This Isn't An Unflattering Photo: This Is Me Running Strong As Hell

For years I've been encouraging women to post their unflattering race day photos. The down shots where gravity pulls our "problem areas" in a less than flattering direction. Or the photos where we're making the pain face, struggling to continue fighting towards our personal bests. To share the good, the bad, and the ugly. But I've made a huge mistake.

These photos of us aren't unflattering. They're real. They're raw. They're vulnerable. And they're perfect.

This weekend, I ran the New York City Half Marathon and I skipped up to the starting line with one of my bad ass friends Jess beside me, ready to show myself what I'm capable of. I've spent eleven months of my life relentlessly working towards getting stronger and faster both mentally and physically. I set a goal in April 2016 to take my marathon time from 3 hours and 59 minutes down to 3 hours and 35 minutes so that I could qualify for the Boston Marathon. Last year, that goal was terrifying, overwhelming, intimidating, and impossible. Today, it's happening.

But through the past eleven months of relentless battles up and down self doubt mountain, the way I look, perceive, and think about myself and my body has changed. I'm constantly fighting to silence the little voice in the back on my mind (OK, sometimes it's really loud), that tells me what I am and am not capable of doing. 

Run a half marathon maintaining a 7 minute 48 second pace? HELL NO. I can't do that. That's not only impossible, that's f*cking insane. Girls my size don't run 1 hour 42 minute half marathons. Our goals are supposed to be to survive until we make it to the finish line.

But it happened.

I want to share a photo that my friend Julia captured around mile 10 of the half marathon.

Six months ago, this picture would have induced a tidal wave of insecurity and frustration. I would look at it, feel my stomach drop, and get frustrated that despite the fact that I run a billion miles a week, workout like fiend, and eat really healthy food, I still look like this. So I'd post this photo to Instagram explaining why it's important we share our unflattering photos because they show the real picture.

TODAY? F*ck that. This isn't an unflattering photo. This is a picture of me, getting support from my incredible friends at November Project, dropping 7 minute 48 second miles, for 13.1 miles. This is me at my absolute personal best.

Right now, this picture does nothing but make me feel like a badass because I can see myself stepping outside of my comfort zone. 

It's painful.  And addictive. And difficult. And amazing. And it isn't pretty, it's beautiful. 

We are so much more than our stomach rolls and cellulite, so why the hell do we allow ourselves to let them define our strength? If we want to redefine what strength looks like, we have to change the way we talk about it. 

Remember, strength doesn't look a certain way, it feels a certain way.

No more talk of unflattering photos, just us kicking ass and taking names. 

Until next time, #RunSelfieRepeat.

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Kelly Roberts

It all started when a silly joke made headlines back in 2014 when I took selfies with hot guys “hottie hunting” my way through the New York City Half Marathon. But ironically enough, I haven't always been a runner. As the self-proclaimed former President of the "I f*cking hate running club", I spent most of my life finding ways to avoid physical activity. Growing up, I missed over 70 days of PE my senior year. Working out was something I thought I had to suffer through in order to lose weight. 

Then, in 2009, my younger brother passed away unexpectedly and struggling to manage my grief, I gained more than 75 pounds. With the weight gain came a new fight to regain my sense of self and learn to love the body I saw when I looked in the mirror. Then one Thanksgiving morning, drowning in grief and self doubt, I decided to go for a run. I didn't make it half way down my street before I had to stop to walk but for some reason, struggling forward made more sense than getting back into bed. It turns out that running is a lot like grief, neither ever really get easier, you just get stronger. 

Over time, I realized that while some people are in fact born runners, others are made. I created this blog Run, Selfie, Repeat and my new podcast by the same name with the hopes to inspire others to say yes to themselves while making them laugh hysterically because laughing, in my opinion, is the solution to everything. 

Named by Women's Running as one of twenty women who are changing the sport of running and by Competitor Magazine as one of 12 Influential and inspiring runners under 30, my mission is to inspire others to get embrace a healthy lifestyle and pursue the strongest version of themselves possible.