BellaNaijarian Susan* Tells the Story of Her Marathon Experience as a Big, Bold, Beautiful Nigerian Woman

IMG-20160206-WA0034When you run the marathon, you run against the distance, not against the other runners and not against the time.”Haile Gebrselassie

It was 7 am on Saturday February 6, 2016. I stood at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos, at the starting line of the Lagos Marathon, in the midst of the crowd of over 20,000 people from around the world. While the world was eager to see who would “run Lagos” and claim the 50,000 dollar prize, it was clear to me who the competition was.

The competition was not any of the famous long distance runners from the East African hills of Kenya and Ethiopia who, it appears, nature and nurture had shaped for endurance racing.

The competition was not any of the professional marathoners who had “been there, done that” and for whom the 49.125km race was probably going to be just another pleasurable couple of hours.

The competition was not any of the athletically built men and women all around me who seemed poised to flow with the wind.

The competition was the cacophony of voices raging in my mind with a thousand and one reasons why I was a misfit for the race and striving to make me accept the notion that I could never make it to the finishing line, not the least because I am a plus size woman.

I have always been plus size all my life (UK24 at my largest size) and over time had come to accept it. I was past caring and paid no attention to taunts and jabs, but rather, flaunted my fabulous self in people’s faces and, as a result, garnered a lot of nicknames like: BBB (Big Bold and Beautiful), Lady Fabulous, Global, Global Excellence, Orobs, Queen Bee, and so on. Due to the confidence with which I flaunted my size, I even had people tell me that I made being plus size very attractive! I took this as a worthy compliment.

As the artistic, creative and fashion forward person that I am, I decided to turn the lemons that life had thrown at me into lemonade by starting a clothing line for plus size women with a dream to infuse confidence through fashion to the plus size status. I quit my job in September 2013 to pursue that dream. Indeed, the clothing line was merely a channel for this bigger dream – restoring confidence to the plus size woman.

I hate, with passion, the association of plus-size status with sluggishness and awkwardness. I say to plus size women all the time that one can be big, yet fit and fashionable. Along the line, as a result of several disappointments, the clothing line didn’t take off as expected but I never gave up on my dream.

I deployed my passions elsewhere, exploring other areas of my career and personal interests and eventually found myself in a centre for people living with Intellectual and Developmental Disability (IDD) – Children’s Developmental Centre, Surulere, Lagos as a volunteer speech therapist. I stayed on with these people whom I call “unique individuals” as compassion wouldn’t let me walk away.IMG_20160206_195133

My “big but fit and fashionable” drive was reawakened in October 2015 when I saw a picture I had taken at a wedding reception earlier in the month. I wasn’t comfortable with how big I had become. Right there I made up my mind to do a complete lifestyle overhaul. I resolved to remain plus size, but without the flabs! I joined a fitness club, started rigorous exercises and dieting, cutting out junks and sweet indulgences and, by December 2015, I had lost four dress sizes (from UK22 – UK16). I was ecstatic and resolved to continue with my new lifestyle. With feedbacks, compliments and questions pouring in from all quarters, I started blogging about my weight-loss journey (See hrmadeolavincent.blogspot.com).

IMG-20160202-WA0004In January 2016, I read about the Lagos Marathon online and registered immediately. Because I wasn’t sure I could do it, I never mentioned my plan to participate to anyone until two days to the event. I didn’t think I could go the whole 42.195km because I have never done a marathon before, not even a half marathon! My greatest athletic feat was long jump and 200metres race in my high school days, so running a full marathon seemed like a huge joke! When I eventually told family members, friends and colleagues that I was going to “run Lagos”, they taunted me. I was told that, of the 42.195km, I wouldn’t go beyond 1km at the most.

IMG_20160204_191720With these in mind, as I heard the starting gun, I felt like I had set out to “walk on water” but I reminded myself that I could do all things “through Christ who strengthens me”. As I took the first step, I felt a surge of hope and energy, call it adrenalin or what you will, but I saw a reason to run.

I saw those little kids struggling to learn and to live, the ones society has labelled intellectually and developmentally disabled – those “unique individuals” in my workplace and all over the world whose unspoken aspirations gave me a reason to wake up every morning.
I saw every plus size woman who had been taunted and told that their size was a liability they could do nothing about.
I saw every man, woman, boy and girl with a dream they can’t shake off but which society had tagged impossible; and so I decided to run.IMG-20160206-WA0022 I ran to let those kids know that they can be the very best that God had made them to be because they are beautifully and wonderfully made. I ran to let every plus sized woman realize that being big does not mean one can’t be fit. I ran to let every dreamer know they don’t have to give up their dreams, no matter the odds.

And so I started the race at the National Stadium by 7:00am with my mind on the goal and didn’t stop to rest or use the bathroom until I got to the finish line at Eko Atlantic City by 1:25pm. I had run the entire 42.195km in 6 hours, 25 minutes! I may not have come close to winning the prize-money but I won the race. I won it together with those I ran for and I won it by the help of God. I won it with those unique individuals for whom the month of March has been dubbed the international “Developmental Disability Awareness” month; I won it with every plus size woman who takes up the discipline, says no to junk, shakes off the fatigue and heads to the gym, not in insecurity but in confidence; I won it with every dreamer who refuses to let their God-given dream die! Yes, we won because, in life, like in the marathon, it’s not about who gets to the finishing line first, it’s about you getting there. That’s a lesson I promise to pass on to my children and grandchildren.

So, as you face life’s challenges, let the words of Meb Keflezighi, U.S. Olympic Marathoner, remind you of my Lagos Marathon story:
“Like the marathon, life can sometimes be difficult, challenging and present obstacles, however if you believe in your dreams and never ever give up, things will turn out for the best.”

My name is Susan and yes, you can call me a “Marathoner”!

34 Comments on BellaNaijarian Susan* Tells the Story of Her Marathon Experience as a Big, Bold, Beautiful Nigerian Woman
  • Manny February 10, 2016 at 6:48 pm

    Wow wonderful story!

  • Ewa February 10, 2016 at 6:50 pm

    Well done girl!!!! Such Determination. You rock..

  • molarah February 10, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    This is really inspiring. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • Hawt Talk With Tosan February 10, 2016 at 7:02 pm

    Love your story hon. Kudos! thinness does not equal fitness and being big does not mean you cannot be fit. Great mesaage

  • Funmi February 10, 2016 at 7:02 pm

    You are simply FABULOUS!!!! Love this and congratulations on not only setting your mind to do this but also completing it as your sort to even when discouraged. Kudos to you.

  • Tosin February 10, 2016 at 7:04 pm

    hot!

  • B.E February 10, 2016 at 7:20 pm

    Well done Susan!!!! Very inspiring and indeed we can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens us

  • Temi February 10, 2016 at 7:21 pm

    Wow, happy for u! Yes o, we call u a marathoner!!! Something a lot of us slimmer girls by stature have not even done. Go gurl, u rock and u can be all u want to be.

  • Honeycrown February 10, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    Yes, Marathoner!!! Good job!

  • X-Factor February 10, 2016 at 8:26 pm

    WOW!!!!!! Very Profound life’s lessons to be learnt from the article…. God bless you Marathoner!!!!

  • hadassah February 10, 2016 at 9:38 pm

    So proud of you marathonerrrr. You rock xxx

  • VianniePR February 10, 2016 at 10:31 pm

    Really proud of you sissy way to go!!!!!!!

  • Nikki February 10, 2016 at 11:20 pm

    Great job! Inspiring!

  • 1da February 10, 2016 at 11:25 pm

    I am inspired to do more, congratulations, more grease to your palm

  • Adaeze Writes February 11, 2016 at 12:15 am

    I smiled while reading your story, you are a true marathoner and a beautiful one at that. God bless you for this inspiring article. You rock!

    adaezewrites.com

  • Afolabi February 11, 2016 at 2:13 am

    Thumbs up Susan! Thanks for putting this into a story; very inspiring and encouraging.

  • Aboh Agbochenu Sunday February 11, 2016 at 6:14 am

    You are a great woman of not only courage, perseverance ! May all your efforts in life not be in vain. Amen.

  • Ada Nnewi February 11, 2016 at 6:28 am

    Well done Susan, you did great….

  • Chi! February 11, 2016 at 8:33 am

    Well done darling! ur story brought tears to my eyes. so inspiring. God bless u real good.

  • TEE February 11, 2016 at 8:36 am

    Good work ma’am! Just curious cos i ran the marathon too…. how did you get the medal if you finished in 6hrs. I finished in 5 hrs and even those that finished before that time didnt get medals. just certificates because the ‘BRT marathoners’ (those that took a ride in BRT to the finish line) took all the medals! so when the real runners that actually put in work got there it was finished. Did you borrow the medal for picture? Just curious.

    • Susan February 11, 2016 at 9:25 am

      Yes Tee, like you, I got the certificate alone. Had to borrow the medal for picture taking since the “BRT and ambulance runners” collected all the medals before we the actual runners got to the finish line.

  • Seyi February 11, 2016 at 9:05 am

    Wow Susan! Very well done indeed. You’re Awesome and thanks for sharing.

  • bb February 11, 2016 at 9:09 am

    Thank you Susan. You truly blessed me with your story. God bless you.

  • sultana February 11, 2016 at 10:17 am

    You are so blessed. you write beautifully. and you are an inspiration babe! well done! still not sure if i could do it though :). Kudos!

  • alicia February 11, 2016 at 10:54 am

    suzz more Grace i was almost tearing but had to hold it,before people start asking me what is wrong. babe God has just started with you.

  • Etebefia February 11, 2016 at 11:12 am

    You go girl!!…

  • Amina February 11, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    marathoner! i hail!

  • LadyWithTheAfroLocs February 11, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    weldone Marathoner!!!!
    Digging in. Persistence. Doggedness. Willingess. Consistency.
    Yes we can!!!

  • NigerianAmericanGirl1 February 11, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    Bella, please have Susan write more articles on the site. I absolutely LOVE her writing style. I felt like I was right there with her.

    Congratulations, Susan! You did an amazing job. Hope to hear more from you in the near future. ❤️

  • bijouxthisbijouthat February 11, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    Forget about her running the marathon! All i could say is she writes soo beautifully.. simple to understand diction, her style flows effortlessly and the reader is easily carried along with her…
    Well done Sue…

  • Kunle February 11, 2016 at 6:19 pm

    Well done and thanks for sharing your story.
    It is very inspiring.

  • Nonamespls February 11, 2016 at 6:31 pm

    Wow, great job! Welldone i am so inpired to errrm run a half marathon this year.

  • HopefulYesIAm February 11, 2016 at 8:43 pm

    Very encouraging, Thank you Susan for sharing your story…it has inspired me to keep at my dream…I’m hopeful

  • Mrs OK February 18, 2016 at 11:24 am

    Absolutely inspiring…..well done Susan!

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