Posted on 9/1/2016 |Announcements
Big or small, everyone has struggled to find their place at some point. In New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Weiner’s new book The Littlest Bigfoot, self-conscious Alice Mayfair is having trouble finding a support system after starting at yet another new school. Alice finds a friend in Millie Maximus, a Bigfoot who is fascinated by humans and is hopeful that they’ll accept her fearless nature and yearning to be a star.
The new children’s book brings together lessons on friendship, bullying and self-esteem and shows how Alice and Millie embrace each other’s differences and find strength in their connectedness, similar to lessons in Girls on the Run. Weiner, who has a daughter who has participated in Girls on the Run, shares how sports have helped her gain confidence in her abilities.
“I don’t know how to tell you this.” The crew coach couldn’t meet my eyes across the dining-hall table. “If you want to keep rowing….” He sighed, then blurted, “you’re going to have to lose a lot of weight.”
I made it back to my dorm room before I started crying – the only physical accomplishment I’d take pride in for the rest of my college career. I knew I’d been big to start with; I knew I’d gained weight since I’d started college that September. But I didn’t know how to lose weight, and he didn’t tell me. I finished out the season feeling grotesque and ashamed, then joined the college newspaper and declared my career as an athlete over, for good.
Flash forward twenty-three years. Even though my participation in organized sports ended in college, I’ve always exercised. I like the way it makes me feel, how it centers me and clears my mind, the warmth of my muscles, the springy looseness in my step after a spinning class or a session on the treadmill. I’d just had my second baby, and joined a gym with child care. One of my new-mom friends asked if anyone wanted to join her in training for a sprint-distance triathlon.
My first thought was, She’s kidding. Then I thought, No way. Sports, races, public feats of athleticism -- they were not for people my size. That long-ago coach had nailed a KEEP OUT sign on the door to anything involving cheers or times, personal bests or finish lines. It had never occurred to me that the sign didn’t have to stay there forever.
It’s no surprise that it was a book that turned it all around – a book called SLOW FAT TRIATHLETE, written in a warm, funny, engaging tone, with the message that anyone could do a tri, in the body that they had at that moment.
So I began. I did a combination of jogging and walking until I could run five kilometers. I joined a local bike club and did their twice-a-week training rides. The swim would be easy – I’ve been swimming all my life, in pools and in open water, which would give me an advantage over the ocean-averse.
Six months after my friend’s casual question, we were standing together, in swim caps and distressingly skimpy triathlon suits (think unitards made of quick-drying Lycra, with a little padding for the bike ride), barefoot on a beach in Falmouth, Massachusetts, with timing chips looped around our ankles. “Take ya mahhhks!” called the announcer, in a hilariously thick New England accent. My wave – women 35 to 45 – got ready and, at his command, we waded into the rocky water, then dove into the ocean and began to swim.
I remember the race in snatches – being surprised at how fast I reached the first buoy, and at the topless woman beside me (I eventually realized that she was a he). Hurriedly wiping sand off my feet at the first transition. Hearing kids cheer as I rounded a corner, and yelling, “Am I winning?”
I didn’t win, but I finished, three seconds under the goal I’d set for myself. The glow of pride extended through the summer, and beyond. It gave me the guts to push myself, both physically (Hip-hop dance class? Boxing? Barre? Sure, I’ll try it!) and professionally (Children’s book? Essay collection? Okay, why not?)
Seven years after my first triathlon, I’ve finished half a dozen more. I’ve learned – and I’ve shown my daughters -- that sports, and races, are for everyone, not just the chosen, skinny few, and that coming in first isn’t what makes you a winner. It’s all about what racing and training can give you – the confidence, the camaraderie, the pride in what you’ve done -- and where you let those gifts take you next.
With her new book, Weiner hopes that all girls can feel supported for who they are and is going above and beyond to include Girls on the Run participants. During her book tour for The Littlest Bigfoot, Weiner is inviting GOTR girls in Miami, Memphis, Philadelphia, Richmond, Virginia and Cherry Hill, New Jersey to be her special guests at events. Girls wearing their Girls on the Run shirts will gain early access to the events and will receive an exclusive giveaway.
Times and Locations
Monday, September 12th at 7:00pm, GOTR girls can arrive at 6:30pm
Head House Books
619 S 2nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147
Cherry Hill, NJ
Tuesday, September 13th at 7:00pm, GOTR girls can arrive at 6:30pm
1301 Springdale Road
Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
Wednesday, September 14th at 7:00pm, GOTR girls can arrive at 6:30pm
3003 W Cary Road
Richmond, VA 23221
Thursday, September 15th at 7:00pm, GOTR girls can arrive at 6:00pm
Books & Books
265 Aragon Avenue
Coral Gables, FL 33134
Friday, September 16th at 4:00pm, GOTR girls can arrive at 3:30pm
Booksellers at Laurelwood
387 Perkins Road Extended
Memphis, TN 38117