Fit and/or Fat?

One of the biggest discourses of overweight/obesity is that it’s unhealthy. You are more likely to get sick and/or die earlier than if you were ‘normal’ weight.

This NY Times blog post about Clydesdale runners brings together two of my favorite things: turning taken-for-granted narratives on their head (or at least challenging them) and running.

Clydesdale runners are generally considered to be those over 200 lbs for men and anywhere from 130-150 and up for women. Women are often called Athena runners, rather than Clydesdales.

These divisions were initially devised to give heavier runners a chance of placing and receiving medals/recognition in a more equitable way (races are already divided into age groups and by gender in most cases) since lighter runners have an advantage in terms of speed. (Runner’s World magazine has reported that for every 1 pound you lose you can shave 2 seconds off your per mile pace, and for many runners every second is a big deal).

While I appreciate that these runners often challenge the link between being ‘overweight’ and unhealthy, I am still troubled by a number of things, not least of which is the low weight requirement for women to qualify for the Athena division.

Thoughts? How does this work into or complicate Gilman’s discussion of different discourses of fat and health?

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