On May 4th, women from all over the country will head to Atlanta, GA to participate in the second annual The Plus Strut™, the first-ever 5K for plus-size women and the first plus-size run or walk to be sanctioned by USA Track & Field. As a proud sponsor of The Plus Strut™ 5K 2019, we wanted to know everything about this pioneering event—so we reached out to the founder, Joy Tribble, to discover how the idea was born.
As told by Joy Tribble (and edited and condensed for clarity and length)
Years ago, my girlfriend was a personal trainer. She challenged me to a half-marathon, and, I thought, this is insane. I can’t do 13.1 miles. But she challenged me to do it. We trained for it for months, and then, lo and behold, she forgot to register us. And I thought, this is some kind of sick joke. We didn’t do it because we didn’t register, but I did a 5K event instead. When I arrived, everybody was very nice, very kind, and even very welcoming. I just didn’t see a lot of women who looked like me.
Even though it’s 3.1 miles and shorter than a half-marathon, I still got angsty about being a larger person and not being able to finish within whatever I thought the allotted time would be, so that I was the last person crossing the finish line. I feared not being able to hit the mark. So, I thought, there are other women who do these, I’m certain. But there may be some women who have thought about this but are afraid, like I’m afraid.
I needed to do something about it. My thought was, let’s create a space where women of size don’t have to worry that they’re going to get haggled at 5K running events. You’re celebrated at The Plus Strut™ 5K. You’re embraced. There’s a community of women that’s supporting you and cheering you on to the finish line. It’s a celebratory space that dispels what other people might think about you, and some of the negative things that have been said about plus-size women who partake in events like this.
I’ve been a plus ambassador and a plus-size model over the years. While I believe that the community was moving in the right direction as it relates to modeling and fashion and beauty, and all of those things, I felt that there was a bit slower tick in wellness. We were doing yoga and things like that, which I thought were great. But I also thought, if you don’t have any major physical ailments, everybody can walk. But not everybody wants to be a model, per se, or not everybody wants to be a blogger, or a beauty adviser, or an influencer. But health and wellness are always on trend. And there was nothing like this in the plus community base, and so, hence The Plus Strut™.
We had a plus-size coach last year, for our first event, who had done marathons and half-marathons. The reason why she connected with our event is that she’s been in those spaces where she’s gotten the looks. She was like 268, 280 pounds, and she was a badass. But she would get looks from other people like, “What are you doing here?” Not everybody would say something all the time, but people had said things to her before. That wasn’t my experience, because I’m not a running guru, but because she was in that community, she shared some of those experiences with us. And it just gave me more fuel as to why I thought that something like this needed to happen.
Last year, we had women who were 300, 400 pounds, who participated. Some women would never participate in a 5K outside of The Plus Strut™, so that’s how we knew that, yes, this is the place for women to come and just be, and wear your crop top, and not be concerned about what somebody’s going to say about you. That’s not to say we’re worried about what other people say, but that’s just the world we live in. How we’re societally built. We do worry. Well, here at The Plus Strut™, you don’t have to. We celebrate every nook and cranny that you give us. Like people say on Instagram, “The summer is getting whatever body I give it.” That’s how we feel at The Plus Strut™. This is where your body is welcome.
You can’t be what you don’t see. I think that’s what The Plus Strut™ is: We are being the change we want to see in the world. That was one of the first things I said when I was at the other event that I participated in, that I didn’t see anybody who looked like me. It was upsetting—it was a lonely experience because no one else was there to share that with me. I believe that in order to dispel societal norms, we have to show up. We have to do it. We have to dispel even our own negative self-talk, because that happens, too. I have women in my inbox who write, “I’ve been watching the journey of The Plus Strut™, and I’ve been wanting to do it, but I’m afraid because I don’t think I can do it.” And I have to always help with turning the mental Titanic with the women. To say, “Listen, we created this event for that very thing you’re saying that you’re afraid of. You won’t have to worry about it.”
If you need a running buddy to escort you across the finish line, there will be pace walkers there with you. I’ve had women say, “I want to do it, but I don’t have anybody to do it with.” I think there’s a community aspect that might be missing in the space. So, some of our core values are inclusion, diversity, community, and fun. And the community aspect is so important because, especially in our social media world, we’re a little isolated. What The Plus Strut™ does is it pulls back the layers and brings us together for this moment in time. It connects us with other women who look like us, feel like we feel, and can understand the accomplishment. Because to be a woman of size and to do something like this, it makes you feel like a hero. Women cry when they cross that finish line.
Let’s keep this real. I’m not Superwoman. There are days when I don’t want to deal with life. But I think what happened was that I wanted to live. I had decided that I felt like my battery light in life was blinking and I needed to connect again to myself. So, for the last maybe five or six years, I’ve been going to therapy, and one of the things that my therapist spoke about was just living. I took a little offense to that, because I was like, “What the hell do you mean? I’m living every day.” And she was like, if you were, though, would we have these kinds of conversations? She wasn’t being a smartass—she was being dead-on. She was being very honest. So I had to get honest and say, “Wait, maybe I’m not living to my fullest potential. I’m making excuses for it because I don’t want to really face the music.” Where can I show up differently? Where can I show up better, just for Joy? Maybe it isn’t walking every day, but two or three times a week. So, it was really just about me. The Plus Strut™, honestly, is me.
The Plus Strut™ was born out of me and the things that I felt were missing from my life. So, I was like, I can’t wait for somebody else to do it, because nobody knows what I’m feeling. So I have to be responsible, not just for my life, but for my actions and how I’m going to contribute to the greater world. I don’t care what anybody else says—there are other women who feel like I do. Sometimes it just takes one person to say, “Hi, my name is Joy, and this is how I feel.” We give other people permission to say, “Thanks, Joy. Me too.” So that’s really what The Plus Strut™ is. It’s just me forcing honesty, me getting in the mirror, and me being kinder to myself. I don’t walk every day. I don’t. The Plus Strut™ challenges me. I’m the creator, and it challenges me. But that’s a good thing, because if you’re not challenged, then you won’t change.
My mom used to say, “Joy, how do you drink the ocean? Just one swallow at a time.” You can’t chug it. You can’t chug life all at once. What taking walks and running allow is just a new cadence in life. I think it gives it a metronome, a beat. My favorite Beyonce song has a good rhythm. It causes me to move a certain way. I think incorporating small elements of a wellness component in life brings you rhythm. It colors your life better and it causes recalibration. When we aren’t calibrated, we’re off. One of my favorite artists is India Arie, and she has a song that’s called “Back to the Middle.” I don’t think we live in the middle a lot. I think we are extreme sometimes. Being in the middle is really good because then you’re balanced. I think that’s what a wellness component does. It causes you to find balance, to be kind to yourself.
I think you have to start with a “Yes.” Does that mean that I need to go buy new tennis shoes? Maybe. Does that mean that I need to call a friend to walk with me? Maybe. Does that mean I need to pack my bag the night before or put my tennis shoes out? Whatever the details are, I really believe it starts with a “Yes.” People are like, “Oh God, three miles is so far”—and for some, it could be. You just have to flip it in your mind and go, “Yeah, I can do this!” Now, I just have to figure out everything it’s going to take me to get there. Listen, either your mind is going to agree with your “No,” or it’s going to agree with your “Yes.” It just depends on which answer you give it, to be honest.
The negative self-talk can get so, so loud. We don’t flip it, because it’s easy to be negative to ourselves, right? But, how quickly can you flip that, and not sit in that moment? I think what a walking regimen does is it allows you to see that you’re so much smaller than the big, big world we live in. When you get outside and you look at trees, and look at how big they are, and you see how wide the sky is, and birds floating by you, you’re like, “Wait, I got this thing all wrong. I’m only a small percentage of what the world at large is. Maybe my problems aren’t that big.”
Founder & Executive Director of The Plus Strut™
Want to experience this amazing event for yourself? Registration will be open on-site starting May 4th, the morning of the event! For behind-the-scenes coverage, follow along as The Plus Strut™ takes over our Instagram, or keep an eye on the event hashtags (#theplusstrut, #curviest5K, #thisonesforus, and #strutyourplus).