Runners come in all shapes and sizes. The reasons we run are as diverse as our body types.
Respect is often part of the equation. Sometimes, it’s self-respect, a by-product of confidence. Other times, it’s to prove something to someone else. To prove we can lose weight. To prove we can endure. To prove we can stick with something – anything. To prove (?) that age hasn’t caught up with us yet.
‘Run Fatboy Run’ has always been one of my favorite running-themed movies. Obviously, it’s more of a romantic comedy than anything, but the running backdrop plays a key role.
Dennis, the movie’s anti-hero, is the stereotypical lovable loser. Years ago, on his wedding day, he panicked and fled, leaving his pregnant bride-to-be (Libby) at the altar. Flash forward a few years, and he’s struggling to hold onto a job as a security guard, and is basically half-assing his way through life. Things bottom out for him early in the movie, when he struggles to chase down a drag-queen bra thief, who taunts him as he tries to recover the stolen goods.
Trying to reevaluate his life, he realizes just how badly he messed up in ever letting Libby go – she was always the only one for him. Spurred by jealousy, desperation, and a strong dislike for Libby’s new fiancee, Dennis decides to run the London Marathon in a bid to impress her.
Being a person who has always suffered from the so-called impostor syndrome, I identify with Dennis, the anti-hero that no one takes seriously. I’m good at what I do. With 20+ years of experience in my field, people recognize me as a knowledgeable and competent professional, and look to me for advice. But in meetings, I still feel like a little kid sitting at the grown-up table. In my personal life I often struggle to follow through on things, much to the chagrin of my wife Sandy, who I’m sure I’ve disappointed more than once.
I think that’s why I can understand and identify with Dennis. He admits that he initially thought that by completing a marathon he could win Libby back. But eventually, he encapsulates his reason for attempting the London Marathon in about 20 seconds.
“I know it’s the height of hypocrisy, and I know doing this isn’t gonna change anything, or make anything better, but, I’d settle for your respect.
You know, I’d settle for you smiling when you thought about the time that we had together and not thinking it was a waste of time.
I know I didn’t do you any favors on that day, OK? I did a stupid, stupid thing. But it was only because I thought spoiling your day was better than ruining your life.”
That part of the movie just leaves me weepy every damn time. It hits a little closer to home than I’d like. While I haven’t disappointed anyone in my life to that level (or at least I hope I haven’t), I can certainly understand the feeling behind it – his fear that maybe he’s not a good enough person or somehow isn’t deserving of the things around him.
In the end, he’s looking internally, doing it for himself. To prove to himself that he’s worthy of both his own respect and the respect of others.
At the end of the movie, Dennis appears to have it together. He’s recovered from the injury he suffered during the race, and has continued to run. The experience finally gives him the confidence to risk rejection and try to reconnect with Libby, asking her out to dinner.
I’ve always been a runner. Even so, I’ve never *truly* loved it to the point that the joy of getting out and just pounding the pavement makes my day. For me, it’s always been about two things: charting improvement and having that sense of accomplishment when I hit milestones. While I’m happy if others notice it, it’s more about me feeling good about myself, respecting myself.
I’ll get there – one day (and one mile) at a time.