Why do you run?
That's what I've been chewing on ever since I crashed and burned during the disastrous London Marathon. Do I run because it's how I make a living, or because I love it? Do I run because it makes me feel happy and strong, or because it's who I am?
Earlier this year, I caught myself making a joke about feeling like I was in purgatory. And we'd laugh and laugh because running is easy to laugh about. Running. This crazy thing we pay hundreds of dollars to willingly partake in.
But portraying health and wellness as "cool" is a new thing. For decades, working out was sold as a means to an end. It was what you did to lose weight so that you could fit society's standards of beauty.
Running was never really about the simple joy of running for me. All through school, I was a big, loud fish in a small pond. I had unwavering confidence in who I was and the second I stepped foot into the real world and felt a twinge of self-doubt and uncertainty, I retreated. I moved back home with my parents. I pressed pause and anxiously awaited the moment when someone would find me and say, "You're so smart and talented! Here, come with me! I'll help you be successful."
I was living in my brother's old room and as my grief crept up on me and the walls of the safe hideout I built for myself started to crumble, I was just desperate enough to find a way to feel productive, strong, and in control.
Running isn't something I'm naturally good at. The self-doubt and fear of failure is something I grapple with every single time I set a new goal and running helped me see that it doesn't matter if I don't know what's to come or if something feels impossible, as long as I was willing to work and fight for it, with enough patience and perseverance, anything is possible.
That sounds cheesy as hell but it's the God damn truth. Because running is so f*cking hard and painful, it teaches me over and over again how to believe in myself when I feel the urge to give up. And that's often. I mean right now, after a few months off, there are days when I won't bring money or my phone to stop me from hailing a cab or a Lyft a mile into a bad run. Getting started sucks. It always does. But that's the evil beauty of running, there are no shortcuts and I lack the talent to BS my way through.
I'll never forget the wave of confidence and regret that body slammed me the moment I saw the finish line of my first marathon. I literally thought to myself, "You idiot. If you can run a marathon, you can do anything. You just wasted a year of your life because you were too afraid to believe in yourself and possibly fail." I fell into that post-collegiate trap of, "What do I do now?" and it was in that moment that I decided to move to New York. I didn't know what the hell I would do or what my future would look like, but if I could survive a marathon, I could do anything.
Last night, I went with my friend Bri to a live recording of the podcast "How I Built This". Bri knew that I was a fan of the show and had told me who the guest we were seeing was beforehand but I didn't recognize the name and quickly forgot. I didn't think I cared who the guest was. I was excited to watch one of my favorite hosts Guy Raz, talk about someone who was passionate about whatever it is they built. I was beyond f*cking excited to watch the recording unfold and as I forced Bri to sit with me in the front row, she commented that she was excited to hear about how Jonah Peretti built the Huffington Post and Buzzfeed.
Today's guest is the guy who built Buzzfeed?
I flashed back to March of 2013 when my sister, my friend Justin, and I sat at my reception desk and created a community post on Buzzfeed titled...well, I don't remember the title we gave it because before it went viral, Buzzfeed went in and changed it to "Girl Takes 13 Instagram Selfies With Un-Suspecting Hot Men As She Ran The NYC Half Marathon".
I thought nothing of the selfies at the time. I did it to make my sister laugh but my sister possesses a keen eye for shareable content and pushed me to do something with it. I was a receptionist with downtime and I remember Justin, Samantha, and I laughing while we created the article, unaware of the attention it would soon receive and after it went live. We finished, I posted it on my Facebook wall, and because my friends shared the hell out of it, the next morning, I sat on a call with Good Morning America.
My life changed in an instant and it was all because I took selfies with "hot guys" behind me while I ran a marathon. But four years later, that's not what I'm known for. Going viral gave me the push to create Run, Selfie, Repeat but in the four years since going viral, I've come into my own. I've become a voice for strength creating movements like the #SportsBraSquad and last month, I was on the cover of Women's Running Magazine.
And while I haven't taken a selfie with a hot guy behind me in years, (strike that-I haven't POSTED a selfie with a hot guy behind me in years), I still think #HottGuysOfTheNYCHalf was funny as hell. But that is just one piece of my story. It doesn't define me. It's not why I run, it's not why I blog, and it's not what gets me out of bed in the morning. It was just the thing that set the ball in motion. (And I still think it's funny as hell.)
Sitting in that theater last night, listening to Jonah Peretti share how he got his start with his own viral stories, I couldn't stop thinking about how the only reason I was sitting in that theater was because Buzzfeed helped me go viral.
Three years ago, I read a book that sparked an idea for the direction I wanted to start to move in but because of Run, Selfie, Repeat, that idea has been sitting on the back burner, waiting patiently while I find the courage to take my next leap of faith. Then the London Marathon happened and I had an aha moment. I'd done everything I could to make an impossible goal possible and because of an outside factor, things didn't go my way. BQ or Bust helped me realize that I pushed my next project to the back burner because once again, I was using the excuse, "I'm just going to figure this out and get it perfect before going for it".
Nothing happens when you sit around waiting to have it all "figured out". You learn by doing from the mistakes and missteps you make along the way. The only way you can build and strengthen your courage and confidence is if you flex those muscles. That's something I'm reminded of every week when I listen to How I Built This.
I can't share what this new project is just yet, I can say that Run, Selfie, Repeat isn't going anywhere. My mission has always been and will always be to help people of all shapes, sizes, ages, and backgrounds laugh at the struggle that is putting their strongest foot forward. This new chapter is just helping me cast a wider net.
But one thing is for sure, none of this would be happening had it not been for running, selfies with hot dudes, and a community post we made on Buzzfeed. Every time I see someone try to smear that chapter of my story, I'm reminded of what I'm fighting for. To stand firmly, proudly, and honestly in my past. Because it's easy for someone who knows nothing about you and what you stand for to pick and choose ways to try to knock you down. That's why you have to know your worth and what you're capable of when you dare to fail. But if you can learn to listen with an open heart and a sassy spirit, there's no failure, misstep, or troll that can stop you from kicking ass and taking names.
All my life I wanted to be a runner so that I could lose weight and be skinny like the women I saw in the media. Today, I'm so f*cking grateful that I'm a runner because I now know that skinny doesn't equal strength. Strength doesn't look a certain way, it feels a certain way. And that feeling changes lives. It changed mine and I'm hell bent on helping the badass lady gang discover it as well.
The future is strong. I can't wait to share with you what's next.