As anyone who has ever caught a glimpse of themselves in the mirror during a fitness class can tell you, working out often feels much better than it looks. But thanks to social media, users are constantly presented with picture perfect photos of athletes posing in Warrior Two on a mountaintop, modeling new sports bras, and smiling serenely while crossing the finish line. However, marathon runner Dorothy Beal was fed up with the unrealistic portrayals of athleticism, and her response to the phenomenon has inspired many.
Beal, who has completed 32 marathons, took to Instagram with two side-by-side photos of herself mid-race. In one version of the picture, she’s sweating and strained and has visible cellulite. In the other, she’s smiling and waving at the camera. The photo tells a story anyone who’s run a race (or even run around the block) already knows: Running is hard, and you feel incredible when you’re done. The picture has clearly resonated with fans, because Beal has garnered almost 3,000 likes and hundreds of comments thanking her for posting both versions.
Beal tells Yahoo Beauty that she’s held onto the photos since she ran the race last summer, unsure whether she should post the unflattering angle. Ultimately, she decided “I am the same person in both photos.”
“I am a strong woman running 13.1 miles on a horribly humid day. A woman who pushed through self doubt and the desire to quit and kept on running. I’m glad that the photographer captured that happy photo because it’s the contrast that I think so many women, and men, can identify with,” Beal admits. “A photo is a split second in time. I’m not going to say I don’t look like the photo on the left, I do, that was me, but I also look like the photo on the right! We give photos of ourselves too much power.” Both the struggling and the smiling photos have struck a chord with runners everywhere, who she says have sent her messages, comments, and emails thanking her for sharing her story. “I hope that sharing my vulnerable side helps others do the same,” she says.
This isn’t Beal’s first foray into body positivity. She runs an Instagram account and hashtag campaign called #ihavearunnersbody dedicated to showing runners that the idea of a “runner’s body” is a myth. “I truly hope it helps others look at themselves in a positive light, pun intended,” Beal tells Yahoo Beauty. “Runners and people in general come in all shapes and sizes! Some runners are thin, some are curvy, we are black, we are white, and every color in between, we are short, we are tall, we run in hijabs, we run in sports bras and tight spandex shorts and sometimes we look great doing what we love and other times we are captured in a less than flattering moment.”
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