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.
From 200 Miles in 2 Months to Struggling with 13.1
In 2003, while attending LaGuardia Community College, I changed my major from the Physical Therapy Assistant track to Accounting. At a City University of New York two year program (CUNY), programs like physical therapy, occupational therapy and a few others are exceptionally competitive. When I didn't make it into one of ninety slots, I changed my major to accounting. People thought I was really good at calculating things and I guess that's enough to take this on as a career. During this time, I was juggling two full time jobs and took on a full schedule; financial aid wouldn't cover if I was a part time student. Somewhere around this time, I couldn't fit sleep into my schedule. Every semester I'd choose two days of the week strictly to attending class, which gave me no days off. And yes, I eventually crashed and burned -- no surprise there. But while taking an accounting course, my adjunct professor couldn't help but notice that I would doze off during his course. When he would sporadically call on me, he would smirk when I knew the answers to his questions. At the end of class, he pulled me to the side and questioned my sleeping habits and why I chose this major. Every reason that I named didn't involve me. In short, he gave me some of the most life-changing advice in my life. I remember his intensely brown eyes cutting through me and saying:
"In business, you're as good as the last thing you done. You can do eight great things and if the ninth happens to be shit, people will remember the last one, dismissing the others. If you're going to commit to something, do it because you're passionate. Do it because you'll love it even on the worst days. If you do it for money or someone else's desires, you'll fail. It'll only make you bitter. Just because you're good at something doesn't mean you're great at it."
He also heavily suggested that I change my major because he thought I had too much personality for cost accounting -- well, whenever I was awake in class. I changed my major that afternoon. In fact, I changed my major a total of six times and never finished my college degree. Perhaps I'll go back when I have the money one day; it's a personal goal to get my photography degree.
You may ask what the hell does any of this have to do with running. Well, at this very moment, I mentally feel strained and my body is starting to regulate again. Unfortunately my ego is exceptionally bruised. As I write this post, I want nothing but to take off my second fitness gear look of the day and say fuck it. The only thing that's forcing me to keep it on are my professor's words. What can I say: I'm a sucker for great quotes and wise statements.
I LOVE running and I feel invigorated when I go to the gym but I fucking hate my chronic conditions. When I think back to all of my accomplishments from a few months ago, it makes me sad that I couldn't polish off two of my five miles outside today. I managed to finish the Javelina Jundred 100K and do the NYC Marathon just a week apart. I traveled to different states to beat down the trails. Today, my endometriosis and sciatica decided to flare up and I was forced to turn around -- it's a bunch of bullshit.
On Sunday I was set to do my first half marathon of the year -- the Fred Lebow Half Marathon. Temperatures in NYC was dancing in the teens and eventually dropped to single digits. That morning, I woke up to the sounds of rain beating down on my brownstone's skylight. Typically I love the sound of it but this was reminiscent of another barrier set in front of me. Although I wanted to go back to bed, I created a drop off bag for gear check to change into a clean outfit and then headed out the door. When I made it to the train station, the MTA quickly told me I'd be going nowhere; this train stayed in the station for 15 minutes and I gave up. As if it wasn't already a hurdle with the weather, my seasonal depression has been kicking my ass all week. In my heart, I wanted to do a 13.1 on my own. Between work and distractions, by the time I got redressed to go outside, the temperatures and wind was so brutal that I didn't think it was safe to go outdoors.
Fast-forwarding to today, I woke up tired of being held back by my mental and physical gripes. I knew the hardest part would be taking a walk outside of my house. Instead of making breakfast, I opted to get food from my local bodega for a classic NYC staple: Baconeggandcheese -- you have to say it as one word or else us New York City folks will look at you kinda funny. I started feeling a bit better and motivated to go for a run.
After eating, watching a bit of television to clear my mind and lacing up my sneakers, I was ready to battle the steady flow of rain. I took a selfie, hit my Garmin and started with running at a scaled back pace to warm up my body. My ankles were stiff, calves burning a bit but I ignored signs of a flare up. Less than ten minutes into my run, I felt this violent rupture in my stomach. My husband's hoodie was already drenched from the downpour and my cat-eared headphones were blaring songs from listening to Gorrilaz. I tried to ignore the feeling until a sharp pain shot down my spine and infiltrated through my toes. As I hit the mile point, my bowels felt like they were going to slice a new exit from my body. I hit my Garmin and cringed as Strava picked up my results: 1.3 miles, 17ish minute mile. Not wanting to risk an accident, I took a very slow walk home in the rain feeling irritated and defeated.
Today's Setbacks and Tomorrow's Possibilities
Am I worried about my marathon in a few weeks? Absolutely. I will be heading out there and according to my calendar, my Little Red Riding Hood will be waiting for me at the door a day after the race. I don't have the mileage on my feet that I was supposed to have and whilst this isn't my first marathon, I take each event seriously. It's the most frustrating thing in the world to succumb to pain. Frankly, it's the biggest heckler that I have in my life. If it was as easy as deleting and blocking the bullshit called my body, I would -- but I cannot do this.
Knowing this certainty, I remind myself of my professor's words. 'Just because you're good at something doesn't mean that you're great at it...' I did a lot of shit that I was good at in my life but lacked a great depth of passion for it. Running, cycling, fitness -- it's all become a form of breathing for me. When I'm stripped from the option, you cannot help but feel bitter. I don't want to trade it in for something else because I am tired of doing safe shit that I'm 'good' at doing. Running scares me each time I hit the pavement. I'm not trying to be some poster child for people with disabilities or seeking bragging rights for voraciously waving around my #fatrunner hashtag at the end of a selfie but because I crave giving my diagnoses the middle finger each time I move. I love exploring my city (and many others) like a tourist. I love defying the odds and boundaries that were set in front of me years ago when I was told that I wouldn't even be able to sweep the floors in my own house. And this is why I'm frustrated.
I look at the finisher's medals and bibs on my wall each day knowing that those items are cool but not what brings me to the pavement or a complicated trail. I still have the gift of mobility. Some days like today leave me feeling less than and wanting to swap out my body with someone else's but I don't know their struggle. I have to remind myself to not desire what someone else has and to trust my own journey. Being patient with my body is a daily challenge; I'm listening to it but it doesn't mean that I don't harbor a great deal of anxiety with my reality.
As my former chef instructor Margot Olshan stated to me in school -- 'keep your eyes on your knife and keep rocking.' If I shifted her literal statement into the metaphorical sense, I'll loosely translate it to my fitness endeavors. I suppose I have to lace my shoes up and keep moving. My fears are very real and not irrational but I cannot allow it to paralyze me. I suppose I have to keep on rocking. I think I'm going to try going for a run tonight or at the very least, hit the gym. And if I don't, there's tomorrow. The Rock n Roll New Orleans Marathon and Tokyo Marathon is just a month or so away. I'm scheduled for a host of endurance events this year. Onward and upward -- see you on the pavement.
If you want to save some coins at the Rite Aid 2019 Cleveland Marathon for any distance or challenge series, use this fancy coupon code: LS2019. See you there.
I just read your article on Huffpo. You are lovely. Your athletic accomplishments are an inspiration. Anyone who would fat shame you or bombard you with unsolicited health advice needs a little lesson in compassion and maybe a little less time behind an anonymous keyboard. Keep doing what sustains you.
I just finished that article and I too had to tell you how amazing you are. Stay strong and continue to be an inspiration!and a shining star!
Girl i just love you! This was everything. I have no doubt that you are going to continue to kill all of your goals and im here to cheer you all the way love ya.
You’ve told my story in many ways, sick and tired of being sick and tired. Days where I’m ataring at my gym clothes as if they would magically get up and do my workout for me. Giving the elliptical the evil eye. You are an inspiration and I applaud your transparency and vulnerability. Through your words I don’t feel so alone. Thank you!
I also saw your HuffPo article. We all have our own struggles, but I am happy to see your story. I'm a slow runner and curvy, but my body's "equilibrium" state is just small enough that people generally won't fat shame me. But I feel it. And i know how hard I have to work to accomplish things other people find easy.
I just wanted to let you know that you inspired me to sign up for my first marathon yesterday. I'm 44 and started running 2 years ago. Never considered myself to be an athlete. I was terrified to click the register button. Reading your blog finally got me over the psychological hurdle of believing it is possible for me to run that far. I've got my second half marathon in 3 days. After my first half, I felt like my body was decimated. I could not wait for the training being over. But this time around, I feel great and... don't really want to stop? You made me think for the first time that I can do this if I stick to my training. So anyway, here's hoping I don't go down in a big ball of flames.
I just stumbled onto this blog by watching your Hoka mini movie. You are a true inspiration for those of us carrying around that extra weight but LOVE to be out there exercising. I have systemic lupus so fatigue is a pretty constant companion even with meds. I took up running several years ago and love how I feel after a run but not always how I feel during the run. I also struggle with pushing through the fatigue. I have come a long way but am still pretty slow. I love how you talk about being frustrated with your body but push ahead anyway and think you are FREAKING AWESOME!! You make my heart happy because you are a big person but not letting that define you! Thank you for this blog, I can't wait to read more!!!
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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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