People Are Sharing Their 'Runner's Body' to Celebrate International Women's Day

Altra Running is fostering an open dialogue about body image and women’s running and encouraging folks to celebrate every single stride — no matter shape and size.

Hijabi woman running a marathon with female runners in the background
Photo: Getty Images

It's International Women's Day, and in honor of all the strong, fierce, bad-to-the-bone women athletes out there, Altra Running is inviting runners to celebrate every single stride and shut down outdated, harmful narratives about bodies and health. How exactly? Through a social media campaign created in partnership with Kara Goucher called #ThisIsARunnersBody, which aims to "start an open conversation around body image and women's running," according to the caption on a video shared on Altra's Instagram earlier today.

In the poignant clip, Goucher — who, ICYDK, is a long-distance runner and two-time Olympian — opens up about developing disordered eating habits as a young athlete. "At first I got really great results. I got all of these compliments, and I won a bunch of national titles but then I spent four years broken," she shares. "It just became this spiral process of like getting healthy, getting injured, getting healthy, getting injured."

As the video unfolds, Goucher goes on to reveal that in addition to struggling with constant thoughts about food and worries about calorie intake, she also faced body shaming by professionals both in and out of her career. Even recently, she received unsolicited commentary from a writer who, on a podcast, called her "a little chunky and jiggly" in a photo of her placing third at the New York City Marathon in 2008. Goucher's response? "If you can't see that I was one of the best American athletes ever in that moment and you're seeing jiggle, you are part of the problem. You are not part of the solution." (Related: This Woman Was Told She Was 'Too Fat To Run')

Though it took years of seemingly being at war with her body, Goucher says she knew something had to change, revealing that she "didn't want to live that life anymore." Now, instead of stressing about numbers on a scale or counting calories, she focuses on how she feels and doing what she can to prevent injury, which includes eating enough and not fixating on losing weight.

Goucher's personal story seamlessly (and perfectly) ties into Altra's campaign about not only just kicking diet and weight-loss culture to the curb but also reminding runners that every body is a runner's body. Of course, at face value, anyone can lace up their sneakers and hit the pavement (or trail or treadmill), but with ongoing narratives about what a "runner" is — what they look like or what they should be able to achieve — many people feel excluded or ashamed of the things that make them unique, strong, and powerful. As Goucher puts it in the video, "If we're letting people think that you need to look a certain way to be a runner, we're cutting off 99 percent of our community." (Related: How This Woman's Attitude About Weight Loss Changed After She Started Running)

Since kicking off the campaign earlier today, runners of all body types, shapes, and abilities have been sharing their own stories using the hashtag #ThisIsARunnersBody, including 10-time marathon runner, wellness coach, and host of the Hurdle podcast Emily Abbate. Alongside photos of herself in her running gear, Abbate shared that she frequently felt "alone" on runs when she didn't see other women who looked like her. "While I may not be built like the women winning the marathon, we're toeing the same line. We're both capable. We're both runners. And getting to a place where I felt comfortable celebrating my body for all that it is, rather than worry about what it isn't, is one of my proudest hurdles conquered to date," she wrote in her caption. "If you have a body, you're a runner." (Related: Amazing Women Who Prove Every Body Is a Runner's Body)

Similarly, runner Kriste Peoples took to the 'gram, sharing joyful snap of herself on a hike in which she's wearing shorts — something she didn't feel comfortable doing until "two summers ago," according to her caption. "I'd been told my thighs were too big, too masculine, that I looked mannish as a result. And I believed it," she wrote. Now, she's "all up in the booty shorts when the spirit hits," adding, "I'm all in for showing up however I'm able in this gorgeous gift of a miraculous body too." Fellow runner Kassandra Marin also posted photos in her workout gear, writing, "I want to encourage open conversation about body image, self-esteem, eating disorders, alopecia, injuries, scoliosis…all of it. This is a runner's body but it's my body. I'm pretty damn proud of it. It's carried my baby and it's carried me ultra distances, and it's carried me into leadership positions at work."

Celebrating all the things your body does for you no matter what it looks like or where it stands on an arbitrary standard of health or fitness is something worth doing every day, including, of course, IWD. It's a strong way of reclaiming the narrative that you must look a certain way or hit a certain milestone to be considered a runner because, as the aforementioned women (and many others on IG) have made especially clear, you don't. And whether you're passionate about pounding the pavement or more into another type of movement, Altra Running's campaign serves as a much-needed reminder to nurture your body in ways both big and small. After all, doing so can offer some science-backed benefits for your mental and physical health. (Read more: 12 Things You Can Do to Feel Good In Your Body Right Now)

So if you feel comfortable chiming in, consider sharing that sweaty selfie on social media to help show others that there's no "right" way to be a runner — and that every body is a runner's body. (And the same can be said for any type of movement you enjoy doing.)

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