When I was 9 years old, I can’t remember how it happened, but somehow I ended up on my school’s hockey team. I went to a small primary school in Far North Queensland. So small that the teams were always mixed gender and from kids of varying abilities across similar grades.
Now anyone who knows me would tell you that I wasn’t the most athletic or active kid. I was of the bookish variety and I really wish that everyone had appreciated that quality a bit more. The other three members of my family were active types though and because they enjoyed those pursuits I guess they thought I was missing out on something. I didn’t think I was missing out at all.
That was until I became the star defender on the hockey team.
I couldn’t hit the ball very well, hard or straight. I’d generally squeal and jump when it came anywhere near me, so strong were my self-preservation instincts. However I was very good at marking players on the opposing team and get up in their grill and just being a pest in general to their star scoring players.
This skill of mine served our team quite well and we made it to the grand final but didn’t win. It’s the only time in my life I was actually looked to in a team sport as having some sort of ability in addition to making up the required numbers. It felt really good.
Recently I have started running. My husband and I have found this small window of time in the morning at stupid o’clock before the children wake up (most days!) and we take it in turns to hit the pavement with the dog. I started walking and that was nice. One morning a few weeks ago though I decided to run.
And I ran about 2.5km straight off the bat. I was well impressed and man did I enjoy how it made me feel – the loss of breath, the sweating, the flushed red face, the sore muscles and the clearer head. After a week or so I started to notice so much more energy and more enthusiasm and less anxious tendencies.
Now I’m pretty sure my “run” looks more like a “shuffle” to the outside world. But I don’t care. How I looked doing something used to be important to me – it would have stopped me doing it in the past. I’m so happy to be beyond that. To know that if I enjoy something than that is the best reason in the world to keep doing it.
I also think that if I saw more people like me shuffling about in the wee hours of the morning it would be good for the world. Not all runners have sleek, lithe bodies clad in Lorna Jane, midriffs bared and ponytails springing behind them. Some are solid in build and shuffle while they listen to cultural podcasts, wearing t-shirts and have hot red sweaty faces.
When I get home from my run (I’m hitting about 5km now) I have that same giddy feeling of joy I had as a kid. I’m doing something I didn’t know I could, and the simple fact that I can do it makes me feel like I’m good at it.
I’m a strong believer that the more versions of women the world sees doing all of the things, the better off the world will be. It will be harder for the media to influence how we see ourselves and think only slim, tall and young women are worthy of the good things in life. We are all deserving of a happy and rewarding life no matter our age, weight, hair colour or length, occupation or family status.
What gives you giddy like joy? If you see a woman with short red hair and a “run like a girl” singlet shuffling along the street be sure to say hi!