Yesterday, I ran nine miles - two and a half miles further than I’d ever run. Nine miles non-stop. And I ran around Regents Park for an hour and 45 minutes wearing just a pair of shorts and my sports bra.
Me, in a sports bra. No vest. No big baggy top to hide under. With my H-cup boobs. Running with my wobbly belly jiggling about, on display to the world. Who would have thought it? Not me.
I was planning a long run yesterday, because I’m training for a couple of races next month, and it was so hot out that I decided not to wear an additional layer over my bra. ‘Fuck it. Who cares?’ I thought. ‘I don’t give a shit what people think. What’s important is whether I can run 8 miles (which was my original target) comfortably’. Inspired by runner Kelly Robertswho started up the #SportsBraSquad social media hashtag, to get women to ditch wearingadditional tops when they run, I went out, in public, wearing very few clothes: something I never do. I dressed for practicality, not vanity; I dressed not worrying about how people might see me.
I imagine this shift in attitude is not unrelated to the change in how I now view my body; I am able to see it as something I like, and even enjoy, rather than something which I used to despise. I value the strength and resilience that I now have and appreciate the achievements my body is capable of. My body feels strong, which makes me feel strong; this is where my confidence to go out in a bra and shorts comes from, not thinking I look super hot.
But when I first started running regularly, back in January last year, I wanted to hide my body; actually, I just wanted to disappear. I was suffering from depression and felt like my existence on the planet was so worthless that I didn’t deserve to take up any space on it. My clothes reflected that mood. I’d put on black leggings, black thermals, a black jacket, even black running shoes, when I went for a run. I didn’t want to be seen in the winter gloom and I wanted to cover my body in the darkness I felt inside. For months, I tried to be as invisible as possible, as if by camouflaging the outside of me it would somehow disguise the pain I felt inside.
When I wrote about running and depression last summer, I was still healing; I now consider myself in active recovery - that is, I keep self-medicating by running on an almost daily basis to combat my depression, and that has kept the inside of me happy for a long time now. I can’t put my finger on when things altered for the outside of me. Along with me feeling confident enough to go running in just a bra, I’m aware how colourful I look when I run, because all my running gear (which currently consists of 90% of the clothes I wear each week, no joke) is now bright and boldly patterned.
My altered self-perception, and confidence, has brought about a shift in how I present myself. No longer do I want to hide, or cover up the shame I used to feel; now I want to be present in the world, be visible. So when I run, I don’t try to disappear anymore; I feel bold and strong and my outfit reflects that, whether that be lots of colour, or running in a sports bra.
It’s so strange to me to feel the confidence that I currently have. To not give a shit about people judging me. To look in the mirror and be proud to see the outline of muscles I have *earned*. To feel the rewards of my hard work by being able to run for almost two hours straight - and be buzzing with joy at the end of it. To run free, with just a bra, and give zero fucks. I’m not the fittest person out there and I’m definitely not the best toned, but I sure as hell am going to enjoy my body and its strengths. So if you see a woman drenched in sweat, panting away, as she pounds the pavement in her bra and brightly coloured shorts, give her a smile and nod: it may well be me.