Dear Legs: I’m Sorry

How running helped me love my body

Cailin Cowley
Jan 21 · 3 min read
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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

When I was in elementary school, my legs didn’t look like the legs of other girls my age. My knees were soft and adorned with extra flesh, and the skin around my hips smiled when I sat. My young friends had sharp angles and lacked the chafe marks that I had become familiar with.

I saw my difference then, but didn’t know it was something I should hate until I got a little older.

I was in seventh grade, flirting with my crush at my locker — a middle schooler’s dream! — before we headed off to our next class. I leaned into my locker to find a misplaced binder and, to my horror, an eighth-grade boy yelled, “Big butt!” and snickered as he continued on his path down the hallway. My crush seemed uncomfortable from the encounter and muttered that he had to get to class.

This instance is a drop in the bucket for what women deal with throughout our lives. Some of it is childish, like my rude peer’s remarks, and some of it forces us to question our safety. All of it makes us more self-conscious about our bodies. All of it tells us that our bodies are there to be judged.

That day in seventh grade was one instance of many, but I remember it so clearly because it was the first time that my fears had been articulated: I was “too big.” I’d always been self-conscious about the size of my butt and legs, but I figured it was just in my head. That boy told me it wasn’t.

From then on, I loathed my legs. I hated the way they rubbed together when I walked, the crinkles of cellulite sprinkling the back of them, the fact that I had to get a bigger jean size than my friends. I used to just stare at my thighs, silently pleading for them to shrink. I longed to be called “a twig.”

To mold my body into my ideal, I tried to become a runner multiple times, hearing that runners have slim legs and toned muscles. The problem was, I never wanted to run.

Looking back, the shift to becoming a runner seems as mindless and quick as flipping a switch, but I know it was years in the making. I suppose that one day, I just had enough. I put my sneakers on and began to jog outside. I discovered I liked the movement.

Years passed, and with each step, I hated my legs less and less. Not because they got smaller, but because of their power.

They carried me to the top of steep hills that made me want to collapse; they propelled me through rain, sleet, snow; they swept me over finish line after finish line, eventually helping me tick “complete a marathon” off of my bucket list.

They’ve given me so much joy, these thick thighs of mine.

So to my legs, I’d like to formally apologize. I’m sorry for all the years filled with so much hate. I’m sorry for the times when I cursed you for making my inner thighs chafe and leggings pill. I’m sorry for refusing to wear shorts in the heat of summer because I was too embarrassed to have passersby see you while I was out for a walk.

I’m more than the comments others make about my body. I’m proud of my legs. And I’m damn proud of how far they’re going to keep taking me.

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Cailin Cowley

Written by

Fitness instructor who believes in focusing on the gains instead of the losses.

Runner's Life

Runner's Life is a publication for advice and stories from the intersection of running and life. By runners, for runners.

Cailin Cowley

Written by

Fitness instructor who believes in focusing on the gains instead of the losses.

Runner's Life

Runner's Life is a publication for advice and stories from the intersection of running and life. By runners, for runners.

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