When Chardline Chanel started running, she didn't expect to become a running influencer and wellness coach with a large following of devoted fans. In fact, she didn't even expect to make it down the block. Chardline didn't come from a family of runners and, while she played other sports actively, she never thought running was a possibility for her. A plus-size Black woman, Chardline had never seen someone like her run, period.
"There was always that understanding that I don't deserve to be in the space," Chardline says. “That I don't belong.”
Then one day in 2016, a woman ran past Chardline on her block – and the woman looked like she did. Inspired, Chardline decided to give running a try. So she and a friend hit up the local gym, determined to run ten times around the track. But on lap seven, Chardline and her friend noticed two teenage boys making fun of them. Her friend cried. Chardline was upset. She had wanted to run so she could feel more energy and mental clarity. But it wasn't worth the embarrassment. So she stopped.
It wasn't until two years later, when Chardline bumped into an old friend, that she considered taking up running again. Chardline and her friend had always bonded over things like dating and shopping as plus-sized women, but now this friend was an avid runner who jogged regularly and even did marathons. Chardline was intrigued. She wanted to try again, but the voices in her head were loud: people like her didn't get to run, least of all in public.
Chardline's friend became her cheerleader, and, eventually, her running coach. When Chardline worried about being stared at or mocked, her friend put things in perspective. She told Chardline that people might stare, but that she was out there doing something important. "She said, 'Honestly, you're doing everyone a service.
You are normalizing that a running body is any body; you’re normalizing that you don't need to look a certain way in order to take care of yourself and find hobbies that you genuinely like’."
So Chardline dug deep and gave it another try. The first time she ran a mile, it took her 25 minutes. Chardline had planned to simply show up, give it a try, and go home. Instead, she kept on going. The next time she ran a mile, it took 18 minutes. Eventually, Chardline was running most days—her own way. "I really just said, 'Let's just go, you're going to give it what you can and take the breaks when you need them’," she says.
"’But you're going to keep going and never stop moving. Always keep moving’."
And Chardline kept on moving. She runs regularly with her coach's running club, The Pioneers. She works with a trainer at the gym to build muscle and strength so she can run farther, faster. And she's become a running influencer, boasting over 54,000 Instagram followers, by being honest about the struggle to overcome body stigma and keep moving. The first video she posted to Instagram was just ten seconds. She didn't know if she was running correctly in it, but she was running. And people loved it. Plus-size women, women of color, people who were afraid of the gym—they related to her fight, and they asked for more.
Pretty soon, Chardline was an icon for unlikely runners all over the globe, using her own hard-fought confidence and tenacity to prove that "running wasn't just for one type of person. It wasn't just set for people who've been running their whole life." It was for everybody and every body.
Chardline made a mental decision that she belonged – that she was a runner if she said so and if she showed up. This attitude has touched the rest of her life as well. As she pushed herself to keep running and inspired others to do the same, she realized she could reach for bigger and bigger goals. This year, she's set her sights on a new job, and she's applying for law school. But whether it's running in the park or challenging herself in the classroom, the lesson for Chardline is the same:
The challenge "may look like something that's huge on this macro level," she says, "but you start where you can start and you just keep on going."