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.
Addressing the pink elephant in the room requires for me to admit that I've abandoned new entries on Running Fat Chef since May 2020 and it was not about a lighthearted adventure in the outdoors. I spoke about racial inequality, being profiled while on the run, allyship and a deep dive exploration on what happens when everyone forgets Black struggle until it's convenient. Alas, we've approached the cusp of Black History Month -- a mere 28 or sometimes 29 days where people botch up Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes to make themselves appear woke AF while not paying homage to Black people's stolen AAVE - African American Vernacular English - that White people once weaponized as Ebonics. But here's one for you: If you don't know me nor earned me in my everyday life, let's start with not calling me "sis." And before you start celebrating living Black athletes on your next "list of inspiring Black athletes to follow" or reminding me that today is Ted Corbitt's birthday then demanding me to make a performative post on social media like your imagination expect me to do, I'd rather stay true to myself by flexing some viewpoints that I've vocalized but refrained from writing on here for damn near eight months.
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.
"I felt like a walking contradiction fueling people in the restaurant industry and restricting myself down to 1200 calories daily while training for a marathon. I envied people for enjoying the dishes I created."
Public speaking jades you a bit. It makes you feel like you've told the same story thousands of times and for me, I worry if I sound rehearsed or if I am fit to tell my story -- what's poppin' imposter syndrome. But when those thoughts creep into my head, I remind myself that there is someone who doesn't know my story and it may help another. It's easy to get wrapped up in this idea that we need to possess a certain look or feel to be qualified to talk to others; I am reminded daily that most of us are struggling together and through open communication comes healing.
Last Sunday, I traveled to the University of Alaska Fairbanks to speak about one of those painful topics that I don't think I will ever be fully comfortable discussing: My battle with an eating disorder. Contrary to the nonsensical commentary that's thrown my way, I do not have a problem with overeating; i am a work in progress from an anorexia nervosa diagnosis in 2015. When I think about the discussions held from Monday to Wednesday, I realize how many people walk around with this perception that eating disorders have a stereotypical look and only stemmed from this desire to look pretty. I can attest this was not my case. And the way that most public service announcements post up advertisements about the uncomfortable topic, I don't see a version of me in most places. It is not typical to see a black, plus size woman in athletic clothing as one of these people who might be afflicted by an eating disorder.
To close out National Eating Disorder Association week - or otherwise hashtagged #NEDAweek - I'll dissect my bullshit relationship with anorexia and how the fitness industry helped and hindered me.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sometimes it's not as simple as deleting a comment or blocking a person. When someone takes the time to write a hurtful message, they know EXACTLY what they're doing.
The internet is a gift and curse to many. Through social media, I literally went from being a novice athlete who worked out for fun to being sponsored and partnered up with some dynamic companies. And while I don't regret posting up my regimen, sharing highlights of my day through ASMR style cooking videos and occasional rants here and there, know that it's not as glamorous as it appears. In fact, I recently jumped up close to a thousand followers in the last 36 hours at the expense of being a target of heckling on social media. Oftentimes I am conflicted on calling people out, turning the other cheek or being vulnerable about the degrees of hurtful exchanges produced by strangers who hate me for breathing.
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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