Wednesday, January 29, 2020

"Brittany Runs a Marathon" Review

I'm a bit late to the game, but I finally sat down to watch Brittany Runs a Marathon and I wanted to share my thoughts.
Brittany Runs a Marathon is about the titular Brittany, a financially struggling nearly-30 woman living in New York. She doesn't take great care of her body and sets out to make some healthy changes in her life, starting with losing weight. Too broke to join a gym, she picks up running. She decides, after completing a 5k, to run the NYC Marathon.
So, I mostly genuinely enjoyed this movie. Brittany's emotional/ mental journey is so relatable; I think most "late blooming" runners (including myself) can completely identify with the fear of the first run and the total exhilaration you feel at its completion. While I think the movie really skimmed the mechanics of early running (lots of walk breaks, your pace bouncing all over the place, lack of stamina), it did get a few things right.

For example, Brittany first wears sweats, Converse sneakers, and loose hair for her runs. Eventually, you start to see that she has learned how to dress appropriately as she figures out what she's doing.

When she completes her first 5k race, I teared up as she crossed the finish line. There is nothing like it! I laughed when her friend, upon hearing she was planning to run said 5k, says, "You're gonna run a marathon?!" We've all heard that from our non-runner friends.

One of the most nuanced plot lines in the movie is Brittany's relationship with her best friend Gretchen. As Brittany celebrates her weight loss progress and becomes more dedicated to her running and healthy lifestyle, Gretchen all but attempts to sabotage her; at the very least, she undermines Brittany's new life goals, tempting her with alcohol, junk food, and even drugs. I think most of us have dealt with someone in our lives who has seen us try to better ourselves and has responded by lashing out. I have a theory that those sorts of people feel defensive and perhaps even attacked for not also making different life choices; they are forced to reflect on their own choices and don't like what they see.

This plot line also gives Brittany a chance to act on the new confidence running gives her. I think the best thing about learning to run later in life is that you suddenly realize how much you're capable of. You realize you're stronger, braver, and more resilient than you ever expected. Suddenly, that newfound confidence spills over into everyday life. Running absolutely changes you, not just physically, but mentally as well. I thought the movie did a good job highlighting the complete transformation Brittany undergoes.

Brittany also makes new friends. At first, they're her running friends. Then they become real friends. Or, perhaps I should say, fuller friends. The relationships made through running together are truly special, and the movie spends time on that, which I appreciated.

There are, of course, bumps in the road. We learn that you have to be willing to internalize the changes you've made; you need to truly learn who this new you is in order to stick with it and succeed. You have to believe that you ARE the kind of person who can train for and run a marathon.

My biggest issue with the movie is that it generally skims over the work put into training for a marathon. Once it's established that Brittany is training, we don't see much more of it at all. She often mentions that she has "a run in the morning", but we never get to see her celebration as she follows her training plan and does the work. We never see her excitement in completing her first double-digit run, or her fear and determination in facing the last long run in her plan.

The thing about training for a marathon is that the training is what changes you. Yes, race day is totally something like you've never experienced. Yes, crossing that finish line is unlike anything else in the world. But any runner will tell you that you come face-to-face with yourself during the hard weeks of training, and it's a shame that that was completely left out of the movie.

Running helps you face your insecurities. As you feel stronger and accomplish your goals, your life changes. YOU change. By relegating the training to the background, we lose some insight into why Brittany has changed so much by the end of the film.

In the end, this is a movie more about how running can change you and impact the rest of your life than it is about running itself. Because of that, I can grudgingly forgive the egregious lack of major training milestones.

In short, Brittany Runs a Marathon got a lot of things right. I was rooting for Brittany to succeed and turn her life around. I was frustrated when she dealt poorly with setbacks. I was emotional when race day finally came around...and I cried when the movie title finally played out and we got to see her realize her dream.

I'd recommend this movie to runners, no matter what distance you prefer to run. You'll see yourself in Brittany and it will leave you feeling proud and motivated to lace up and hit the pavement.


Sunday, January 26, 2020

People are Still Asking about Compartment Syndrome

It's been about three years since my experience with compartment syndrome began, and I am still getting messages from people who are looking for answers of their own.
I am always happy to answer questions about finding a good doctor, getting a diagnosis, my personal experience with surgery and recovery, and all those general sorts of things. I tend to direct people here because this is where I documented most of journey and, as I say on my dedicated CECS page, I always found personal anecdotes the most helpful throughout the process.
This week, I received a message that was a little different than the others. Rather than asking for advice, she was thanking me for my blog.
Her message brought home for me something I've been thinking about a lot in the last few weeks: I am at my happiest when I feel that what I'm doing - whatever I'm doing - is having an impact on people and helping them in some way. I am so glad that I was able to bring peace of mind and hope to this young woman as she moves forward with her treatment.

To be honest, I'm surprised that years later people are still reaching out. I haven't hash-tagged compartment syndrome on Instagram in awhile, but that's clearly how most people are finding me. I googled "compartment syndrome blog" and found I'm the third listed result, so I suppose there could be some backwards engineering at work here, too.

Anyway, today I'm just really thinking about how important it is for us to share our journeys, especially the hard parts, because you never know who you'll help simply by having come out victoriously on the other side.


Monday, January 13, 2020

"Training" for Gasparilla

My original plan when I signed up for the Gasparilla 15k in late February was to follow a training plan, monitor my paces, and aim for a moderately lofty goal.
My training has been spotty. Basically, as always over winter break, my motivation and yearning to run kind of took a vacation along with the rest of me. Still, I thought I had it in me to ramp up my training and manage a pretty good eight weeks.

And then I got the flu.
I haven't had the actual, real, legit flu since childhood. But at the tail end of an otherwise very strong running week, I suddenly developed a fever, chills, and aches, and an elephant took up residence on my lungs. I left work so early Friday I shouldn't have even bothered going in and spent the next two days feeling sorry for myself.

While my fever was gone by Saturday night, my breathing only got worse. I saw the doctor Monday, who officially diagnosed me and gave me all the necessary treatments for dealing with flu-induced lung inflammation coupled with my already tweaky asthma.
My prognosis for recovery is fine. My prognosis for training...not so much.

The thing is, part of me feels like I just need to DNS this race. It's fewer than 40 days away (that's not even 6 weeks of training time!) and my longest run has been four miles. And it was mediocre.

Another part of me feels like I can just edit my anticipated finishing time on my registration, bump down to the slower corral, and run it for fun. I'd still get to hang out and spend time with Jessie that weekend and enjoy a "birthday" race of sorts.

Truth be told, I've never run Gasparilla at my best but have always enjoyed it, so this may just be a tradition in and of itself.
Last time I ran it, I met so many virtual friends from Sub 30 AND Meb! What could be better?
The pressure has made me dread a race I was once excitedly anticipating. Maybe getting sick is a sign that I need to readjust my expectations and priorities and run it with a different mindset.

I don't know how long I'll be sidelined from running with this cough. The flu can linger for weeks, and right now I can barely fold laundry without taking a breather. I think at this rate, I'll play it by ear. Hopefully things will work out for the best!


Tuesday, January 7, 2020

My First Run of 2020

When I ran on December 31, 2019, I earned a "Finish Strong" badge on Garmin and saw, for the first time, that I could earn a "Strong Start" badge if I ran on January 1, 2020.
I was tempted, but opted not to. I planned to run on the 2nd. And then I planned to run on the 3rd. And then the 4th. And then...Well, you can see the pattern.

Every time I planned to run, something got in the way. "Something" was usually trashy TV (I got back into Vanderpump Rules over the break) or writing (trying to) or YouTube videos (god help me). It gets dark so early, and once sunset starts at 5:30, I feel like my opportunity to run has passed.

But I have a 15k in late February and I really would like to run it with some dignity, so I need to be training. And besides that, I miss running. I just can't seem to get myself out of my own head.

I finally went for my first run of the year on January 6. It felt like a good time to start, being a Monday and all. I still nearly wimped out, but Matt's encouragement got me out the door.
I am pathetic.
I ended up running the golf course in the dark. I have never run it so late at night; usually when I go there are dog-walkers and unofficial golfers along the paths. This time was something else entirely.

So dark. So quiet. Total solitude.
It was one of the most mentally refreshing runs I have ever had. It was...cleansing. Emotionally fulfilling.

It was a perfect run to start the year, even if it's a bit late. I don't have any lofty 2020 running goals ahead, but if I can find that same peace and joy in a handful of runs this year, I'll call it a success.