COVID-19 can make you a bit paranoid and of course, sick. Race cancellations and a wave of paranoia might have you questioning your athleticism or reasons why you move. Remain resilient during this pandemic by revising your goals.
Admittedly, I have trust issues with my entire calendar at this moment. Several races were cancelled and I've been playing it by ear with the swimming facility that I use. As of this morning, I lost 4 paid gigs and nervous about booking any flights until the dates are closer -- and who knows if I'll have the money to finance it by these dates. At the moment, COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on the entire world and people have justified reasons to be nervous. Watching how organized events start to unravel over the course of a few weeks, my feelings shifted from disappointed to numbness. Within a month, a great chunk of my scheduled races are gone: Tokyo Marathon, New York City Half Marathon, a change of date for The Love Run and my Hot Chocolate 15K in Philadelphia is officially a virtual run. With the exception of the Tokyo Marathon, I feel like all of these places handled it the best way that they possibly could -- I'll be kind and reserve my feelings since we're kinda going through a pandemic.
Surely people are hurt from the change in events and this goes well beyond running. New York City feels eerie from the lack of people populating the gym or local pool. Restaurants are thinning particularly Asian establishments -- thanks xenophobia. Pictures of Times Square surfacing the internet are being compared to every horror movie or crazy book known to man. And because I'm a fitness aficionado, I am loaded with questions about what I will do to press forward. After all, fitness is not just something that I do for fun. I am a freelancer who uses her platform to speak about these adventures -- which requires for you to be around people. At this moment, my social media accounts are bogged down with concerns about their training going to the wayside to questioning how will people maintain their marbles as the world goes COVID-19 crazy.
For International Women's Day, I want to honor my strengths by giving myself a bit more credit and permission to relax. As women, we're always expected to wear our capes for everyone except ourselves.
When is the first time you ever heard about International Women's Day or actually gave a damn? Be honest -- it's only been a handful of years for me. You can add this onto the list of things that I didn't know or acknowledge more than three seconds like the term "intersectionality," "microaggressions" and even a movement that people tend to associate me with: Body Positive. Perhaps I wasn't aware because I gave up my super woke stage after having my son. Or maybe I started giving more of a damn about worldly issues once I gave my life a second chance in 2013. Whatever and whenever it happened, I'm glad to know what it is now.
And for those who are too scared to ask or Google what International Women's Day may be, I did the search on Wikipedia for you -- you're welcome.
By the time you read this, you might be bogged down with a crap ton of messages about the gender wage gap or how women are reduced down to their looks; I want to focus my conversation on what it means to me and how sports forced me to think twice about this day.
Learning that a woman stated that I was asking to be raped in my "dangerous neighborhood" simply for running at night time made me sick to my stomach. I placed my phone on airplane mode and tried to let go of my frustrations.
NOTE: SENSITIVE COMMENTARY IS LOADED THROUGH THIS ENTIRE BLOG ABOUT SEXUAL ASSAULT AND PHYSICAL HARM.
Embarking on this new career changed up a lot of my fitness routines. You would think that because you're in the sports industry, this means that you would have more time to focus on your personal health. Actually, quite the opposite can happen especially when you are an entrepreneur like I am. At one point, my times for working out were pretty predictable but these days not so much.
As a road and trail runner, I am not easily rattled by the thoughts of running solo -- particularly at night or during the wee hours of the morning before the break of light. Oftentimes I hear commentary from people who raise concern but I was pretty disturbed by some comments that came my way via inbox about my nighttime musings. Without disclosing the person or to go into other details, several followers notified me about a woman ranting that I was going to 'get raped' for running around late hours of night. Other things were mentioned as to elude that I should run with a male companion and even reaching with a wild attempt to weaponize my own words from media interviews describing my "dangerous neighborhood," hinting that I am too nonchalant about moving through the NYC streets familiar to me.
Initially it filled me with anger but I realize that there's a lot of people who feel this way -- and frankly it frustrates me to such a high level that these sort of scare tactics stop people from night running especially as a woman. A few months ago, I partnered up with HOKA ONE ONE, Runner's World and Garmin about street harassment that I experienced during the 2017 New York City Marathon. Fortunately I was not catcalled during this instance but was heckled from the sidelines by a spectator who didn't feel I was suitable nor fit to run a marathon. Speaking out about this occurrence gave me a lot of media attention but I am no stranger to unwanted commentary; I'm far from alone in this instance.
In fact, I am subjected to sexual harassment in my everyday life on a regular basis and you know what: It doesn't wait for the late hours to commence. I am a lot more level headed than years before and wanted to articulate my thoughts in a rational manner. The best way that I know how to do this is in the form of a letter -- here it goes:
Change is rarely embraced. If people were truly that open, we would not have wars trying to preserve old shit like traditions.
Addressing the Pink Elephant: Where Did You Go?
After spending four days in Fairbanks, Alaska and experiencing below twenty something degrees for the first time, I was reminded by my messy desktop that the other parts of my reality awaited me: Hate Mail. Although this is nothing that anyone should brag about, I can say that I have a metaphorical trophy the size of Texas worth of disturbing comments -- so much so that I've abandoned this very open ended diary for months at a time. It's hard picking up the pen or clicking away at a keyboard when your inspiration for blurbing shifts from wanting to talk about your many successes and failures without censorship to flicking off comments from yet another person who hates you. These calluses are so thick that I rarely feel the cuts anymore. Some would say that I am maturing; I think I am normalizing absurdity; perhaps I will know the answer to that in another decade.
The positives and negatives of being so visible and transparent about your adventures is knowing that with the power of anonymity gifted from the internet means you are opening yourself up to even more unsolicited advice and harassment -- even if you know who, what and where the source comes from. It's more of a shit show when people expect you to get over it because it's under the guise of "knowing what you signed up for" or it's easy for others to speak on something that they don't have to experience on a daily basis. In my worse experiences, I've been physically approached with more than just verbal lashings and vitriol. If you ever find yourself in my reality, I want to reassure you that you're not alone and there's nothing okay about these situations. Do whatever you need to do to protect yourself at the moment and when safe, report it in to the proper legal channels. At the end of this blurb, you can find a small list of resources that may be helpful for you.
I am one of those people who dedicate my long runs to my dad because I want to hear him tell me to keep moving. Oftentimes he lovingly speaks to me via F bombs.
It's been two weeks since my last race for the year. Instead of opting for the marathon distance, I thought out loud one week prior to the race: "Eh, I kinda did a lot this year and I'm mentally tired. Maybe the world won't hate me for dropping down to a half distance." After a bit of research, I swapped some gear out of my suitcase and prepared for my last 2019 adventure -- the Dallas Half Marathon. But before you think this is another race report, it isn't. Instead, this is an ode to one of the people who pushed me through my six years of running and in life, particularly this year: My dad. I'll put up a race report on another date.
If I signed up for a Turkey Trot this year, maybe I could replace this void with impostor syndrome. Instead, I opted to make dinner.
I didn't sign up for a Turkey Trot this year -- no big deal.
In October 2013, I went from looking at running as something that maniacs do for shits and giggles to something that I love and hate equally. I don't have a runner's background like some of my counterparts. In fact, I was the girl who grew up not knowing how to ride a bike, swim, never received formal lessons on double dutch (even though in seventh grade, a few girls taught me on the fly and I could only jump for speed) and don't even ask about makeup or hair. I watched boxing with my father with my dad when the other girls didn't think it was cool. Football was my jam for a bit until I realized a lot of people were fanatics and would end friendships over sports. And in ways, I revisit that feeling with running these days, pushing me to be an extroverted loner more than I care to admit. 2013 - 2018 me was psyched for a Turkey Trot Run. I would recruit every friend and drag my son and husband to the race; this year my mother and sister asked me to cook and it was the most normal thing I did all year.
By mile 16, I wrote an irrational list of things I hated which included cold air touching my face and the person who made me laugh leading me to pee lightly on myself.
Any person who reads enough ramblings from me will notice that I love running no more than 4 times a week. On the fifth day, I want to murder everything moving. Despite it all, I find myself signing up for races at 2AM like I'm on QVC because that's how I avoid midnight snacks these days. I'm almost certain this is how I signed up for the New York Road Runners' Knickerbocker 60K. Somehow I managed to develop amnesia for the third time and thought running 37.2 miles two weeks after the New York City Marathon was a GREAT idea. If I could complete my first 100K last year six days before the NYC Marathon and do this race two weeks after, what could possibly go wrong this year? Every. Single. Thing.
Most people sign up for races with a 90 percent certainty that they will finish; I'm not most people.
If it feels like it's been a long time since I've wrote anything consistent here, that would be painfully accurate. There's not one particular reason that I can give you but I can throw out a few:
Through one on one interactions with people in the running community and with loved ones reminded me about the reasons why I constructed this crazy website Running Fat Chef and it damn sure wasn't for internet fame. I truly love blurbing about the highs, lows, unstable moments and adventure that comes with fitness, particularly running. By having a honest heart to heart with myself, I buried myself under a blanket, wrote down a list with my insecurities, rolled it into a shape of a blunt and decided to say "fuck all of that shit-- I'm writing again."
With that said, let's talk about my 2019 highs and lows before the year is out -- and let's start with my DNFs.
Consistency is like the "fluffer" on a porn set and motivation is the star who gets all of the credit.
For the record, I hate the word motivation 5 out of the 7 days of the week.
"What keeps you motivated?"
"I'm inspired to be an athlete but I don't have motivation like you do."
Fuck motivation; be consistent. And when you cannot be consistent, reflect. In the running community and beyond, people toss around motivation like its something you can buy at the corner store from Papi. Go ahead-- pick up that can of fleeting motivation next to the Skittles and Starbursts but tell me how that scam works. If I could buy it on the shelf tomorrow, I'd return that can of shit back and ask for a refund. Just like anything you want in life, you have to earn it and the road to success is not a straight line.
When life hasn't told you enough that you're not shit, literary publications are asking you to hold its beer.
As a plus size athlete, fatphobic comments run steadily like water. And being a black woman, I have enough traumatic stories to keep you drunk for an entire month. Bring the Johnny Walker and we could have a marvelous party in self pity -- but I prefer to not indulge. Instead, I love running or doing gym bro shit. Scaring the shit out of my 62 year old mom as I tell her about traveling to another trail in an affluent community that will try to search my locs as if I'm holding onto a special strain of marijuana is more of my thing. I know how harshly the world views me and others who share some sort of attribute that comes with living in this body -- and the media knows it too. Since they're so knowledgeable about it, these so called 'professional' publications and corporate companies found gimmicky ways of generating buzz. This weeks' anal chafing came from an opinion piece written by Tanya Gold posted in The Telegraph -- and I'd be dipped in hushpuppy battered shit if I'm posting a link on here.
For weeks, I woke up feeling like I was going through the seven stages of grieving by proxy of the internet. People love what you do until they realize the act has a pulse.
Before I place another blurb on here, I need to trim the excess garbage that's been clouding my ability to write freely for over two months. Running Fat Chef is a food and fitness blog ran by an individual -- Me. At times, I think people look at a space that I created initially as an open journal and think of it as a business venture. Whilst I would love to say something metaphorical and inspiring like 'look at yourself as the most profitable asset in your possession', this is not the case. This space evolved from a simple plea from multiple friends seeing me elaborate on things in an unadulterated, colorful manner, urging me to look beyond social media to opening up my virtual home to thousands of people -- and I am thankful for all of you, even the ones who serve as unnecessary watchdogs or simply watch to wait for my next 'failure.'
Through this space, I managed to talk about my personal adventures and observations of how people try their best to navigate through spaces that aren't open to people like me:
I'm as skeptical as a person comes -- I don't believe in crystal balls and at times, I question if humanity truly exists but it doesn't stop me from trying to preserve the bit of magic that I have within me nor pretend to have a blind eye to the compassion, warmth and love that I receive from thousands of people I possibly may never meet. When I started this blog and encountered my first deliberate piece of hate mail, I questioned 'why me' and secondly, 'why do they hate US so much' referring to millions of people who fit into the census form of the other box in relation to our body types or fitness ability.
My inbox is typically filled with questions about marathon training but I traded them off for 'WTF is an ultra marathon and who would want to do such a terrible thing' -- I do but maybe I'm nuts.
How many of you found yourself sucked into the world of marathon training because someone said something like "if you can do XX, you can be a marathoner?" Yep -- that's definitely how I got sucked into this vortex called marathon training. I have to admit that I cannot blame anyone for engulfing into ultra marathons. While training for my first NYC Marathon in 2015 - second marathon to the Rock n Roll DC - I started going taper crazy and signed up for the New York Road Runners' 60K that took place two weeks later. In hindsight, I realized I must've lost my fucking mind and purged all of my happy pill after mile 29 inside of a port-a-potty somewhere around loop 6. You have no idea how much you hate life, happy spectators enabling your neurotic addiction to medals and how broth tastes like unicorn tears after experiencing sodium deficiency until you do one of these things. Long story short, I made it across that finish line that day. I came in at 9 hours, 47 minutes and 22 seconds and vowed to never touch one of these things again in life. Like all endurance runners, we're full of shit when we're not letting it off into the wilderness or some random café. Most people know about marathons but what the hell is an ultra marathon -- and why would I even want to do it?
I never know what kind of day it'll be. Living with a chronic illness and choosing an intense sport like running requires a lot of pep talks, especially when your body is screaming at you to quit.
My mind and body has kept me captive for the last week. Every time I try to escape this sedentary state, I'm back on my sofa or working on my computer for hours for assignments. For the last week, I gave myself a full blown pep talk of what I'm going to do and how I'm going to do it. One morning I forgot to set my alarm and it was already 9AM - which is ridiculously late for me - and another day, I woke up at 5AM with clothes laid out but greeted to brutal temperatures and an aching body. It feels as if the world is giving me an assortment of excuses to not leave my house. I have the Humana Rock n Roll New Orleans in a few weeks, just purchased my tickets and I don't feel prepared at all.
Wake up. Brush my teeth. Wash my face. Take a shower. Get dressed. Sign up for 10 races. Grab a coffee. Freak out. Ask myself WTF did I just do. Pour Devil's Springs Vodka into coffee. Rinse, wash, repeat.
I've done my share of relatively dumb shit -- I'm not sure if I'd count my race calendar as one. To people who aren't ultra runners or enjoy the stark feeling of dancing with death by blisters may look at me rather strange. After fixing up this website to make it look like an adult who cares about their life actually blurbs here, I realized that I signed up for a shit load of races this year -- some that's not even on the website calendar as of yet. I'm looking at a minimum of ten marathons, a 50 miler, one TransRockies Run that total 120 miles with a 20K climb over the course of six days and yeah, I'm massaging the thought of signing up for a 100 miler. Perhaps I did fall short on a special sort of stupid but I love it. It doesn't stop me from asking myself what the fuck did I just sign up for each and every time.
Do you find yourself muttering expletives at the person running an 8 minute pace smiling, eating a FroYo at mile 24? A sudden urge to lace their lace their fuel with scotch bonnet? OK hater -- I relate and see you.
When I officially started training for my first race, the Michelob 13.1 series in Queens, I remember not knowing what the hell I was doing. My chest burned after three minutes of running and the only thing that kept me going was the idea of losing out on the race entry fee. Feel free to judge my cheap ways because I know that I'm not alone in this sentiment. One unusually warm winter morning, I went to Boys and Girls track feeling defeated and reducing my run down to a speed walk. This long limbed, Shaun T looking extra galloped in front of me. Her skin looked like rich dark chocolate and in my mind, her sweat probably tasted like a box of Girl Scout Cookies --and no I wasn't checking her out (that much). I remember her because she did two and a half loops to my one loop. She smiled at me on her fourth time around and even said good morning as I walked off the track pissed.
'Fuck her for being able to sing while running that quickly.' I actually said this out loud when I stopped the timer on my Runkeeper app. I didn't hate her but she represented what I didn't have at the time: Endurance, speed and a personal peace with running. I was the Salt Bae of hater's anonymous. In hindsight, I know that she wasn't my real problem.
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.
If you want to donate to my one woman operation, please feel free to donate below. All funds will help me keep the blog running smoothly.