Dorothy Beal is a mother of three from Leesburg, Virginia, who has made it her mission to change the way runners, in particular, think about their bodies.

The 39-time marathoner started the hashtag #IHaveaRunnersBody that went viral with the tag line, "Every body that runs is a runner's body."

Beal completed her 39th marathon at the Abbott World Marathon Majors Tokyo Marathon 2019 on March 3. After the race, she posted two photos of herself taken seconds apart as she ran the marathon to remind her followers that cameras capture only "a split second in time."

Here, Beal opens up about why she no longer deletes any photos of herself, even ones she feels are "less than flattering" and how she hopes to empower other women.

PHOTO: Dorothy Beal started her own running gear company, I Run This Body.
Courtesy Dorothy Beal
Dorothy Beal started her own running gear company, I Run This Body.

Years ago, while waiting for race photos to be uploaded online after a race, I’d hit refresh countless times waiting for the exact moment the photos were uploaded so I could go through and tag the ones I deemed as unflattering as NOT ME.

I was unknowingly allowing these photos to hold a power over me and change how I felt about and myself

No one was going to see those photos but I didn’t want there to be a record anywhere of a photo I didn’t like. I’m someone who for years struggled with self-esteem and self-worth and I was unknowingly allowing these photos to hold a power over me and change how I felt about and myself.

What I started to realize race after race is that no matter how much fun I had, the photos of myself that were catching me at what I deemed unflattering moments were stealing the joy I experienced from the race.

I’d question why after years and years of running and eating healthy my body still was riddled with cellulite, instead of focusing on how amazing it was that my body has given me three beautiful children and has carried me across the finish line of over 100 races.

After one particular race I saw two photos taken split-seconds a part. In one I looked strong, healthy, happy and confident and in the other I looked miserable.

I looked like the woman in both photos

Did I look like the strong woman or the miserable woman? And that’s when it struck me -- I wasn’t miserable in either photo despite what it may have looked like. I was happy the entire race. The camera had just caught me at what I didn’t feel was a flattering moment.

I have wasted so much of my life disliking myself for one reason or another. One day I had finally had enough and decided that I wasn’t going to waste another moment worrying about how I looked when I run because that’s not why I run anyways.

I run to feel alive. I run because it makes me feel strong. I run because it brings me joy. Sure, sometimes there are photos taken of me that don’t reflect how I feel in the moment. But that’s OK.

I knew I couldn’t be alone in how I felt, so when I see two photos taken a moment apart that look drastically different, I post them.

I want [women

I don’t want women who follow me on Instagram to look at my photos and have my photos make them in any way feel badly about themselves. I want them to see my photos and think, "Wow, she is owning her body. I should too."

It’s an empowering feeling to love a photo no matter what you think you look like. When you feel empowered, you pass that feeling on to other women, who then feel empowered and the cycle keeps going.

For every one person I help, that one person will also go on to help someone else because they too are embracing themselves and not focusing on what society has made us believe are flaws. Do I post photos I like of myself, of course, who doesn’t, but I’m also going to continue to post photos I don’t care for. I think it’s important to help spread the message that Instagram is just a highly curated collection of photos.

The response [from my posts] has been overwhelming. Many of the direct messages I have received from women have brought me to tears.

At the end of the day, I hope that by sharing my vulnerable moments and thoughts I am making a difference and that my children and family are proud of me for helping to change the way we view our perceived flaws.

Photos are a split second in time, nothing more, nothing less. They should never take joy away from our lives.