Brittany Runs A Marathon Trailer: Fat Suits N' Mixed Messages

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The trailer for Brittany Runs A Marathon took less than 24 hours from release to hit my news feed—performing a targeted tactical strike on my attention because it combines two huge passions of mine: running and the movies.

Here’s the trailer for context.

I love that Jillian Bell—who is beautiful by conventional standards, but often gets cast as the chubby comedic friend—is the lead, Brittany. I love that Utkarsh Ambudkar is the romantic leading man. I love that Brittany starts with one block—just one block—and builds from there, as so many runners do.

I like the ending wide shot of our heroine Brittany and her running buddy being passed by a tethered train of pre-schoolers in Central Park (it really does feel like that sometimes).

HOWEVER (Ain’t There Always A However)?

The first thing I noticed? At the beginning of this trailer, Jillian Bell is wearing a Fat Suit Lite(tm) and what looks like some facial prosthesis—red flag. It was the first indicator that this might not be a movie about a young woman who learns to love herself as-is.

The fat suit says: “this is going to be a story about a woman who becomes empowered because she loses weight.”

Okay, I thought, kinda problematic. But maybe this will be okay! Maybe it’s going to be a critique of the way people in larger bodies are treated by society? Brittany says jobs don’t find her to be a good “fit.” She says people thought she was lazy because of how she looked.

The first thing out of the doctor’s mouth when he says he wants to get her “healthy”? “I want you to lose 55 pounds.” It’s a classic weight loss prescription plus-sized people are served day in and day out while actual health issues go ignored. Maybe this movie is taking aim at that… right? RIGHT?

Except… she drops the weight (suit), and it’s painted as the key to her turning her whole life around—while they also try to tell us that that’s totally not what the story is trying to say.

”You changing your life was never about your weight,” Brittany’s friend Demetrius, played by Get Out’s scene-stealing Lil Rel Howry, tells her.

Except, at least from the trailer, that’s the story the film is telling—she loses weight and everything changes, and it might never take a critical shot at the bigger reasons “why” shrinking yourself helps you fit in better with society or why that might improve your life.

Yes she presumably makes positive changes that genuinely lead to a healthier life. Less drinking—good! More movement—also good! Still, it’s on the doctor’s orders to get healthy by dropping pounds. One has to wonder if they’ll ever take a breath to examine that equivalency.

Especially because the weight does come off which, to be fair, does happen sometimes—but sometimes in real life it doesn’t. It shouldn’t have to in order to tell a great narrative about self love and growth. Would Brittany be allowed to gain self worth if her body DIDN’T change?

But It’s Based On A True Story!

Yes, this is based on a true story, in fact—it could be based on many true stories. In some ways, this story mirrors the start of my own relationship with running.

Maybe you’re saying, “well if that’s where you started, couldn’t this movie be a good starting point for other people?”

Yes and no. It could be, but it shouldn’t have to be. First: I’m not magically cured of the desire to be thinner or prettier just because I’m not actively trying to lose weight with running—diet culture is more implanted an insidious than that. It’s everywhere, every day—on social media, and in the movies. Stories like this keep that narrative churning—> weight loss = worth.

This is an old narrative—yes, it’s new to the screen, but if you’ve read almost any women’s magazine, we know the transformation arc—we know before and after pictures. We know stories about new quality of life. We need new heroes—ones who just love themselves and move without expectation of change to fit in to “acceptable” body types.

And that’s why this trailer has me on edge. It cuts very close to home and seems to ignore the very lesson it seems it’s trying to teach by adding an asterisk: “you have always been enough, *which you only realized after you got out of the fat suit and people started to treat you better".

I’m not saying this story shouldn’t be told. I’m going to watch this movie when it comes out and probably cry, no matter what.

BUT, if you want to tell a story about a woman who begins running and loses weight and therefore finds new purpose in life, maybe leave it there. Don’t say one thing (worthy) and then show me another by illustrating that shrinking is actually the way to become more.

I’m wary that this may be a commercial for The Biggest Loser wrapped in the oh-so co-opted “body positivity” that smuggles diet culture and weight loss mentality into our everyday lives.

Still, I’m hopeful. I’m holding off judgment until I can actually see the movie for myself and have my questions answered:

  • Will this movie ACTUALLY align weight loss as a key indicator for health and wellness?

  • Will it use Brittany’s weight for any punchlines? (Looking at you, I Feel Pretty.)

  • Will this movie acknowledge the fact that there are people in more diverse bodies in the running world and they also do some truly amazing stuff without changing themselves?

I also have a few other narrative questions I’d like to pose as the devil’s loud n’ proud advocate:

  • What would this movie look like if Brittany was in an even larger, more marginalized body? (And not wearing a fat suit.)

  • What would this movie look like if she gained the weight back but still has strong health indicators, improved quality of life and RUNS THE MARATHON ANYWAY?

  • What would this movie look like if she doesn’t actually drop the weight at all but still finds love, happiness, respect, purpose and reaches her goals?

I can’t answer any of these—because I don’t know how this movie ends. I’m hoping to be surprised, but I’ll have to wait until August to find out. Until then, I’ll be keeping busy with my running schedule—one block at a time.

If you want to share your thoughts on the trailer, jump into the conversation Facebook and Instagram, or leave some thoughts in the comments!

Fast Runners: Back Of The Back Runners Need Your Actions, Not Your Words

Recently on our Facebook page I shared a link to an article from 2014 by a front of the pack runner about the runners at the back of the pack. Here’s a very short summary:  

• This author is a hella fast near-elite runner.

• The author says if he had to run a marathon and it took him 5 or 6 hours, he probably wouldn’t bother running those races.

• Good for the people who train that hard and run that slow, they’re “endurance heroes.”

Favourite quote: “It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to cross that finish line … you train like the rest of us train.”  

(I would argue many back of the packers train harder than some people who sign up for marathons. I know a guy who didn’t train for a marathon at all, but decided to run one for a whim or a bet or something equally stupid. I think he got a better time than me… I also know he couldn’t walk the next day.)

My boyfriend brought the article up while we were on a short trail run last week, and said he thought it had a bit of a condescending tint to it. Why did this guy feel the need to list his PR times? Didn’t it kind of sound like he was pity-praising a three-legged golden retriever? (Note: my words, not his.)

Why am I writing an article about someone’s opinion from five years ago? Because as far as we’ve come, back of the pack runners are still second class citizens in Run City.

A Couple Less “A’s”

It’s refreshing to read someone actually acknowledge that yes, running is hard and some people have to put more into it to make it work for them—more time, more patience, more emotional risk. At the end of the day, they’re still every inch runners as much as those at the front of the pack.

It’s validating… but then, some parts of the article hit this message with at a slightly wrong angle.

The author writes that he probably wouldn’t bother running a marathon if it took him so long: “if you told me that I needed to go on a 20-mile run … and it was going to take me 4-6 hours, I would probably say nope, that’s just waaaaay too long!”

Maybe a couple less “a’s” in there, bud.

The Good, The Bad, and The Running Elitists

The fact is, running calls to a lot of people; we’re not all elites or gazelles but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t belong to us too. Personally, I feel I was meant to run, even if I’m not built to scrub any distance as fast as other people can.

Saying a speed like mine, or that of someone in an even more marginalized body, would discourage your from running doesn’t come off as a praise of strength and determination. It reads as, “good job buddy, you inspire me, but boy am I glad I’m not you!”

The writer had good intentions, which is more than I can say about some other people and their opinions.

For example, a female runner in a 2009 New York Times article who said it’s “a joke to run a marathon by walking every other mile or by finishing in six, seven, eight hours.”

She was also kind enough to add her opinion that “it used to be that running a marathon was worth something — there used to be a pride saying that you ran a marathon, but not anymore. Now it’s, ‘How low is the bar?’”

Progress is Progress No Matter How Small

Sure, the running world has come a long way since then, with athletes like Mirna Valerio, John Young, Martinus Evans and others trailblazing the way for more people who want to get into running for the love of it and don’t fit the mould.

These cultural shifts are beginning to create actual change too. Some marathons are offering longer cut off times. Many running groups are available for a wide variety of paces. The world is beginning to open up—however—the struggles are far from over.

Even today, when back of the packers push for basics like the course staying clear and for water, gels, or sports drink to be available for the duration of the race within the cut off, they’re often shut down. 

I’ve read stories from many runners who have been told to lose weight and get faster, or just stop running races entirely by front of the pack runners when they tried to advocate for these basic amenities which they paid for in their race fee like everyone else.  

So, yeah. I’ll give some points to a fast runner because he doesn’t question the right of slower runners to be out there on the course and respects our process. I’ll take or leave being “inspiring” to someone who could lap me in pretty much every distance any day of the week.

Using Your Influence To Achieve Running Equality

Faster runners, if you want to really want to advocate for the people in the back of the pack, there are a few ways to do it.

If you run a race and you hear people at the back had issues with course operations, write to the race directors and express concern—even if it doesn’t affect you, your voice can help the issue be taken seriously. 

Make a running buddy with someone slower than you. If you’re a fast runner and your friend is a slow runner occasionally, offer to go running with them. They’ll probably deny the offer because they don’t want to “slow you down.” Tell them it’s cool. Meet them at their pace. It might be a good relaxing run for you and some companionship for them.

Bonus points if you drag your back of the pack friend out to a local running group that they’ve been dying to try, but have avoided for fear of being left in the dust. Leave your ego at the door and run with them if there’s no one else their speed. Make them feel a part of something.

There’s a reason we like to call it the running community, after all.

Every action you take in solidarity with back of the pack runners doesn’t mean YOU have to slow down on your way to the finish line. It just means more people get the race finish they truly deserve, and that they feel welcome there.

When Learning Self Acceptance Challenges Your Body Confidence

Hard truth: recently I’ve been struggling in a muck of self doubt in the confidence department. Remember Atreyu dragging himself through the Swamp of Sadness in The Neverending Story? (RIP Artax.) Like that, but with body stuff—my athletic ability, my direction, and insecurity’s all-time greatest hit: my appearance.

I still see all the tricks of living in the diet Matrix. All of the confidence and self love I’ve wrested from the claws of bullshit diet culture is mine to keep. But lately, there’s been a new, harrowing motto: but you could be so much more.

You’re a runner BUT you could be faster.
You’re fine as you are BUT it wouldn’t hurt to just be a few sizes smaller…
You’re cute, BUT don’t you wish you looked more like…?

This is hard to admit—not only to myself, but maybe to world at large. After all, confidence is respected, coveted, and has been declared the secret ingredient to being attractive in every Cosmo survey I ever read growing up. That’s the promise, right? If you’re confident, funny, and memorize their top 200 new spicy sex tricks by heart, the world is yours to conquer.

Inviting in the vampires

Declaring you’re having a stint of bad confidence is not something confident people tend to do. In the more progressive or body positive parts of the fitness community, people talk a lot about how they used to feel and brush over anything to the contrary with a zippy “some days are harder than others!”

I get it. Saying you don’t love your everything 24/7 kinda feels like opening the door to vampires—life-sucking doubts that just might make people suddenly see you the way you fear you are. So when you suddenly find yourself in a very real den of monstrous insecurities, the impulse to pretend nothing is wrong is strong.

The Art of Re-Traumatizing Yourself

This has been going on for weeks. Maybe even a month or two—feeling not good enough, like the marathon I ran and the training I do doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it started when I was weighed at the doctor’s office, and then measured during a personal training assessment at my gym in the same two week span not long ago.

Maybe it’s this year’s choral refrain of “bathing suit SZN” beginning to swell over the other social media noise. I’m not sure.

I’ve ignored it because I thought that if I just kept doing what I do, the whispers would go away—but they haven’t.

For awhile I couldn’t figure out why the proverbial blood just kept draining—until I listened to an episode of Food Psych about marketing and diet culture. It brought up the notion that if you’re branding yourself as someone who has overcome your trauma—that also means you may relive it every time you use it to make a point.

You run the risk of resurrecting your demons when you try to make their skeletons work for you.

I don’t think I’ve made a point of discussing solely body image on my Instagram or here on the blog. I intentionally stay sports-focused. BUT I do know that engaging with body positive content, Health At Every Size activism, and other facets of this work mean I’m thinking about it ALL. THE. TIME.

Any choice I can make seems to be plagued with “this is against diet culture” and “this conforms with diet culture.” Eating, sleeping, dressing, moving—these filters can shade everything I do.

Ain’t it strange that sometimes, on a mission to embrace ourselves, shit gets worse before it gets better?

WTF Comes Next?

The point of this post, at the end of the day, is to assure anyone else who might be feeling this way that it’s OKAY to not be a self love unicorn 24/7.

The goal is to aim for WAY more good days than bad ones, and taking care of yourself even on the days when you don’t like yourself. For me, this looks like a mix of movement (hellooo trail running!), nourishment, and vetting what media I take in and when. If I’m having a bad day, I might skip out on that article or podcast until I have another one where I’m angry and ready to engage.

I keep on going—not because I could be better. But because it’s the best way to remind myself that I’m already enough.

Hey—let’s yell about this together. Drop me a message on my Instagram, EBC’s Facebook page, or even in in the comments below.

Race Recap: Hamilton's 2019 Around The Bay 30K

Around The Bay 2019 is OVER… like—way over. I’m already in the middle of an existential reel as I attempt to figure out my next move.

BUT, I wrote my way through many. Weeks. Of. Training! I owed it to myself to churn out some thoughts on the experience, and to document it—especially for any middle or back of the pack runners like me who are curious but cautious about entering this legendary Canadian race.

Around The Bay RACE RECAP:

all the physical challenge of a marathon without being so far from the finish line you question whether you’ll ever see your family again

1 - 10 KM: The Most Hamilton Race Ever

• This is the race’s 125th year, which is… pretty wicked. Swag in my race kit included a baseball cap, long-sleeved tech shirt, a special ATB magazine and a copy of iRunNation, Aveeno and Roc samples… who care let’s get to the running part.

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• Mid-run thought: Around The Bay is the most Hamilton race that ever raced because you start in the hip downtown, and then run away from the safety of 15 brunch places through the industrial district. Some people poo-poo this part, but honestly, running past the factories and the junkyards in a huge pack of people on a cold, grey March morning made me feel like a character in a dystopian novel. #KatnissEverrun

• The media will tell you this section of the race is flat, but I’m here to give you the truth—ATB keeps it spicy with a few overpasses that you have to haul up and over on your journey through to 10K. A nice little appetizer for your calves and thighs.

• Shout outs to the kid in the lawn chair playing the tuba.

• Overheard in the pack, “I figured if I run 100 miles in a week, why not run 100 miles in a day?” Uhhhhhhhhhhhmovingon.

11 - 17 KM: In Which I Also Feel “Older Than Boston”

• This is the TRUE flat section of the Around The Bay course. The wind coming off the waterfront made it chilly, but some people lined up with signs, or beating pots and pans with wooden spoons to cheer on runners and it kept the cold at bay.

• Was that a castle?

• The course offered lots of water stations. I’m not sure how long they were kept up for slower runners or walkers—people further in the back of the pack.

• Another note, this course doesn’t offer gels. Which is… kind of odd. I figure it’s some sort of “Hamilton is hardy” and “we’re older than Boston” tradition. I should Google this. (I won’t Google this.) BRING YOUR OWN GELS.

At this point I was beginning to resent the relay runners who were zipping by with Fresh Legs(tm).

• Running over the lift bridge at the half way point was dizzying and exhilarating. Not only are you half way to your goal, you’re running on a steel grate over water. So uh… Don’t look down if you have a fear of heights.

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18 - 26 KM: The Hills Are Alive (And They’re Coming To Get You)

• Around The Bay is infamous for its final leg being hills for DAYS.

• Did I mention the hills?

• There are some hills. Even the greyhound-human hybrid whiplash people who I follow on Instagram were complaining about ‘em.

• I pictured vast rolling monsters, but the reality is that many require a long, slow, dedicated ascent that had my calves screaming like Alexisonfire. They do provide some shelter from the wind, and you warm up quickly here after the Beach Boulevard stretch.

• It’s also a bit of a trip to look across the water and see the industrial district you just ran through on the other side of the bay as you run… Around The Bay.

• There are a few more aid stations and spectators along this stretch of the course. Some people had fruit or pretzels, along with the usual water and gatorade—race day angels!

• Heading off North Shore Boulevard, you run past lots of graveyards… just in case you decide finishing just isn’t an option.

• By this point though, you’re close to 25 KM, which is far enough that you can feel the rumble of the finish line in your bones and it starts to drown out any discomfort you might be in.

27 KM - Forever: THE HILL

• A woman at my work has done ATB ten times (literally) and told me once you make it past the Valley Inn Road hill, you’re good to go. She was right. After that point, the course is basically flat and or downhill.

• But here’s the thing.

• You have to get up this hill first… and it’s a HILL, right when you don’t want there to be one.

• Breaking it down: It’s a two parter, an upward grind with a flat section in the middle and then a slightly steeper incline that will have you panting to get to York Boulevard.

• I’ll say this: if you’re thinking about running this race, but you’re hesitant—don’t let the hype scare you. It’s just a hill. It’s got a bottom and a top and it does end. EVENTUALLY. I promise. Take it from another slow runner who doesn’t take any step for granted… you can do this!

• There were plenty of people on the hill to cheer the runners on the way up! (Shoutouts to Rachael and Nick! HEY!)

• Once you make it to the top, there’s a heady sort of delirium that takes over. You pour onto York Boulevard and it’s time to change gears for the last 3k.

27 - 30KM: The Home Stretch

• Heading back into the city you see the Grim Reaper, the gruesome mascot of the race. He had kindly put out signs like “The End Is Near.” He’s also on the race swag which is… pretty cool.

• Should have stopped for a photo. Didn’t stop for a photo. Too busy chugging along to the finish. Guess I’ll have to run it again sometime.

• To cross the finish line you run down a ramp into the FirstOntario Centre stadium, which was COOL. For those of us who never ran in competitions, or who will never make it to the Olympics (sad but true), you get a once-in-a-lifetime feeling of running into an arena full of people cheering for you. IT WAS WICKED.

Around The bay: The Aftermath

• Calves and thighs definitely feeling the work, more than after the Scotiabank Marathon in Toronto.

• John Stanton pulled me aside to interview me in front of the whole stadium, so that’s fun. I follow him on Twitter.

• I had to wander a long way down the finisher’s chute to get it the medal, but it was finally worth it.

• Shoutouts to Merit Brewing for making and giving me a delicious beverage. #Startedfromthebottomnowwebeer

• I would definitely run this race again. Just… maybe not next year, and with even MORE hill training in my program. It’s a challenging, fun run at a middle distance between a half and a full marathon!

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Quartet Photos: @joshteewhy

It's Time To Marie Kondo Our Health And Fitness Routines

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Since Around The Bay (final race blog pending) I’ve been doing what I seem to do after every big race—resting, recovering, and digging into my future goals. What do I want to do with my body next?

This is a big question—and one that has been especially top-of-mind after listening to Jillian Murphy’s recent Food Freedom/Body Love podcast episode: “What’s your motivation to move?” (Spotify) (Apple).

In the episode, Murphy asks her listeners to examine their reasons for engaging in exercise and movement. She also brings up one often overlooked aspect of moving your body: joy.

This Is Your Life On Marie Kondo

You can see where I’m going with this, right? It’s not a particularly limber mental somersault. If you’ve been on the internet in 2019, you’ve seen the memes and you’ve heard Marie Kondo’s iconic question: “does this spark joy?

In the same way that you can get rid of those anonymous tangled power cords for long-lost electronics in the Rubbermaid in your basement, so too can you decide that you hate spin class and ditch it to try Zumba, or rock climbing, or aerial yoga. You can stop cutting carbs if it makes you miserable. You can opt out of the things you hate, and try things you love.

In fact, you should—for your health.

 
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Kondo-ing Your Movement Choices

It stands to reason that if you hate doing something… you hate doing it. It also stands to reason that you aren’t going to want to do things you hate, and they won’t make you feel good.

Doesn’t it make sense to give up hot yoga if you hate sweating like a gatorade commercial and you’ve always been curious about pole dancing? Or to join a softball league if you’ve been grinding out runs by yourself and getting furious about it? You might find it easier to move your body if you find the way your body loves to move instead of focusing on suffering to get the most calorie-burn for your buck.

I’d love to think we’re in an age where we’re all choosing exercise that we like, with the motive of keeping us happy and healthy. Then I remember diet culture still exists and that some idiot on the internet tried to fat shame Rihanna once. So, yeah. If you’re out there, scraping through workouts and hating every second, ask yourself why. Does this exercise bring me joy? No?

Time to try kickboxing. Or surfing. Or quidditch.

Kondo-ing Your Food Choices

Have you decided to try going low carb or gluten-free, or raw vegan or Paleo or Primal or pegan or vegan or vegetarian? Are you suffering through South Beach, Atkins, WW, Wheat Belly, Whole30, Keto, the Master Cleanse, the Screaming Apple Diet or any other trendy diet on the market?

Is it bringing you joy? But if you’re suffering trying to eat with self-inflicted restrictions that have you stressing out about the grams of sugar and carbs in carrots… It’s time to toss those restrictions out the window and start consuming joyfully. Life’s too short to skip all of the birthday cake, or avoid bananas for having “too much sugar” or cry over missing out on cheese.

Kondo-ing Your Social Media

I’ve seen a post a few times on Instagram that pretty much hits this sentiment on the head, “you can unfollow anyone who makes you feel bad about your life.”

If the clean-eating influencer crowd makes you get down on yourself, or someone’s weekly weigh-ins make you grumpy, it’s time to Kondo those accounts, baby. Time to hit unfollow. You can control your digital world, why not make a you-topia of people who genuinely inspire you?

The bottom line here is that we often force ourselves to take on “healthy” habits that promise future happiness—and we hate these habits in the meantime. We think when we’ve restricted enough and sweat through enough squats to make it to the land free of cellulite, where celery juice flows like rivers, we will be worthy. We will be happy.

The truth is that the healthiest habits are the ones that bring us joy in the process.

So, what’s sparked you lately? Let me know on Instagram or Facebook!

Around The Bay Training Blog #4: Nine Days and Counting

By this coming Monday morning, I’ll expect to be feeling the early buzz of race week for Around The Bay in my bones.

If it’s anything like my pre-marathon jitters, my nearest and dearest are in for a potentially wild ride. That’s when I decided it was high time to take up sewing, terrified a Running Room employee on the hunt for chews, and sang Freddie Mercury’s AYYYYOOOOOOO loudly in the car on the way to the hotel… and for… the whole night before the race.

This past week I did some work to try and eliminate the anxiety and stress I’ve experienced during training brought on by weather, mental health issues, and good old fashioned race anticipation.

My brother-in-law and I actually went out and drove the course to see just what I was in for (spoiler alert: hills). I’ve never driven a course before, but Around The Bay’s notorious rolling course was becoming mountains in my mind and I had to cut the nightmare off somewhere. The upside: I’m not afraid of the hills! Downside: I realized 30k is like… FAR, y’all.

You don’t realize how far something is until it takes you 30 minutes to drive it.

The next day, desperately craving a change of scenery and wanting a bit of a test for myself, I headed out to the course again and parked at Dundurn Castle for my long run. I plotted to go 8 km out and 8 back, but ended up doing 18 kms in total.

It was wicked. I saw birds of prey and took on the hills, I waved to my fellow trainees—the only other woman I saw running gave me a high five as we passed. Lately I’ve been struggling to keep up with running, and I think running in a completely new location made me realize I’m just… bored. The missing ingredient to the sauce right now might just be changing it up.

This next week, I’ll be trying to take my sleep and nutrition as seriously as I can. The countdown to Around The Bay is on, and I plan to be as ready as I can be for whatever race day brings.