While people were patting my back for running countless miles over the course of a year, I wondered what my son was learning in school and what stressors were triggering my husband at work. Although I banter about this unpredicted and very public ultra runner life, I am always wondering about how it impedes on my family members and close friends.
It's been less than a month since I wrapped up my 'marathon tour' and I haven't adjusted yet. My body started rebelling against me the moment it smelled the NYC air. Who the hell signs up for 3 marathons, their first 100K, attempt to get redemption at an ultra obstacle course race and several other smaller events in between in different parts of the United States -- this person. I feel blessed to still have my mobility, some parts of my marbles and more than anything, my family. My fears of attempting 240+ miles wasn't the distance on my feet but my passion keeping me away from my loved ones.
A Reason. A Season. A Lifetime.
Whenever I prepared myself to travel for a new location, I created a basic 'to do' list to ensure that I have all of the things for my races. In hindsight, I wish I was as diligent about contacting my family members and friends in this same manner. As I polished off Catra Corbett's Reborn on the Run on Tuesday evening, I remember when she said that you have to be selfish to be an ultra runner and I'm heavily inclined to agree. We lose hundreds of hours on the trails or pavement training for several events. And if you're addicted to this lifestyle but find that you're a slower runner, that's a lot of time away from enjoying other activities. To some, this is admirable and to others, you're a piece of shit.
When I think back to rummaging through the endless pile of hate mail, I think back to comments that are like a gut punch to my soul. Some people insinuated that I abandoned my motherly duties or don't act like a 'good wife' to my husband. Interestingly enough, my husband would side eye, drink a strong cup of coffee and clench his thick eyebrows together as he questions what made you so constipated today. During our most intimate moments, we talked about how much my traveling depressed us but he is always supportive. For this, I am thankful for his ability to see me through these journeys.
My son is a hormonal preteen and frequently ignores my requests for him to clean his room. Our similar nature sometimes cause us to clash for all of five seconds but he speaks as freely as I do. I'd prepare myself for days long sad faces and questions of when I was coming back. Initially he was excited that I was going to other places and gaining an opportunity to converse with others who followed my journey but he's a child who wanted his mother's attention; my son deserved this and much more. After a month, I would cry or experience hiccups of depression questioning if I've abandoned them.
Through traveling, I lost more than two handfuls of 'friends' because I wasn't physically available. Invitations to special events didn't come my way anymore. People just assumed that I wouldn't be available. Although I hate assumptions, I think people didn't want to bother being told that you weren't coming because of some running event that they didn't care about nor could they relate. As an extrovert, I learned how to tap and at times, value quiet moments. When you're the 'larger than life' person in multiple circles, some people don't know how to process your shift and desire for periods alone without a warning. My strong personality comes off abrasive to a handful of people; this makes them believe that I don't care about disappearing off the grid. Realistically, I don't like being that person on social media who is going to announce that they're going dark for a few weeks and I don't do this for people who I don't interact with on a daily basis. Because I am transparent with a lot of my personal life with people, I clutch my alone time and privacy heavily.
The Family You Choose
Completing marathon distances and below are socially acceptable by the masses. When you do ultra races, you are questioned heavily or accused of not knowing your limits from people who either don't run or aren't ultra runners. Some of us create a specific ultra runner family for this reason. When the whole world think I'm cat piss crazy, I look onto this small group who respect my lack of whys of embarking on this endurance journey. It's exhausting trying to justify why I subscribe to this sort of torture to people who don't desire to run 3 New York City blocks. Trying to explain how I come back to my loved ones as a brand new person after pushing myself for miles on end sometimes shouldn't be explained.
When I am out there, I am allowed to talk to the 'road Jesus' and I vomit away all of my insecurities, sins and psycho babble that would get me committed from a licensed therapist. Road Jesus isn't someone specific; typically it's some random person you met five minutes ago who is huffing through mile 32 and waiting for this shit to be over in 90 degree heat. Perhaps you'll see them again; a slither of a chance that you won't. What's wonderful about this experience is that your words are treated like that one bad night in Vegas that nobody ever talk about. Surely they may remember the conversation if they're not delirious but oftentimes they shared an equally fucked up story that it's a conversation between you, that person and the trail ahead.
The Family That Supports
Without being sidetracked from my original blurb, I'm a semi balanced selfish ultra runner with a family. Some other person would've divorced me but my husband doesn't just put up with my shit -- he honors and respect it. At times I don't feel like I've given him enough credit. From November 2017 until now, my story has been told several thousand times across the world. Here lies the fat girl who was heckled and is now being viewed as an advocate to people in the back of the pack. I guess that's great but the person who married me sees more than a runner; he sees his life partner pushing through crazy miles for a multitude of evolving reasons -- one of which is him.
My husband William Eric, Sr. - just call him Eric - is my primary photographer. And because photography is a fickle career, he has a regular day job. He pulls 40 hour weeks, provides a stable income and when he's not vegging in front of the video game to destress, he's helping our son with his homework, editing photos for clients and listening to my pain in the ass gripe about some dip shit keyboard warrior that wrote me in the middle of my freelancing. Eric is one of the biggest hairiest cheerleaders that I love embracing. In the beginning, he tried to come to every race but when this became practically a weekly thing, he tried his hardest to come out to major races. Even when he's not physically cheering me on, he is supporting me by being a standup father, provider and lover. I don't take what he gives me lightly. I heard enough conversations in the gym or the trails where someone vents about their partner leaving their apartments empty with a wedding ring sitting on the kitchen counter. If he wasn't supportive, that could be me. My endurance prevails not only for my training but for my family. Being fueled by loving support by the ones who truly matter to me pushes me through my delirium. When I think back to the 100K at hour 22 or 23, I used the ounce of phone reception that existed to hear his voice. At each race, I ingest his 'I love you' like race day fuel and hearing my son echo supportive messages back to me in between 'I did my homework' is the absolute best chicken stock that I can replenish my body with for miles. So while I can bore people to tears with my thousand of adventures, I'm thankful to the unspoken athletes who deal with maladjusted insanity: The family that choose to stay. Your heart could rest somewhere else but you chose to ride out the mileage with me and I love you too. Thank you for being my endless taps of energy gels for life.
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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