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.
I moved to Kingsborough Projects on November 12, 1992 in the wee hours of the morning. My baby sister just turned two and seven year old me felt like I lost a part of my identity in Bushwick. New school. New neighborhood. More developments. A different set of people and a new layer to earn: Oreo -- that''s what I was called for a bit. White on the inside; black on the outside -- Oreo is what some neighborhood kids thought of me thanks to my short stay at a private school. And in turn, I learned how to be "black." Say black shit. Listen to black shit. Couldn't dance worth damn so clearly that was white shit. And to some in my neighborhood, being poor was black shit. The last part was the easiest thing to do. As an adult, I cringe thinking about the boxes that I placed myself in just to belong.
My earliest memory of fitness related things in that neighborhood came from Thanksgiving and Christmas. My mom would go to the supermarket and buy everything that dad thought we needed to make dinner; he was a cook, barber, a construction worker or a damn hustler depending upon the day. On Thanksgiving Eve, he'd start around 7pm because Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune could be seen over my shoulder as I leaned back to wash dishes. We always started with a clean kitchen. We'd cook from the evening until Dad grew grouchy and this was always around 2 - 3AM.
To describe me and dad's complicated relationship is like watching my gym and strength training workouts and wondering why am I an ultra runner when I visually excel better as a power lifter. If you didn't get that analogy, don't stress -- we were ridiculously loyal but it was strong and other areas were questionable. My favorite part wasn't cooking; I loved going to the senior citizen building to hand off baked pies for a literal list of people who my dad adored in building 447. He'd make me sit down at every single apartment for at least 10 minutes, say hello and we'd listen to them talk about whatever. Sometimes I was cute enough to get five or ten bucks and sometimes my dad's mouth would be so reckless that he'd get kicked out. In hindsight, I realized Dad and I have a lot in common. We are sharp tongued, can be grouchy and have a strange sense of longing for a community but on our terms.
I didn't sign up for a Turkey Trot this year because I honestly forgot to pay for the one that I was interested in and too lazy to travel out of my borough for the accessible ones. There were a few that piqued my interest but my finances gave me the middle finger. And admittedly, I was nervous about attending two that I looked into because frankly, I'm mentally fatigued from the horrible comments at my expense.
Running in Turkey Trots over the year was fun because I was able to bring my real life family to my running community -- some of which I looked as wonderful extension of family. Community is something that I long for but isn't easy for me to connect with. I've been a 'weirdo' before it was cool all of my life and it's a bit strange to see how people think it's trending in this day and age. Almost like how people view plus size people and diversity. These things always been there but haven't been appreciated. I nervously say that I prefer to be a loner these days because it's safer than being in some of my familiar group settings. I don't stress about my running time or if someone will criticize my form. I don't have to worry about being diverted on the course or a banner being taken down. If I don't post my run on Strava, I don't have to worry if someone is going to accuse me of attaching my device to a small dog or say that my races are "questionable" because of some shit storm rumor. For a murderous holiday, I wanted to embody the only parts of this day that matter: Giving thanks, being around people who actually love me and peace.
When I'm at events, I physically pull out all of my race gear, nutritional needs and mentally collect my thoughts to channel through race day anxiety. Even with 46 races on my calendar, I still get nervous about each distance. These days, I've added on wearing a "fuck it" repellent for the criticisms that will surface after each event: "Too slow," "did she DNF this time" and my favorite "fat bitch." Despite knowing that I will not leave behind sports unless I truly felt like it, I wasn't mentally equipped to dealing with that type of nonsensical commentary today. In turn, I opted to get my fitness in at home by proxy of my kitchen. At this very moment, I am cooking a large menu for a maximum of ten people with enough food for twenty.
Dad passed away on January 19, 2009 -- one day before President Obama went into office. Thanksgiving hasn't been the same since he's been gone. For a few years, I hosted Thanksgiving at my house and made a small plate that I'd privately say a prayer to in honor of him. After that, it was hard to do. Doing Turkey Trots for the last few years started becoming therapeutic. In 2015, I remember crying around mile 3 when I heard a song he used to play from Isaac Hayes. It played around 1AM last night as I was building up the flavor in my cranberry sauce. I crashed on the sofa while watching a show on my DVR around 3AM and it left me feeling heavy. I thought about the different sections of Brooklyn that Dad had me walk around to visit different people. Those walks to used to feel long and no exaggeration, these were probably around 5 miles minimum; it was something we did every weekend until I grew into an embarrassed teenager. I realize that in some weird way, I was his 'tribe.' Even with his exceptionally round belly, that man could walk ANYWHERE and he would laugh while doing it. When he had his first stroke and heart attack, the doctors said he wouldn't be able to walk again. He must be the most stubborn man on the planet because anyone that saw 'Shaun' - a name he preferred to be called and I have no idea why - he would tell you three things:
After dinner, I am considering taking my husband up on his offer to do a short run in the neighborhood. He wants to break in these sneakers that I gave him a few weeks ago. If not, I'll cruise on my bike and see how far I'll allow it to take me.
I was reminded on Sunday after the Route 66 Marathon that you can do a marathon any day of the week with or without a race. The course is as long and short as you desire and the beauty is that you can create the finish line when you're ready. My Turkey Trot might happen this way for me tonight. And if my food baby decides to stay in until tomorrow morning, that's okay too. The Turkey Trot is just an event but my movement isn't just here for the holidays. I'm hoping that I can move through the grief and outside headaches; I'll remain patient with the process. In the meantime, Happy Turkey Day if you celebrate things like the corruption conducted in this country or like me and use it as a good excuse to connect with your tribe.
RIP Leon Richardson (My Dad): 12/25/1950 - 01/19/2009
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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