In a perfect world, we would all be viewed as one race -- but we're far from perfect. Discussing race politics and safety, especially in fitness, is long overdue.
Becoming a traveling athlete changed my entire perspective of the world. I am still learning new things on this journey. I transformed from a person exploring ways to get my health back in order to becoming an accidental activist by sharing some of my experiences as an endurance runner. In a matter of a year, I learned the fundamentals on how to run, breathe, open up my stride and all of the technical bells and whistles. Thoroughly engulfed myself into the sport so much that I pushed past my fear of flying and traveled to other states; sometimes I left the country for the love of new adventures and food. Most times I navigate the world solo. This act is looked at as admirable, brave and inspiring; truthfully I am always excited, nervous and cautious. Close friends and family express their fears to me on a regular basis; I tend to brush it off but it's not because I don't hear them. I'm a strong believer that nervous and scary energy will attract scarier situations faster. Most people reduced down their rambles to "have fun", "bring back a key chain", "take pictures for me" and "be safe." People like my husband and my mother almost always let me know their fears, even when it's not verbally expressed. Perhaps you think I'm nervous about traveling solo as a woman -- sometimes but not that much these days. At times, our conversations delve into race, perceptions and other people's reactions to "fears." And like clockwork, I tend to pause, breathe and press forward but I never take these conversations lightly.
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.
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:
If no forms of social or mainstream media existed, I think we wouldn't look for imagery of an athlete; we would just be one.
I haven't left my home since the NYRR 60K. Yesterday, I managed to get dressed for the gym, walked to my front door and turned back around. I curled up with a bowl of cereal, watched a video and felt like a failure. After two anxiety attacks between 6PM and 6AM, I practiced a failed attempt of corpse pose without yoga until 10AM -- thank you freelancing. Every time I go through an episode, I remind myself to question what triggered the anxiety. This time I allowed a bunch of insecure fuckers to make me question if I have what it takes to be an athlete. Typically I don't dwell on those things but I do acknowledge when the noise grows. I can usually link it to a source; this incident stemmed from my last two posts since returning back to this space. A few minutes ago, I made myself a glass of shut the fuck up to go with my coffee and thought out loud: What exactly is an athlete. If you can tolerate some non politically correct commentary, grab a bottle of Tequila and take a shot with me.
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.
How to Gracefully DNF Races
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.
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?
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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