So boom. Picture this:
It's 9:40PM. You set out your running clothes after taking a long, hot and therapeutic shower. There's four obnoxious alarms set on your phone and you strategically place your phone across the room because it forces you to get up. Light out. Night light on because you're a pussy. Judgments are welcome. I don't like being in the dark unless I have the cuddle buddy with the Warmth Pak 2000 and an occasional involuntary sleep boner.
It's 4:05AM now. Still dark outside. You look at the clock and tell yourself to set another alarm. You just need 10 minutes times 3.
It's 4:35AM. Fuck. You have to get up because your body likes to take a poop every morning at the same time and it's the only effective alarm clock in the house to get you off your ass. While on the toilet, you think of how much you are going to feel better once you go for that run outside. Immediately, you glance at the scale sitting in a dark, suspicious corner of your bathroom whispering taunting, asinine comments of how you need to reevaluate your life.
Around 5AM. You're dressed. May have grabbed a light snack to munch on. Grabbed your phone for selfie and Nike + Running App sake. Go back up the stairs because you need your keys. Close the door to your house. Stand outside for two minutes. Breathe in the beautiful morning air. You beat the sunrise. Stretch a little. Turn right the hell back around. Lock your door. Get ice cream and cookies. Fuck it. I'll go tomorrow. Drown yourself in a delicious pool of Dulce De Leche. You rinse, wash and repeat this cycle for a week.
Guess what? You're still a runner.
Some folks in my life think that I am this zen like runner who occasionally totes around a deer knife waiting for someone to try it. It's only half true. The knife part I mean. I am a futuristic zen runner. There are weeks where I can run for hours and after it's all done, I want to do 2 hour of hard core strength training at the gym. Then there's weeks like this one. I know I have this marathon in like, meh, 9 days, but fuck it. I don't feel like running this week. Does this make me lazy? Maybe. Do I care that you think I'm lazy? Absolutely not.
The reality of it is that if you are an endurance runner (or maybe any type of runner of any kind), you are not a goddamn robot. My phone was charged to 100 percent but my fucks to give this week was at an all time low of -235. There's a life outside of running and once I gave myself permission to experience it, my running improved.
I ran over 600 miles this year. Yup. Sure did. I am damn proud of it. Some of those days were combined with strength and calisthenics work that ranged from 45 minutes to 2 hours long in conjunction with with endurance running. I was doing pole dancing training for a showcase which was exciting as hell to participate in. There were plenty of days that I did not want to run and I pushed myself to do it anyway. But today is not one of them. This week was NOT one of them. And that is okay.
I ate half of New Mexico this week and for the first time in a month, I ran for the ice cream man in knee high boots and a duffel bag. I went to Checkers eight times this week, two of which I went TWICE, just for the 4 for 4 menu and a side of cheese sauce. Even had an Oreo ice cream shake. My scale said I gained 2 lbs. Officially at 208 lbs. Yasssss baby. My home gym is a block away and some of the employees looked shocked that I actually take a day off, let alone seeing me look like a whale toting a handful of cheese fries and junk food under my arm pit in workout clothes that I didn't even sweat out.
Are you still here with me? Are you wondering why I am telling you all of this? Well, it's because some days, running WILL suck. Some days, you will not want to run. You will encounter the last part of Forrest Gump's journey and stop. It doesn't matter if you are doing this for leisure or training for 2 marathons like me. Some days will make you sit your ass at home and enjoy the Netflix account that bounces your checking account every month because you conveniently forgot about the payment. You are still a bad ass, slow or fast paced runner. Take your break. Enjoy that extra serving of macaroni and cheese. Take a second nap. Call a family member that you cursed out during a long run because everything made you want to commit homicide in the last mile. Hug your child a bit tighter. Why? Because you will go back to being a runner on another day. After all, running doesn't suck every day. Your mind and just maybe, your body will thank you. Just remember to come back to us soon.
Marathon training this go round is less stressful than the last several times I did it before. Each time, I learn something different. The Chicago Marathon is set for Sunday, October 8, 2016 and I will be in Wave Two. My TCS New York City Marathon is set for a month later. I know...I'm Billy Bad Ass or completely insane. Regardless of what I may be, I'm excited, ecstatic and naturally nervous.
Anyone who has ran at least one marathon will tell you that you rarely ever stop being nervous. Each marathon is different from the last. Your nerves play techno in your stomach at random moments. You don't know what the weather conditions may be until you're out there. You spend an exorbitant amount of time waiting for the National Anthem to play, in which, I rarely ever hear it over my constant mental chatter telling myself not to fuck up, keeping one foot in front of the other and as always, don't become a shit meme. Before all of your mixed emotions get to this point is the grueling months of marathon training.
I started reminiscing about my first marathon one night while I was in the middle of my tempo run. Sometimes, when I get a good stride, I cruise through all of my social media alerts when I reach a safe area. Call it mindless running. A post from Mirna Valerio, the super bad ass plus size ultramarathoner, popped up on my Facebook feed. She shared an article that she wrote on Women's Running about how to revisit and reset goals when you are injured. Her article made me reflect about my own painful experience of marathon training the first go round. Thankfully, I count my blessings that I didn't physically injure myself during marathon training but nobody could have prepared me for the types of life woes that I would encounter.
2015 was a ROUGH year. At the end of 2014, I started getting exceptionally sick. I was going through periods of coughing up blood from a bronchitis & allergy infection. Unfortunately, I suffer from seasonal depression, particularly during this time of the year. My home life wasn't the best thanks to some things that I did on my part. Friends were falling off the face of the earth because my running commitments kept me away from social gatherings. I was no longer the extravert that people knew me to be. No longer could I stay up until 2am listening to people's problems as I used to and in December, I decided to take on another culinary position at a very prominent quick paced restaurant in the Lower East Side of NYC. Life bitch smacked me so hard.
Initially, I thought taking on a culinary position to get my feet wet after not being in the field for a year and a half was exhilarating. I was scared that I lost my groove and wouldn't be able to bounce back. Actually, I fell back into the madness rather well, perhaps too well. I found myself on the cusp of balancing out family/friend life, work time and my fitness commitments. My shifts kept me in the restaurant anywhere from midnight until 2AM. My first store manager was the absolute best. Knowing that I have a family at home, he scheduled me in for full time hours with semi consistent days off and hired me knowing that I'd be traveling for my marathon, along with a laundry list of days needed off for races.
In my mind, I thought that my job would be another thing that would balance out the insanity of my personal life. Most of 2014 was incredible and to watch 2015 crumble in this big ball of fuckery, I wanted to feel that emotional high again. My health issues started to creep up once again but I kept avoiding it as if it didn't exist. I told myself mind over matter so many days. Some things aren't mental. I avoided the golden rule of listening to your body. Nevertheless, I pushed my body, mind and spirit hard every day. My schedule permitted me to work evenings with an incredibly insane but pleasurable crew of guys, close up shop and indulge into a slowly developing drinking habit.
Like most of the stereotypes that you heard or saw in movies or people you know, I told myself that I had a handle on it. At first, I thought it was great to be able to get a drink for free every night, especially being in the Lower East Side. It started to bite me in the ass when I realized that a bar not too far from us had cheap drinks. Being that I am a very sociable person, I would indulge in a drink or seven. My tolerance is not the same as it was in my early 20s. After going from "one beer" to 6 tequila shots, a gin and tonic, a four horseman and about three rum and cokes, I would do what any fully functioning alcoholic would do: Go carry out life as if I wasn't drunk. What did I do? I would go to the gym. Yes, you can judge harshly right now. I can feel the heat on the back of my neck at this very moment. In hindsight, I don't know how the hell I did it. I would binge drink for a hour, work out for a hour to hour and half, smelling the alcohol sweating out of my system and sometimes, I would sit in the massage chair passing out for anywhere between 15 minutes to 2 hours. Being that it was overnight, most times the staff didn't notice that there was a drunk woman snoring in the massage chair. When I would get myself together, I'd come home around 4am, sometimes missing my stop on the train and too intoxicated to take a shower. If I was lucky, I would have most of my clothes off and dressed for bed.
Somehow, maybe a Christmas miracle, I would wake up either from my child tapping me or just jumping out of my sleep. I had the opportunity to kiss my son before going to school. I would pass out again, waking up somewhere around noon to 1pm. Most times, I had enough time to take a shower and go for a 5 - 6 mile run before picking up my son from school. I would talk to him for a hour, which broke my heart because I knew that in another hour, I'd be going back to work. Sometimes I would remember to eat something. Most days, I had no desire and had to force myself to do so. If I was willing to miss out on sleep, I would see friends during the day, in which they would have to come to me. I blocked a lot of people out of my physical circle during this time, which gave me a great, bubbly vibe to others who weren't that close. Hiding in plain sight was rehearsed rather well.
Rinse, wash, repeat...for months.
I was a fully functioning alcoholic
training for a marathon. Go figure.
Perhaps this story wouldn't be so terrible if I didn't commit to JUST the Rock n Roll Washington DC marathon but having to do the NYC Half the very next day was incredibly painful. All I told myself was "I trained for this." I sure did "train" for this. I trained myself on how to run on a mental burnout. I don't know how I did it but I did my marathon and my half marathon but by a very thin string.
I remember crying horribly around mile 18. I felt like an absolute failure. It is very traumatizing to the mind once the crowd starts to drift off. Perhaps this is why I love the NYC Marathon because the crowd is always there. This is not the case with most marathons. I was out in the middle of deserted area with sprinkles of exhausted runners, a car trailing me to pick me up for the sweep and next thing I know, I had this nasty, cleansing cry. Some might say it is from the physical fatigue or shock. I knew otherwise. I could have done so much better if I would have taken a moment to check out my mental health a bit. Just because you keep up with the physical and nutritional regimen doesn't mean that you completely committed to marathon training. So I wept. Two miles of crying, contemplating to go back home without a medal, even with my son and husband waiting in the cold rain for me to cross.
I am eternally thankful for Facebook and Facebook Messenger. At mile 20, I saw an influx of messages that came through on my feed cheering me on. My husband and son called me to tell me that they were waiting for me to finish. Minutes later, my best friend and his son told me to keep going. I keep hearing that your brain is the strongest muscle. I think this is all that pushed me through that day. I earned my medal that afternoon. Got back home through the Bolt Bus in pain, swollen and managed to push through the NYC Half Marathon the next morning as well. But I was wrong about something at the beginning of this blog: I did injure myself during my marathon training. My mental wellbeing was so broken at this point of my life. You can train forever but if your mind isn't strong, it is easy to watch all that you worked hard for go down the drain. Let's be honest: I lucked out. I hope I never make the same mistake twice. After my first marathon training, I promised myself that I would never neglect my mental wellbeing during training season like this again. So far, I have stuck to this promise. I finished the NYC Marathon last year strong and hope to do the same in the upcoming weeks. I am much more diligent about being a well rounded marathoner, ultramarathoner and athlete.
Perhaps I should start off this post being exceptionally direct: I am NOT a feminist and honestly have no desire to become one in the near future. Unfortunately, there are several reasons why I am not but I want to spare you the thesis paper on how I feel about modern day feminism. I sincerely hope that my readers don't take this as a jab but merely like the rest of my blog, a collection of my thoughts.
I thought I should address this simply because I feel that it would be easy to box me into a category of such at times, particularly moments like these where I get on a bit of a tangent about things women take for granted these days. Running is certainly one of those of things that fall into this category.
For centuries, a lot of people thought it was outrageous for a woman to participate in sports, particularly running. Imagine a time where you could be persecuted for running for leisure as a woman? Well, in Greece, women couldn't even view the games without fear of execution. In 1896, women's participation in the Olympic Games was drastically reduced. Track and field was forbidden for many years. It took until 1928 for women to be allowed to participate in running events. When a woman fell after an 800 meter event, which was only for a few seconds, officials made a claim that the event was too strenuous for women to participate. In turn, women were banned from the event until 1960. This same year, a woman won the 800 meter event, reintroducing women back into the sport on such a grandeur level. Not even a year later, the Amateur Athletic Union banned all United States women from competing in road races. Obviously, we have grown globally from such primitive thinking on such a vast level. I do not want to neglect that such horrific outlooks still exist in this sport, along with others, to this day.
So why bring this up as a blog topic? Well, a chain of events happened over the last few weeks. Thanks to Sapphire Rebel, a beautiful blogger and model, I was featured on her blog "Tiger Stripes on a Tuesday." I spoke on embracing your stretch marks, weight fluctuations and coming to terms who I am as a woman, not just this physical shell that shift shapes more times than a remixed song. After sharing my story on Instagram, Facebook and through her page, I received a lot of positive feedback about being strong, inspiring and bold but received some "suggestions" as well, particularly from the male species.
Honestly, I want to embrace a petty moment but I find that moments of frustration can clout present judgments and in turn, damage future decisions. In turn, I found a happy medium. I decided to share a few monologues of actual comments that I received in relations to my weight, being a black woman and running because after all, I am a runner, right?
"Running doesn't take away certain things like being fat or ugly. Jenny Craig is life."
"I feel sorry for you. I saw your story and I am underwehelmd. I think too many of girls see these fat bitches in underwear trying to flex as a model and think its gon help. Lose some weight so you can run away from the ice cream truck."
"Yu got a fatty but yur leg cant cover that spare tire. Run fat ass run."
"Queen, you are a poor representation to black women everywhere. I see your posts on Facebook, tangents on Instagram and your lackluster workout videos. Just because you can do a few moves doesn't mean you should push your big is beautiful agenda onto other women. Black people think being fat should be glorified because people like you perpetuate stereotypes. Shame on you. How about you share your food diary to the public? Why don't you change up your routine from just running? When is the last time you went to a doctor? If you had a husband who cared about you or a friend that truly being honest, they would tell you to stop cooking that waste that you post on your Instagram account and try sticking to salads for a while."
Can you believe that I get comments like this at least twice a week? At one point, I was harassed by one "gentleman" for a month straight. I was ashamed to tell anyone about how much hate mail I get just for being myself and sharing a part of my journey because I didn't want people to look at me as a victim. Combining this with my seasonal depression, I tend to keep this aspect of information to myself.
I want to address all of these distinguished gentlemen here on this blog, a week or two later, where I have been able to calm myself down a bit.
Again, please let me remind you that this is NOT a feminist post or a male hating post. This is a post from my own personal experiences, hoping that some of you can learn from others' ignorances, as well as my own depression at times. Take that cliche term to heart: "Don't judge a book by its cover." I am not the strongest, certainly not the fastest and not a superhuman fat girl but I am certainly not pushing an agenda. Please learn how to respect others' decisions.
Not all athletes are a size 2 or 4 (and that's okay). Nutrition is certainly important. Training is important. Negative opinions are not. If you want a person to take you seriously, name calling will not take you anywhere.
I will not fake the funk for you guys. Some days, these comments hurt. They discourage me from running. There's days like yesterday where I got up, put on my running gear and sat home because I received one too many nasty emails. I intentionally don't open inboxes after a certain hour and avoid social media for 2 hour daily to block out negativity. My every day life is incredibly hectic. But you know what? I'm a goddamn bad ass. Too many people, especially women, fought too hard to get into this sport that I am enjoying and embracing. My Chicago Marathon is in 11 days. I am schedule for 6 events alone for October. This will be my second year in the New York City Marathon and I am trying to do all of it injury free. It's horrible that I have to dedicate an entire blog post to my "haters" ::insert giggle here:: but I am hoping that through my constant feedback, that it will empower someone else. For my fat girls, skinny girls, athletes and non athletes, stay inspired. Keep pushing. Never let another person define your worth because you are priceless.
It's a bit depressing to admit that I had to announce on my personal Facebook page to friends and family that I am apologizing in advance for not being available. Some people might read that statement and think that I'm being a bit melodramatic; others relate exceptionally heavy to this sentiment.
I absolutely love and hate doing my marathon training. Today is a day that I'm dreading going outside to do my twenty mile run. I always do when it is so close to marathon day. The Chicago Marathon is a few days over a month away and peak week is approaching swiftly, which means my availability to the public is exceptionally minimal to zilch. Some of my friends and family members verbalize that they respect my lack of attendance, acknowledging that training is crucial during this period. Unfortunately, the actions after a few weeks show me something completely different.
Last year, I lost a handful of "friends" who felt as if I was blowing them off for not being around for them during their special events. Regardless of how thick my skin is, it's hard to be told by loved ones that you are a shit friend and family member. It doesn't help that I was already terrible at returning phone calls and I'm notorious for responding to a text message eight hours later if it's not in regards to business. The dreadful reality is that being in marathon training can make even the biggest people person like me seem like a loner.
Let me not sound like a Debbie Downer on this subject. I actually LOVE my solitude. As a mother, wife, family member and friend who tends to put everyone else's needs and concerns ahead of her own at times, it is refreshing to have 1 - 3 hours of STFU time. Sounds selfish? Well, I will not apologize for it. Without marathon training, most times that I am "alone", I am frequently contacted through messenger, by phone, cleaning something, wiping away tears from my nine year old's face or listening to a host of issues because I have been labeled as the "active listening" type. If I'm in front of you, know that we will talk forever and if I am really engulfed into a topic online, I type paragraphs of eternity vocalizing my opinion. To engulf myself into something that I truly love for a higher goal means the world to me.
Times like these make me exceptionally thankful for being a part of several running communities. If there's ever a moment that I want to link up with a group, I'll go to my Black Girls Run sisters for more than just a group run, but to relate. There are other times that I enjoy running with Runner's United NYC, which is a fairly new group full of badassery who links up with several groups in the area. Through running, I learned that I actually learned that I need that active silence and aside from yoga, running provides that for me.
I grew up being the kid that was very awkward, strange but sometimes intriguing. We could start talking about the constellation and end a conversation about life, lack of interest in celebrities and your nose hairs. As an adult, people tend to gravitate towards my eccentricity even more and it can be a bit overwhelming at moments. Being an explicit open book for over 3 years with the public has its plus and minuses. Without knowing it, I became an inspiration to many and a nuisance to others. All they heard about at one point was my running commitments, cycling adventures and something that the average joe would define as nothing short of neurotic. Simply put, you become the annoying running friend who has nothing else to talk about but your running obligations. Next thing you know, you are the unspoken pink elephant in the room that looks self absorbed. And guess what: You question if you are. I learned not to ask questions that I might not want the answer to at emotionally high times like these. Next thing I know, I'll be on a six hour verbal tangent about my passion and their lack of sensitivity. It's not worth it.
FINDING YOUR BALANCE
In efforts to not lose any folks of value to me, I made the decision to not be a fly by night fill in the blank here. When I say that I'm going to show up, I'm going to show up. Runners reading my blog might state that this is easier said than done. Yes and no, my dear friends. Here's what I suggest:
By now, if you are an over-sharer like me, people know running means the world to you. Just remember that these people mean the world to you too. Running is certainly a priority to me. My family and friends are higher on the food chain quite frankly. Finding that happy balance may take some time but it will come with consistency and practice. You may lose a few stragglers but the ones that you really want to hold onto will hopefully understand. All you can do is put your best foot forward to make a conscious, realistic effort on your part.
In a few hours, I have to do a twenty mile run that I pushed off. I am looking forward to it and seeking excuses not to do it all at the same time. "But don't you love running," you may ask. My answer is certainly yes and follow up commentary contradicting myself in the same breath.
Yes, I absolutely love this sport (and yes, I said SPORT). Running is how I let all of my crazy roam free into the pavement. At the same time, my mind wanders off into a far away land of fuckville at some point, regardless if it's 3 miles or 26 miles. At some point, it happens. Thankfully, I have learned how to actively meditate while running. For those who are unaware of my version of active meditation, I tend to focus completely on my breathing or a chant in my head. Hopefully, it's not too terrible to admit that my first year of running, I actively meditated to the phrase "Don't Drop That Thun, Thun, Thun." Well, it's already out there so now you know. Something about the rhythm kept my anxiety on low and when I thought about the entire song, it made me chuckle. Again, don't judge me or go ahead and side eye lightly. I tend to hate modern day rap music.
Running has been like therapy for me in a sense. Frankly, I am a mother, freelance entrepreneur and family woman who is constantly thinking about my finances, what meal I will make (because food is life) and the clusterfuck of events that I signed myself up for out of pure insanity. Countless times, I have friends and family members, mostly not part of the running community who asked me what do I think about while running.
TOP 30 RANDOM THOUGHTS
Before I go any further, get over the title. Yes. I know I'm a bit disturbing for associating a childhood reference to your menstrual. Wait, you didn't get it? Now you do. Glad that I got that cleared up.
Running on your menstrual cycle can be pain free or the biggest pain in your ass and abdomen quite literally. Unfortunately for me, I'm more or less the latter one most times. I have fibroids the size of Texas that have been occupying space in me like Christopher Columbus for 8 years now. I want to remove them but they either shift to very awkward locations (like the one that's putting pressure on my anus) or they pretend to be project roaches where they leave and when you think they're dead, they just keep coming right back. Sigh...but life goes on.
Perhaps you don't have these problems because you don't suffer from fibroids or endometriosis. It could be because you're a man. In that case, thank you male parts every morning except for when you chafe. But if you're a women who is still getting a menstrual cycle, you may have experienced anxiety at some point of your life as a runner when your little red riding hood comes knocking at your door. It took a lot of trial and error on my part on how to work around it. Perhaps these pointers might help some of my female readers out. Forgive me if I miss a few (or a lot):
Aside from these tidbits, running on a menstrual cycle isn't all that terrible. I can feel the side eyes and teeth sucking coming my direction right now. But honestly, I find that there are good and bad days regardless if my time of the month is approaching or not. In fact, I found that if I push through days before my menstrual at times, my cramps were significantly less than before. Every person is different though. I do notice that a week before my time of the month, running is sometimes a struggle. My breathing is a bit more labored than usual and it takes just a bit more oomph to get through. But you know what? I'm a runner regardless.
I saw this article on Runner's World: Running & Menstruation: Running in Cycles that was exceptionally helpful in breaking down the science of all of my ramble. I know all of what I just spoke on might creep a few of you guys out but it's natural. It happens. And regardless of how you feel about it, there's someone who legitimately have a question regarding such a topic. Three plus years ago, I was a bit embarrassed and ignorant about the topic so I relied on Google search. I don't feel ashamed anymore and when asked by a few female (and one male runner) about this, I can openly discuss it with confidence. Hopefully, your little red riding hood will not hinder you from doing what you love. Happy running!
Latoya Shauntay Snell
For my pretentious ass bio, check out the about me page but for anyone interested in who I really am, make me a good meal at your house and I'll tell you a dope ass story.
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