Gold writes, “She is not readying herself for a run in her shiny Nike gear. She cannot run. She is, more likely, pre-diabetic and on her way to a hip replacement. What terrible cynicism is this on the part of Nike?”

It gets worse! Gold goes on to suggest that fat-acceptance is an “artifice of denial” and she makes the assumption that every fat person is really just a sugar addict unwilling to recognize that they “need to be saved.”

It’s clickbait.

It’s bullshit.

And as much as I wanted to just respond with a dismissive Tweet and get on with my life, Gold’s words have stuck with me. Not just because she’s wrong and making those sweeping generalizations about anyone’s health and capabilities is dangerous, but because there was a time not all that long ago when I felt the same way about my own body as Gold does about that mannequin.

I’m embarrassed to admit that — ashamed, really — but it’s true.

I loved running in my early 20s. I would grab my portable CD player (I’m old!) and blast shitty pop music and screamo and charge up the hills of Seattle, pushing myself to run one more block or five more minutes until my lungs and legs burned. I never ran any official races, but I considered myself an athlete. I was fast and strong.

I eventually stopped running, for no extraordinary reason — I got busy with work and life, and the Pacific Northwest’s rainy months gave me an easy excuse to stay in and watch TV.

Then I gained weight for no extraordinary reason — I fell in love, ate out at restaurants a lot, got really into experimental baking and put work before self-care.

I’d think about running again — wistfully remembering how strong I felt, both physically and mentally — but I always talked myself out of it. My body wasn’t the same, I thought — I was fat. Running was for thin people, people shaped like traditional Nike mannequins.

Worse, I believed I shouldn’t run. I believed the world didn’t want to see a fat girl jogging down their streets or through their parks with, as Gold puts it, her “immense, gargantuan, vast” body “heaving with fat.”

In 2017 I got tired of hearing my own excuses and I started the Couch to 5K program. I wanted to prove myself, and the Tanyas of the world, wrong.

That first run was hard. The next run was even harder! (I cried. It was ugly.) But I kept going. Week after week, I ran a little bit longer and got a little bit stronger. In the past two years, I have run several 5Ks and trained for and completed two half-marathons. I’m not pre-diabetic, I’m nowhere near needing hip replacement, and while Gold was sitting there typing “ThE oBeSe nIkE aThLeTe Is JuSt AnOtHeR LiE,” I was mapping out a training plan to reach my goal of running a 5K in 30 minutes or less by the end of the year. And I am still fat.

Running has given me more energy, more confidence and it has helped me manage my day-to-day stress and depression. I’m happier, too, making me a better partner, friend and colleague. I can’t believe I denied myself all the good that comes from running for years — nearly a decade! — because I bought into the toxic thinking that people like Gold have been spewing for lifetimes.

Nike isn’t selling a dangerous lie, Gold is. And it breaks heart to think even one woman could read Gold’s words as confirmation that she is incapable and undeserving of attempting something that could make her feel so good.

The next time you want to assume another person’s health, strength or fitness level and use those misguided generalizations to hold anyone back from doing whatever the fuck they want to do with their body, Tanya, I have a better idea: Give me a call. We’ll go for a run and talk it out. You’ll feel better after a few quick trips around the track.