Last Saturday, I joined a throng a thongs and Santa hats to partake in the 5th Annual Santa Speedo Sprint.
It was an awkward and terrifying experience. Not for the other people at the Sprint or the event itself, but for the mental anguish I put myself through leading up to the event.
As a bit of background: earlier in the week, a reader – Em – brought to my attention that she along with several others were running in the Sprint, and I said I’d do what I could to raise some cash. I did a couple blog postings encouraging people to donate.
One comment suggested that I’d raise more money if I also ran. That led to several messages and texts basically challenging me to do it. At first I ignored them, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was true: if I upped the ante and agreed to run myself, it’d raise more money than if I didn’t.
This led to my Irish Catholic upbringing creating a guilt complex, and I basically felt an obligation from that point on to do this.
So I agreed to do it, but ONLY if my readers and friends went to the AASRD Jeerleaders’ donation page and helped them meet their goal of $500.
Which you did, because you’re all either great and charitable, or you’re all terrible human beings who want nothing more than to see me suffer.
Thus began my saga of stripping down to my underwear in a gay bar and running away as fast as I can.
I was terrified at the prospect of revealing my body to that many people. I’ve never been very comfortable in my own skin, and I’ve detailed my issues with weight in the past. But I also knew that if I want improvement and personal growth, I can’t allow insecurities and anxiety to prevent me from doing those things that could benefit myself and, more importantly, others.
So I swallowed my pride and reminded myself that it was for charity.
The night before the race, I ritualistically laid out the items I would need: my red boxer-briefs, weight lifting gloves, and a red striped tie. I figured I could use the red tie, which passed as Christmasy due to its colors, to have some fun with it (I wasn’t going to wear a Santa hat). The weight lifting gloves are the result of a promise I made to local blogger derryX that I would wear them in tribute to former professional wrestler and MMA color commentator Bill Goldberg (for no particular reason other than it was an amusing non-sequitur).
I spent about twenty minutes lying awake in bed. I was unable to sleep, nervous about what was to come the next morning. I finally gave up and decided to put something on Netflix to help pass the time. My fears drifted as I passed into unconsciousness to the images and sounds of British detectives hunting down serial killers.
I woke up the next morning and mentally prepared myself as if I was running a 5K. I did my usual routine of stretches as my quads, which were still in pain from my very first kickboxing class on Thursday night, screamed in protest.
I decided that would be my hook. Instead of focusing on the fact that I was baring myself in front of strangers, I focused on the pain of my quads. Even sitting down provided momentary discomfort, which allowed me to shift concern to how I was going to run with the pain making my usual running stride more difficult.
It wasn’t a competitive or timed race, but it helped to operate as if it was.
I left my apartment at noon and discovered that it wasn’t nearly as cold as I thought it was going to be. It was a small relief, even though the temperature was never really much of a concern. My personal failings always, always, always come via the insecurities and lack of self-esteem I have. For some it’s just being prudish or shy, but anybody who’s known me for longer than it takes to drink a cup of coffee would call bull on such claims.
I arrived at the Oh Bar on Lark Street to register and was surprised by a $25 entrant fee. I’m sure it was stated clearly on the website but it somehow got lost, most likely engulfed by all the angst and anxiety I carried with me to the event. Thankfully I had hit the ATM the night before so I could get a proper haircut (thanks, Tragedy).
A half-hour before the race, I put my materials in a safe place with one of the AASRD (Albany All-Star Roller Derby) girls who had given me a heads up she would be there. Then, with a room full of strangers, I stripped down.
Wearing the gloves and the tie actually helped. Even though they covered little, I felt as if I wasn’t as exposed. I didn’t worry as much about the jiggle in my mid-section when I moved, or the contours of my love handles being exposed to everyone and exposing my lack of fitness to any and all females in the area.
Then came the awkward part, where I waited in little clothing amongst a huddled group of strangers for what seemed like an eternity.
I didn’t arrange to meet or run with anyone, having decided from the outset that I would go it alone. I didn’t personally text, call, message or e-mail anyone to tell them I was doing this and that I could use their support. If anybody knew about it, it was from reading the blog or the Facebook and Twitter posts I used to direct people to the donation pages.
Standing exposed and near naked in a room full of strangers who are far superior to me in conditioning and overall fitness, I felt like an alien and unwanted presence. I made conversation with people I knew that I happened to run into, trying to hide the massive sense of shame and anxiety I felt. I don’t think I was very successful, and I’m sure more than one encounter was awkward.
As for the race itself, I ran it. There’s not much to write about, really. When I run, I sort of turn my mind off. I focus on breathing more than anything, which I use in my running to maintain a consistent pace and push myself further.
After the race I once again ran into Em, the reader who first brought my attention to the cause and was the first person to call me out (“Pansy,” she wrote) for not doing the race myself.
“Thanks for bringing my attention to this,” I told her.
“Wait,” she asked. “Are you being sarcastic?”
“Not at all.”
I really wasn’t. I was glad to be able to solicit some cash for the Albany Damien Center and it re-assuring to find out that I really do have good and generous readers.
On a personal and selfish level, though, I was also glad I had the opportunity to confront a long held fear and insecurity without a complete mental breakdown.
Does that mean I’m fixed or that my fear has diminished? Certainly not. The old cliche goes that the only way to conquer a fear is to confront it, but it takes more than just one confrontation. It’s a constant struggle, one in which one must be ever vigilant but also willing to take a chance in encountering the circumstances that create so much fear and anxiety.
One run in my boxer-briefs isn’t going to make me permanently feel better about myself. It is, however, a small step forward, which is more than I would have taken had I decided to stay in bed covered from head to toe and hidden from the prying eyes of the outside world.
Besides, it’s for charity, right?
- Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye…
- Listen to me LIVE as guest co-host of Alternative to Sleeping tonight at 10pm!
- Realtors: “WAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH” George Hearst III: “NONONOO SSSSHHH IT’S OKAY, it’s okay…here. Here’s a pacifier.” Kristi: “#oops.”
- Open Mic web series premiere tonight @ Lark Tavern
- Trust Me, You’re Going to Want to See This