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From heckled runner to cover star

From heckled runner to cover star

A jogger has had the last laugh at a man who heckled her for being overweight – appearing as the cover star of Women’s Running magazine.

Lindsey Swift was out training for a 10 kilometre run when a man drove past, leaned out to her and sang a sarcastic rendition of pop song Big Girl (You Are Beautiful).

In response she wrote an open letter to the man on Facebook, criticising his body-shaming comments, and poking fun at his naivety. The post was originally intended for friends but it hit a nerve and ended up being shared tens of thousands of times. It allowed other women to share their experiences of being heckled while out running.

Now, Swift has been promoted as the cover girl of UK magazine Women’s Running. It is the first time a plus-sized woman has appeared on the cover of the magazine, and follows steps by the magazine’s US counterpart to promote runners of every shape and ability.

Swift simply said she wanted to assert that “it’s my body and it’s done amazing things for me, whether it’s fat or it’s thin”.

According to the BBC body shaming goes far beyond minor impacts.

According to a campaign released in the UK recently millions of women and girls fear exercise because they’re afraid of being judged. It says two million fewer women than men aged 14 to 40 play sport regularly.

Swift, though, told BBC’s Radio 5 live she was seeing many positive benefits in running.

“I’m a UK size 18 so I’m fairly plump,” she adds. “My shape is changing but I haven’t lost a dress size and I don’t particularly want to.

THE ORIGINAL LETTER

An open letter to the idiot who thought it was ok to heckle me with fat jokes on my run yesterday,

Your comment was a clear indication of both your incredibly witty repartee and a feat of observational comedy. I am indeed a big girl, and I am indeed beautiful. Thanks for noticing. I’m not sure who you were telling I was fat, you clearly have eyes, and the only other people present were me and my boyfriend. I assure you that despite your concern I do own a mirror, and my boyfriend has seen my fat body as he too has eyes. Don’t tell anyone but I think he might even like it.

Normally I don’t get militant about these things, idiots are idiots. However, I can see why comments like these might put a person less confident than me off from running, and that is shameful. Everyone starts somewhere.

Let me make one thing very clear, I am not ashamed of my body. It has never stopped me from doing anything I want. My fat body has done things that you, hanging out of the window of your babe-magnet white van could only ever dream of. My fat body has been swimming in crystal clear Thai seas that you have probably only ever seen on TV. It has lived in countries you wouldn’t dream of visiting and been a part of cultures you are too small minded to appreciate. My fat legs have carried me up mountains on more than one occasion. My fat brain speaks languages you probably don’t see the point of learning, which is why you spend your time hanging out of van windows since you have nothing better to occupy it with.

Recently I made the decision to get fit as I thought it would be a fun thing to do, and good for my health. Not that I have to justify my body to you, but I have a goal to run 10k, and I will get there. I’m a stone lighter than I was, and can do a whole host of things I couldn’t do before. It baffles me that anyone would try to discourage that kind of effort. Excuse me if my assumptions about you are wrong, but I only have your actions to go by. If my fat arse running (quite slowly I might add, I was bloody shattered) offends you and spoils your journey, try driving with your eyes closed, into a lamp post.

But in all seriousness, now I have written this, I feel sorry for you. Your behaviour is not normal, and your manners are well below par. Most importantly though, I forgive you. Here’s hoping that anyone with a goal, fat or thin, isn’t put off by this kind of thing. I know I haven’t been.

Engage your brain before opening your mouth.

Lindsey.

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