This post (and two more to follow) is sponsored by Under Armour and their new “What’s Beautiful?: A Competition to Redefine the Female Athlete” campaign.

As a teenager I didn’t feel like I could do anything. My body was slender and strong – and mostly hunched over a pile of books. I was a “smart” girl – and while my brain got plenty of use, my body didn’t. And I felt it. My confidence was weak and vulnerable. I felt unattractive and incapable of doing anything.

Over the past ten years my life has changed a lot. I’ve been to college, gotten married, had 2 1/2 kids, graduated from grad school, lived in the country on a small island in the middle of the Pacific and in a huge city on another island on the edge of the Atlantic. And I’ve become a runner.

I’ve run 4 marathons, I’ve won a couple of small 5Ks. I’ve gotten faster and stronger. I’ve surprised myself over and over again not only by running fast and long and hard, but by inspiring others to do the same. And the most surprising thing to me is the feeling of beauty and confidence I get from it all. Even when I’ve run with the boys in the stroller to the grocery store and I’m dripping sweat onto the floor of the produce section. Even when I’m at the end of a 20-mile training run and wondering if I’m ever going to be able to walk or eat again.

And when I hear about other women doing the same – pushing themselves, doing hard things, learning what they are capable of, I feel the same for them. I think that they are beautiful – red-faced-and-dripping-with-sweat- beautiful. Tired-and-heaving-beautiful.

So I keep running. Even though I’m now solidly six months pregnant. Because it helps me feel beautiful even while my body is changing and growing in ways that can be uncomfortable. I feel beautiful not necessarily because of how I look, but because of what I can do. I can run, yes, but I can also keep up with my boys. I have enough energy to take care of them all day and then do my own thing at night. And that is a beautiful thing to be able to do.

When I heard about Under Armour’s campaign to “redefine the female athlete” I jumped at the chance to be involved because I, too, believe that beauty lies not in how you look but in what you do. Under Armour is challenging women to challenge themselves and encouraging women to encourage others to do the same.

I’ve entered the challenge. My goal is to run a 10K in my 33rd week of pregnancy – on June 9th.

That’s a little over six miles I’ll be running in about one month. I’ve never run so far while being so pregnant. I’m not sure how much my body will change in the next month or what my comfort level will be.

I am looking forward to seeing what I can do and showing others that pregnancy is a time to be healthy, active, and strong for yourself and for your baby – not an excuse to be lazy. (Being unable to get off the couch because of illness or other concerns is an entirely different matter, and I don’t blame you women one bit for taking it easy; I know that is harder than anything.)

Go to the Under Armour’s website, check it out, poke around, set a goal, set up a profile, get moving, enter the competition (you could win $1000 in Under Armour gear! and a year’s worth of training, nutritionist consultation and more gear!) – and check out what other people are doing, too. Leave them a note, encourage them, let them know that they inspire you. Because beautiful is what beautiful does. And that is beautiful.

While you’re there, check out some of their gear. I’m kind of digging these patterned running shorts and this stripy tank. These slash capris are intriguing to me. I think I’d feel super-tough and so Brooklyn running through the park in them.

Which clothes are catching your fancy? Let me know in the comments to be entered for a chance to win a $500 Under Armour gift card.

SWEEPSTAKES/GIVEAWAY RULES

Rules:

No duplicate comments.

You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

a) Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post

b) Tweet (public message) about this promotion, including exactly the following unique terms in your tweet message: “#whatsbeautiful” “#sweepstakes”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post

c) Blog about this promotion and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post. To comply with FTC Guidelines (see http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/10/endortest.shtm), entrants’ blog posts must disclose that they are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post.

d) For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

The Official Rules are available here.

This sweepstakes runs from 5/10-5/21

Be sure to visit the Under Armour’s page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

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