A deep dive into my love and hate for the running community.
Sometimes I feel as if I’m a runner with Stockholm’s Syndrome. I’m deeply infatuated and in love with a sport and community that leaves me feeling invigorated, inspired and broken. My limbs gleefully seize up from each extension; my thick legs reverberate the sounds of an internal protest – this is oftentimes welcomed and expected. I didn’t account for the sounds of my peers telling me that I am not wanted here or how my body is a force of repulsion. My thoughts are not always welcomed in spaces that I once considered safe. I don’t know exactly when I shifted from being a person once invited to join a collective of asphalt clapping runners to being a nuisance in the community but I know how it made me feel once I acknowledged the shift. Despite my treks through unfamiliar terrains, this void feels foreign. These days, I don’t find solace being in a group with like-minded strangers. I learned how to run alone and at times, I find it hard to muster the courage to not feel broken in my solitude.
Battling a reproductive condition can feel isolating. Pressing through my athletic adventures with endometriosis is humbling, exhausting and a test of my mental grit.
Signing up for a virtual duathlon almost a week ago seem like a good idea until my menstrual roughly cleared its throat Saturday morning. I was on day two and shamefully I woke up questioning if it was going to happen. This morning's wake up call stemmed from a burning sensation that rushed from my vagina, past my rectum and traveled up the lower parts of my back. My hands and face are slightly swollen and feet grew angry once touching the cold laminated wood floors in my bedroom. Without hesitation, I pulled back my covers while my husband was nuzzled inside and checked the white sheets -- there's no trace of my pain on the linen today. While wobbling past a hairball gift wrapped in my hallway from my cat, I started seeing doubles on the way to the bathroom. My pride wouldn't let me ask for help even though my husband would understand. Before sitting down, I checked out my blue and black checkered pajamas and felt defeated; they were not as fortunate as my sheets. I spent 45 minutes in the bathroom asking myself if doing a virtual duathlon during this pandemic and an endometriosis flare is even possible. After showering off, I reminded myself that this is not unfamiliar territory. I took two acetaminophen, allowed my husband to supervise as I made old fashioned oatmeal and glanced at my road bike on the kickstand. My virtual duathlon happened but not for a number of hours.
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 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.
My first duathlon is tomorrow and first raw open powerlifting competition is in a week -- no pressure?
Tomorrow morning, I will be in Central Park like most of my races but this one will be different. I'm doing my first duathlon. Maybe you think that I said TRIATHLON; nope -- duathlon. For anyone who isn't familiar with the term, a duathlon is a multi sport event that's typically comprised of running and cycling. Despite my loving pseudonym Running Fat Chef, I am a neurotic little adventurer who enjoys a good athletic challenge that makes my uncoordinated rhythmless nation body twinkle. And if I didn't give myself enough pressure, I quite literally woke up one morning and expressed interest in power lifting "one day" to a power lifting bad ass by the name of Morit Summers. Within a few days, I woke up freshly signed up for the Iron Maiden's Raw Open with only seven weeks to train versus most people's ten to fourteen weeks. Maybe I forgot to mention that these events are literally six days apart AND I have about 10 - 20 road and trail running events left on my calendar. I think it's safe to say that I'm a bit impulsive and extreme. This admirable quality has me shitting bricks as I nurse myself in Vicks Vapor Rub and a bunch of CBD based products from iKOR Labs because I'm sick. It's only been a week since I finished the Hood to Coast Relay. No pressure -- no pressure at all kids. Since I'll be limited in my fitness after Sunday, I'll blurb about my ridiculous anxieties about power lifting on another day.
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.
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.
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