Yesterday, I received my 15th half marathon medal from completing the New York Road Runners' AirB&B Brooklyn Half Marathon. How do I feel? Amazing. Blessed. Ecstatic. How do I feel about the medal? Frankly, I really don't give a fuck.
Unofficially, November 28, 2013 was the very first "medal" that I received from a Turkey Trot 5K done in a local park in my neighborhood. My official first race was the NYRR's Joe Kleinerman 10K that took place on January 11, 2014. I didn't get a medal that day because it wasn't one of those races. Fuck the medal; I remember the overwhelming feelings that took over my body on that day. I was nervous, overdressed and with my Black Girls Run sisters. Despite it not being my first time running before, it was an impromptu race. I was training for the Michelob Half Marathon, which was two months away.
Pardon my terrible memory but I don't remember who talked me into signing up for a race so sporadically but this is my personality. My indulgence had me at a start line with overpriced leggings that itched & chafed my existence, a heavy ass sweater, a royal blue poncho and a Uniqlo cold gear shirt. In hindsight, I was begging to be severely dehydrated considering it was 54 degrees that day. I felt semi decent for the first couple of miles but mile 4 murdered me. Whoever came up with Cat Hill in Central Park should be dragged by the hair and punched severely...or at least this is what I thought in 2014. An influx of emotions overwhelmed me and I cried for an entire mile. I remember looking over at Ethel (my 5'7 warrior standing in the middle) who I met for the first time on the course and telling her that I was considering quitting. The loss of my dad hit me like a ton of bricks so bad on the course. The fog thickened, rain reduced and the mountains of clothing that I wore slowly were stripped. I was above throwing away clothing onto the course so I dragged everything. Ethel wouldn't let me quit and once I started talking with her, other Black Girls Run sisters wouldn't let me stay in my head for long. I reached a bit over five miles and not having a name for runner's high at the time, I felt this urge to run. The course went slightly down hill, then flattening out and before I knew it, I saw the 800 meter sign. My runner friend Ngozi shouted at me to keep moving. Because I'm a closet cry baby, I let my tears shower the finishing mat and then it was over. Who cares about not having a medal. I finished a race and I was surrounded by incredible strangers who I now call an extension of my family. 2014 was a great year.
Fast forward to yesterday's race, I woke up yesterday morning, groggy as shit from 4 hours of sleep. Randomly, I abandon my personal rules. Friday night, I went out for a drink with a few friends to celebrate a friend's birthday at Bowlmor Lanes. Typically, I can polish down a drink like a man coming home from prison looking to get six years of aggression out of his chest but 3 1/2 years of this racing shit has done a number on me. It was like my conscience needed to consult a frugal board of directors. I made it through a half pilsner glass. My pockets called me a pussy but my gut was happy that I was a square. I took a Lyft fairly close to the starting line. During my walk to my respective corral, I remembered the Joe Kleinerman from 2014 and instantly grew sad and overwhelmed. Aside from my ass playing Tetris for some odd reason, I couldn't put my finger on why I felt off.
I reached the J corral and saw a group of my Black Girls Run sisters. Some familiar faces like Ethel was there and a few new ones was huddled together in a crowd. As we wiggled through the crowd, listening to some of them speak, I started to question some of my reasons for being there. Ironically enough, aside from Spartan races, I've been doing this a bit with my road races. And like an Ike Turner smackdown, it hit me...
Almost three and a half years later, I realize that I am now running for nostalgia.
My first few miles, I was hovering between 11 1/2 - 12 minute miles. I took it easy as I saw some familiar faces cheering me alongside the course. The media attention lately has been astounding to me because it still feels surreal to have a stranger stop me for a picture. Around the two mile mark, I saw my running sister Olivia on the course. She was struggling with some Achilles pain and it reminded me that this sprain on my right side was being a stubborn pain in the ass. Mile three went by fairly quickly and a part of my mind drifted off into questioning my intentions of doing this race.
I know I love running and there's something whimsical about participating in races. Despite the joy I experience, I don't care much about the medals or personal time records as much anymore. A part of me really question if I actually about the medals after six months. I find myself getting geeked from typing out the experiences, laughing about some of the asinine things I see people do on the course or seeing dreadful race day photos where I cringe looking at strange moments that the photographer capture.
Once I entered Prospect Park, I saw another Black Girls Run sister who happens to be a new parent. We exchanged stories about motherhood, the balancing act of exercise, mental health and taking care of everything else that falls in between. I found myself reducing my pace as she stated that she didn't have the opportunity to train as efficiently as she desired. For some reason, hearing her say this helped me. I can hear my Nike + app giving me an alert that I was averaging a 13 minute mile. I didn't really care, especially since I was approaching the hill near Long Meadow (it might be called Nelly Hill or some harmless bullshit name that folks like to call it). After talking for two miles, I sped up downhill to exit the park and ran onto Ocean Parkway.
Around mile 7, my stomach invited Ralph McDaniels to play the Video Music Box intro on the back of my spine and ass. Some of you are like...huh, I don't get it. First of all bitch, I'm not THAT old and just in case you just don't know, look at the video clip below. Perhaps some of my NYC folks from the 80s will understand the reference now.
Before I knew it, there was this gas bubble that trumpeted from my booty and in a paranoid manner, I quickly scanned the course suspiciously. Nobody should smell such a vile thing. My mind set shifted once again. Fuck the medal; where's the goddamn toilet? As if you haven't read it from me before, I fear dropping a deuce on the course. If you haven't, take a moment to read my scribe about my sentiments about the Gingerbread Man or runner's trots.
Clenching my butt hole, I once again slowed down my pace, desperately searching for a respectable port-a-potty with tissue and it was like I came across nothing but crime scenes. Guess who's gonna seal their asshole shut like a WuTang track for six miles? You guessed it right folks.
Mile 9, I heard a grumbling older lady cursing out loud, awaiting for the race to be over. She made me chuckle for five minutes until I glanced over and saw a new runner. Initially, I was going to let her have her moment. Sometimes, people can speak to you exceptionally loud in their silence. Her cheeks were flushed and the rain started to kick in again. After slowing down my pace, I grew a bit concerned and asked her if she needed any help.
For the sake of this blog, I'll call her Lisa. Lisa appeared to be in her mid 20s and she told me that she felt like she might have taken on this race too soon. As I listened to her for a half mile, I was convinced that it was the runner's wall swiftly approaching. The runner's wall is a mental and physical breakdown that a lot of people encounter on the course. We reached mile 11 and I talked her into taking a cup of water. I was able to teach her how to hold onto run and drink water while moving. Sounds basic for most people but it's really not at times. The key is to fold the cup to an angle like a spout and if the rest of it splashes on your face, who cares. She kept apologizing and told me that I could move on without her. I assured her that I was in no rush and we pushed it for another mile together. At times, we grew silent, focusing on the breath and other times, I rambled about my Joe Kleinerman 10K and the mental blocks that overwhelmed me. By mile 12, I saw a familiar look on her face and her feet picked up. I knew it was my time to part ways. At this point, I would be slowing her down. She came across the runner's high whilst I wasn't trying to release the runner's poop. In my heart, I know she crossed the finish line.
When I hit the 800 meter mark, I felt like a weight was lifted and I started to pick up pace. At 400 meters, I really didn't give a damn about the medal anymore. I unlocked my achievement steps before the finish line. After a few years of searching for it, I was reminded again why I run. One of the volunteers put the medal around my neck and I received my post race bag. Alas, the Brooklyn Half Marathon was done. I saw Olivia again standing on the sidelines, hugged her and asked her where was the nearest toilet.
HELPFUL TIP: At the end of the race, most of the port-a-potties will be filled with fecal matter on the seats or tissue will be gone from some of the cleaner ones. Take a few more steps near the ending ones and you might have more luck on a cleaner toilet. After 50+ races, you learn fairly quickly. Plus, run with wet wipes or tissue. You're welcome!
I didn't shit myself! Really, this was the first thought that came to mind.
Shortly after, my husband and son came to Coney Island and we had the opportunity to watch my son's Youth Boardwalk race. I didn't calculate the time nor did I care. It was refreshing to see him smile in excitement. Whatever innocence that I lost from being on the pavement, my son gained. Seeing his smile radiate like a Christmas tree was all I needed.
We celebrated to White Castle cheeseburgers, a cold trip on the unreliable transit system, a mile walk back to Abu's Bakery for a cinnamon bun and banana pudding, another trip for hot wings, a coffee at Dunkin Donuts and eventually home. Fuck you. We earned it. But seriously, I learned in my first year that I don't run for the medals, despite how cool some of the designs can be. I run for the joy, the freedom and ability to find my balance of being alone and unified at the same damn time. I hope that makes sense for some of you. I'm always encouraging folks to find their happy, even if it's not in running or sports but I needed to remind myself too. Today's my day off. I'll be making a waffle for lunch. Happy trails.
Word! I loved all of this. Thank you for your honesty. You have never failed to make me smile, laugh out loud, cry or think about another point of view. I love your food porn and your point of view - keep running, or not, but I know you will keep on keeping on.
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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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