#StartingLine

Bonus Round with 300 Pounds and Running's Martinus Evans

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Martinus Evans of 300 Pounds and Running for a #StartingLine

What was supposed to be a 30-minute interview stretched well over an hour. Martinus dropped too much wisdom and character to cram into the original written piece, BUT I did save the recording of the interview, which was chock-full of gems. 

So today for your listening pleasure, we've got EBC x 300 PAR—sound clips from the original interview. That means Mr. Martinus Evans on everything from his fellow runners Latoya Shauntay Snell and Mirna Valerio, to pull ups, starting his own podcast, as well as fear and authenticity as a plus-sized runner in the media spotlight.

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CLIP #1: Martinus talks about his friend and viral sensation Mirna Valerio, and how she encouraged him to get his 300 Pounds and Running Podcast off the ground. 

Clip #2: Martinus talks about sexism facing his female fellow plus-sized runners—and his friend (and The Long Run Podcast co-host) Latoya Shauntay Snell's insane push up game.

Clip #3: Martinus digs into the struggle to be authentic while trying to build an online following when your narrative isn't exactly linear. Also, he waxes poetic about the glory of running. 

Melissa's #StartingLine: "Push Through."

Melissa Gonzalez was struggling in mile 21 of her first ever marathon. I knew this because she was was messaging me about it as it happened—

“I’ve hit a tiny wall, but trying to push through!”

We’ve never run together. We’ve never even been in the same place at the same time. Still, in the time since our first interview, a few weeks before her big race, Melissa has become an international running buddy. We’ve celebrated new personal records. We’ve encouraged each other through long-ass training runs. We’ve theoretically invented the bar mile (a beer mile mixed with a pub crawl).

Waiting to hear news that she’d finished wasn’t just waiting for the ending to a story—it was anxiously anticipating the triumph of a friend and role model. We had connected. I was invested. If she did the damn thing, if she pushed past this wall, I thought maybe I could too.

Getting on Track

During our first call, Melissa said she grew up in California. She was an overweight kid with three brothers—three athletic brothers. She started running to lose weight in middle school, and even joined the track team with some needling from the coach. She trained and competed with her fellow student athletes, despite having some hang ups about it.

“They put me in situations that I wouldn’t feel comfortable in,” Melissa said. “I hated it, but at the end, I was like 'I’m so glad you guys made me do that!'” (Note: words probably spoken by every runner at some point.)

When she went to college as an Arts major, she stopped running, and most of the weight she had lost returned.

“I remember stepping on the scale,” she said. “My heart started pounding. Little by little I started running again.” She would head out to the local high school track and add a little distance at a time. Then a co-worker suggested running a half marathon with a group from work. Melissa, who is also a hiker, fearlessly plunged into the challenge.

“I thought, ‘What have I got to lose? Just a little bit of money.’ So the training began. Needless to say, she crushed it. Then on, top of THAT she crushed two more, completing the Beach Cities Challenge—races in Surf City, Orange County, and Long Beach.

It was after that—three races and a big medal to show for it—she decided to sign up for the LA Marathon.

Training and Trials

In that first call, she used the word “jogger” a lot when referring to herself. When I asked if she thought of herself as a runner, she hesitated.

“I feel like I’m not ‘worthy’ of that title of  ‘runner’ or even saying I’m in training. ‘I’m running a full marathon’ is a little easier to say,” she confessed.

By that point she was working up to distances of 20-22 miles in a single run. The more intensive training DID, however, help shift focus away from weight loss. It was a victory in the face of a longstanding calorie-counting obsession.

“I’m in a place right now where I feel good. Running makes me feel good every day. The training has helped me focus on putting the energy into my body that I need,” she said. “When I realized how much energy I was exerting [into disordered eating] it scared me. Right now …  I don’t think about how much I’m eating.”

March 18th 2018, the day after St. Patrick’s day, Melissa joined 25,000 other hopeful (and possibly hungover) runners in Los Angeles to run to Santa Monica. 

“I Hurt So Bad!”

“At the starting line, I was very nervous,” she confessed. “But … seeing all those people that were going to run with me—I was pretty excited!”  She had her Camelbak with cash, ID, phone and Tylenol. She was ready for anything, except perhaps the unexpected new pains that come with taking on huge distances.

“I started cramping,” she says. “I was like, ‘okay this has never happened before. Is it going to get worse?'” According to Melissa, the marathon experience was hitting mini wall after mini wall. “I just started hurting really bad. I kept seeing people sit down during those last few miles… But I knew if I sat down, I was not going to get back up. I pushed through the pain.”

She pushed. She ran. She added an Instagram story about some guy was running in a Pikachu costume. Every mile closer to the finish line was more exciting and exhausting.

"I knew if I sat down, I was not going to get back up."

Spoiler alert: she made it past that wall, all the way to the finish line. Hundreds of people screamed and cheered, ushering Melissa into her and her fellow runners into marathoner life. 

“It was unreal. When I crossed it, I just cried! There were photographers wanting to take a picture of me, and I just needed a moment.”

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“For What?”

We had another Hangouts call a few weeks after the race. When I congratulated her, there was a beat of silence.

“...For what?”

In a post on her Instagram on the same day of the marathon, she said she probably wasn’t done with the distance. In Hangouts, she said she’d probably try to find another marathon before the year ends.

The real final question though: does she FINALLY consider herself a runner? Has she earned her title?

“Honestly, I still think it’s awkward, and I feel not good enough to call myself a runner,” she admitted.

“I know I’m a runner … I still struggle with body image issues. But this is a goal I want to get to—CALLING MYSELF A RUNNER without thinking twice about it!” She’s living proof that you can still accomplish goals, motivate others, and still struggle. Ain't nothing wrong with that.

It’s impossible to know which finish line she’ll find this revelation on the other side of—but she’s in no hurry. After all, she’s got races to run, and a whole community of people to inspire, yours truly included. It works out—they inspire her right back.

“You see all these kinds of people with you doing marathons. You don’t expect it, but you see these people …  bigger, smaller, with disabilities. Everyone around me is so inspiring. There’s no reason I can’t do it, you know?”

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Martinus' #StartingLine: "300 Pounds and Running."

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Martinus Evans weighed about 370 pounds when a doctor threw the F-word in his face: “Mr. Evans, you’re fat.”

He'd come in for help after work-related hip pain and weeks of physiotherapy. When the doc suggested that he start walking, Martinus’ angry response would carve him a new life:

“Screw that. I’m gonna run a marathon.”

Soon, he started the Couch to 5K training program and began blogging his journey on his site, 300 Pounds and Running. Fuelled by defiance, determination, and a weight loss goal, in October of 2013, he put his marathon where his mouth was and finished the Detroit Marathon. It was a huge personal win—but his road to running was just beginning.

In January and July of 2014 he was in two separate car accidents that knocked him out of his running shoes and into painful recovery until early 2016. He got back up and went out. Then, tackling a runstreak, he developed tears in his Achilles tendon that benched him again. Now, FINALLY, he’s up and running, training for this year’s New York Marathon.

Martinus hosts the 300 Pounds and Running podcast, was recently featured in Runner’s World magazine, is a certified RRCA coach, and has written his own eBook, Zero to Running. I had the pleasure of interviewing him about the latest leg of his journey, what it’s like to be plus-sized and Black in a thin white sport, man boobs, his goals, and more.

Strap into your sneakers, it's about to get real.

Source: Instagram

Source: Instagram

What do you think brings you back to running after all of these injuries and setbacks? 

Running’s my mechanism! People have their things. With me, running my marathon, being on top  of the world, running has been my thing. This is what I wanna do.

The other thing is [me] being a sad puppy, for lack of a better word. You know, like you’re a puppy in the back seat and you lookin’ out the window. I would just drive, it would be a bright and sunny day, and I would just see runners running by. I’d feel sad like “DAMN. That used to be me! I want to get out there again!”


Until pretty recently, running has been a thin, white sport.

What’s your experience being not only a plus-sized athlete, but also a person of colour?

Where do I start?! As an athlete, as a person who has been an offensive lineman, I’ve always been someone who has used their weight for advantage. When it comes to all the other sports, it’s all about being explosive.The faster you are, the bigger advantage you have.

When I started running, I didn’t think about long distance. I thought about like… sprinters. That’s … one of the reasons I didn’t succeed in Couch to 5k the first 4-5 attempts, because I’m trying to run as fast as I can for a minute and a half, as opposed to learning the concept of a conversation pace. 

Also, yes do you do get those weird looks. You get those bro types like, “RUN, FAT MAN WOOOO!” But I think as a man I don’t receive those comments as much as my female counterparts. 

"Being a fat Black man doing this is like an oxymoron."

As far as being a person of colour... Being a fat Black man doing this is like an oxymoron. Me being out here in New England, Massachusetts, being in a primarily white neighbourhood... It’s interesting. You get the double takes. 

Even talking to my family, I’m like “I’m gonna go for a run” and they’re like “no man, a run? That’s some white people type shit! I’m not running unless a dog’s chasing me, or I’m in danger!” It’s very crazy, talking to my friends back in Detroit, where I grew up. They’re like “you’ve been up in Massachusetts too long, hanging around the white folks, because we ain’t running out here for like health or fitness!” The community just doesn’t understand.

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WhaT'S BEEN YOUR biggest obstacle as a runner?

A) Injuries. B) Motivation and mindset. I would say injuries because being a bigger person, you’ve got a lot of moving parts, one of the things just happens—a lot of people suffer from shin splints and things of that sort. I think a lot of people go out too fast, too soon and hurt themselves before they get into a groove.

The other one is mindset. The thing is, people compare themselves a lot—and don’t think of themselves AS being a runner because they’re like OH, I did run/walk intervals, or I’m not as fast as the speed demon next to me on the treadmill. It’s a mindset type of thing—if you doing anything faster than a walk, you’re running. 


FLIP THAT: What’s a recent victory you achieved?

I feel like I have victories every DAY! In pertaining to that Instagram post I put up, that was a huge victory. (Editor’s note: Martinus is talking about this post, which encouraged me to contact him in the first place!) You know, I’m a man with boobs. Having man boobs is something that a lot of men are afraid to talk about. So me taking off my shirt and being A) uncomfortable about the situation B) being like I’mma post this on the internet where … I’ve got tens of thousands of followers… That’s a victory. 

Me, being on this workout streak for three or four weeks in a row... THAT’S a victory.  Hell, just getting out the bed, at 6 a.m. is a victory. Because there was a lot of times going through depression and not working out that I just stayed in the bed. Whereas now… It’s a priority.

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What does running give you that you don’t get anywhere else?

Peace. Gives me peace of mind. Running ... is the only time where I can calm down the inner voices in my head. There's just something about that. You got work, you wanna watch TV, you got social media, everything's pinging you. Running is the one time I can just silence it all. It can just be me, and me breathing and like hearing the sounds my body make when it hits the pavement.

For me, I feel the most when I’m with my maker, the grand architect of the universe, when I’m running. Me going into a church. Don’t do nothing for me. That’s when I’m at peace and at one with whoever the maker of the universe is. 


And what are some of your future goals?
 

My big goal is the NYC marathon. I got entered into it last year but because of my Achilles issue I just couldn’t get healed enough to do the race, so I deferred it. So I got that race this year. I’m doing this thing called the Boston Athletics Association Medley—a 5k, 10k, half marathon throughout the year. I got a couple half marathons I signed up for. I got a calendar full of things. My big goal for next year is to do an ironman. 

Last question: Did you ever go back to that doctor?
 

Absolutely not! I am not going back to anybody who treats me wrong. He’s dead to me. It’s just not cool to tell your patient “you're fat.” Granted, that was the catalyst I needed to get off my butt, to get going, but there’s a lot of other people who don’t have that personality that I have. I’m super competitive.

You tell me I can’t, I’mma show you why I can.

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You can find Martinus on his site, 300PoundsandRunning.com.

To stay up-to-date with #StartingLines and more, follow The Every Body Collective on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram! (Seriously, I don't bite.)

Emma's #StartingLine - "The defining moment."

In her first ever pole dancing lesson, Emma was asked to roll her tights above the knees and almost burst into tears. She had only agreed to show up because two friends had said they would too—but they had bailed, leaving her to face the unknown. She thought about leaving, but another woman had noticed her and broken the ice, so there was no backing out—she had been spotted. Incredibly shy and self conscious at 23-years-old, Emma was absolutely mortified at the idea of showing any skin whatsoever.

“I turned up dressed, well, jokingly I describe it as a scuba diver,” Emma says. “The instructor begged me to roll up my leggings. I nearly cried, the idea of showing my knees was impossible.”

Three years later, she’s come a long way from the awkward girl who was afraid to be seen. Emma is now a pole dance instructor and competitor who posts much of her fitness journey on her Instagram, @thedefiningmoment. The changes didn’t come easily, but they fit her like a glove—or maybe a pair of fishnet stockings.

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From a young age, Emma avoided sports and fitness “like the plague” and jokes about pretending to be asthmatic to escape gym class. There was a sense of alienation from her body, that it wasn’t enough, it didn’t look like the magazines, it couldn’t do what other bodies did. In her early twenties, she felt anxious around crowds and (funnily enough), dancing.

“It would just be sensory overload,” Emma says of nights out in the club with her friends. “You kind of feel like you’re dancing for other people, that’s not my dig.”

Cue: her first pole dance lesson ever, her friends standing her up, the Victorian trauma of the “over the knee” leggings incident. In that moment, something made her dig deep and stick it out. Maybe it was pure grit, or maybe she had already paid for a block of classes. Either way, instead of wasting her money, she kept going, one hour each week for six weeks. She got hooked.

It wasn’t long before she was showing up early to help set up and staying late to help take down after lessons. Then she started helping out in the lower level classes. Next, it was training as a teacher.

By day, she’s a hairdresser who says she is “really boring” and loves “nothing more than a cup of tea at the end of the night.” Meanwhile in the evenings she’s teaching students to get in touch with their sultry, sensual sides and mastering moves like the overhead box, where the dancer holds themselves up on the pole and brings their legs up and over their body. Is it easy? Hell no.

“It took me three years to get that, and most students get it after maybe 8 or 9 weeks,” she exclaims with exasperation.

Watching the video of this achievement on her Instagram, you’d miss the emotion of the moment if you didn’t know there were years of work culminated in it. You can hear words of encouragement of her peers as she works up to the move, the room takes a quick collective breath—and then she nails it. Cheers, tears, and satisfaction.

“The nectar always tastes sweeter when you’ve earned it. I actually cried, I was so pleased,” Emma says. According to her, her own stubbornness kept her on track.

Crying is a recurring thing too—Emma says it happens every time she performs. She even wept after a sexy comedy routine where she dressed as British baking icon Mary Berry, and rolled around in cake on stage for about 40 people.

“I was dirtily dancing in cake on the floor, and I got up and everyone was clapping. I just burst into tears!” Pole dancing, it seems, was the beginning of an appreciation for her body and its capabilities she had never had before. Even though there is a large performance component, the poetry of it for Emma is all about being alone in the movement.

“It’s you and the world alone, together, dancing.” Emma says. “I definitely don’t ever feel as free as when I dance. It’s just a release.”
 

In March 2018, she’ll strut her stuff for about 200 people—her largest audience yet—in her second-ever pole dancing competition. Even though part of that crowd will be the people she’s competing against, she’s not nervous. In fact, she says the air of a pole dancing competition is so positively charged it’s nearly electric.

“You’ve got your competitors on the sidelines, screaming for all the moves you do. It’s such a positive place it’s unreal,” Emma says.

“It’s given me a huge network of supportive people,” she adds. Pole helped her build real friendships and break out of her shell. She says it would do the same for anyone, and that all are welcome in the dance studio. “We come in all shapes, sizes, colours, genders. I’ve got guys in my classes. There’s a 70-year-old pole dancer someone was telling me about just earlier today.”

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Emma is a key example of what happens when you love your niche, and your niche absolutely loves you back. She speaks with warmth and humour about her sport, and is its unflinching advocate. She insists pole is something everyone should try, even (especially) if they’re intimidated by it. Think you’re not strong enough? Think again.

“If you can push yourself up on a table, then you can officially hold your body weight long enough to hold yourself on a pole,” she presses.

Just like anyone consumed by their sport of choice, she’s not currently interested in trying other kinds of movement. She’s focused and knows where she’s going. If you ask, all her future goals are related to pole dancing. She started hitting the gym to build strength and cardio endurance to improve her competitive game. She’s made new years resolutions to nail new moves. She and her doubles partner are rehearsing top-secret competition routines. The future feels bright and focused.

What’s more, in pole, she’s found an outlet to channel all the emotions of life, no matter who’s watching—awed newbies in her classes, competitors, or the world of social media.

Before pole, Emma says her Instagram was filled with selfies exclusively from the shoulders up, hunting for that elusive “perfect” angle. Now, she uses hashtags like #Sundaybumday and describes herself as “the loudmouth who can’t ever stay clothed.” In her own words, she has become “the anti-Old Emma.” She’s turned her world literally upside down.

The name of her Instagram, “the defining moment” is a photography term, which was her major in university.

“It’s the moment before something big happens,” she explains. “I felt like I was in … the middle part of something big happening. I feel like I’m that flower about to blossom,” Emma says.

Speaking to her, you get a strong sense that her true defining moment is now.

Photo Credit: Millie Robson Photography

Photo Credit: Millie Robson Photography

Riley's #StartingLine - "You belong here."

When I was twelve, I decided all sports were dead to me—it happened at junior basketball tryouts.

I entered the gym excited, already imagining the glory of being on the team, a part of something, ready to have fun. The coach had us warm up with suicide-style sprints. While the other girls whipped across the gleaming floor in a graceful pack, I struggled behind, brick-faced and breathless. I couldn’t catch up. Humiliated, I walked out before the warm up had even ended. Nobody tried to stop me.

I heard the unsaid words their deafening silence implied: just quit. You can’t do this. You don’t belong here.

Before that, I had tried lots of sports: gymnastics, swimming, t-ball, dance, golf, tennis—the list went on. They had been a fundamental part of my childhood. I had even dreamt of being on the Canadian Olympic team, shining with others on the world’s stage—but after that tryout, all I wanted to be was invisible. It was the first time I realized being the fat kid would hold me back.

My childhood was general happiness with stints of brutal guerilla warfare reminding me that I was different and gross. I remember older kids squealing “suuuey” at me in the halls and mocking my elastic waist pants. I stopped playing outside with my friends because I sucked at tag. If a teacher called on me in class I would automatically sweat from the unbearable stress of people being forced to endure looking at me.

The best part about high school was that it was even bigger than I was. The second I could retire my gym uniform for heavy eyeliner and bright pink hair dye, I did. Sports were like… so conformist. I rejected my mom’s invitations to the gym, while I secretly coveted thinness or a “real” eating disorder. (I tried countless times to make myself throw up, only to find my stomach wouldn’t let me. It was just another thing my body sucked at.) The idea of my peers making jokes about my fat ass needing a bigger coffin kept me away from too many thoughts about killing myself.

Also the days before eyebrows, so...

Also the days before eyebrows, so...

It wasn’t until the impending promise of a restart in college that I got anywhere close to sports again. I needed to shed the weight that had made my body into a cage—something I was desperately trying to escape while people leered and jeered from outside. I couldn’t be the fat girl there too. I couldn’t stay lonely. The summer before my last year of highschool, I started running.

Those first runs were always close to home and at sundown, because the fear of being seen was too strong. It’s a (literal) running theme in the essays of other fat runners—being spotted is the enemy. Being noticed might mean a blitzkrieg of judgment and disgust hurled at you by an idiot in a passing car. I’d stand in my running shoes, sweaty and hung up on these repulsive strangers for days.

I lost 20lbs that summer, and even more the following school year. I got a little bolder, and even took Grade 12 gym, basking in field trips to the bowling lanes and group dance classes with my peers.

The weight loss didn’t fix things. In college I would binge eat my stress, panic, and then try to make myself sick. Once, I tried until blood vessels burst under my eyes. Another time, I ended up on the bathroom floor in frustrated tears, my fingers dappled in blood from where my fingernails had scraped the back of my throat. The weight came back.

It wasn’t all bad—in college I also I got into my first real relationship with running. At the time, I was writing for the student magazine. I still don’t know what possessed me—maybe a spark had ignited, or I was desperate for outside pressure to lose weight. Either way, I pitched an article in which I would train for AND run a 10K race. It was greenlit, and soon enough I was back in my running shoes. One of my training steps was to run a 5K—my first road race ever. All I remember is walking a lot and a VERY pregnant lady passing me. At the 10K, I came in sixth-to-last.

Magazine spread about my first 10K 

Magazine spread about my first 10K 

Thinking back, all of my first flirtations with a running habit were motivated by weight loss. However, over the years, when the diagnoses began to stack—social phobia, a panic disorder, binge eating disorder, and later, depression—it also became a way to balance my inflamed brain. If I was upset, I would find freedom out on the sidewalks, headphones in, eyes forward.

Through it all, I was still that fat kid. Putting a label on my relationship with running only made me feel like an impostor. I was just wearing running clothes, and putting on running shoes, and using my legs to propel me through neighborhoods and road races. I was just finding calm and happiness and discovering myself every time I hit the pavement. That was all! I didn’t LOOK like the elite gazelle cult who won all the races I entered—how could I have possibly been a runner?

Cue plus-sized ultra marathon runner Mirna Valerio on the cover of Runner’s World—a powerhouse. She was a self-proclaimed fat woman doing things I couldn’t even let myself sarcastically dream of. (Gee I’D sure like to like run a marathon one day, ha ha ha. #Butactuallythough.) She was out there, visible as hell on the cover of  my favourite magazine. I had never seen a plus-sized runner on glossy paper before—that photo literally changed my world. It was like my entire being had been a clenched fist, and suddenly, it was relaxed and open. I quietly pinned a half marathon training plan to my bulletin board.

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Running has been with me through mental breakdowns and graduations. On and off of antidepressants. I took it overseas when I studied abroad in Scotland. I leave room for my running shoes in my suitcase when packing for vacations. I even sometimes run with my sisters now, despite my inner child cringing at the idea of working out with other people.

In January 2017, I started a health-centric Instagram, initially to hold myself accountable to yet ANOTHER weight loss goal. That account led me to a new community and a revelation: you don’t have to exercise to be someone else’s idea of appealing or loveable. You could run because you valued yourself. It didn’t have to be a punishment, or a means to an end. It could just… be.

This was the real deal too—not the syrupy “love yourself” sentiments that pop stars use to sell albums or women’s magazines put on their covers next to diet tricks. These diverse feminist radicals were fat, fabulous, and unapologetic. They even said you didn’t have to exercise at all if you hated it—but I didn’t. I was falling deep in love with the way my footsteps fused with the beat in my headphones, and the burst of emotional energy that followed even the toughest of runs.

By early spring, I was letting myself dream of bigger goals. I decided to put the half marathon training schedule I had pinned on my bulletin board to work, and signed up for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon in October.

I ran all summer and then trained for 12 weeks before the race. I shyly admitted to people that yes, I was in training—my insides glowed at the words. I changed my Instagram bio to include the word “runner.” I felt strong. Maybe for the first time, I felt one with my body instead of being trapped in it. It was a total mindset shift, like I had escaped the diet-culture Matrix. It just happened—one literal step at a time.

Running the half marathon was surreal. All kinds of people were there: the gazelles at the front of the pack, all sizes, all ages, fat and thin. I was awash in the fact that we had all come for one experience. It felt like being on the team I had never gotten to be a part of.

When I blazed over the finish line, I was sobbing so hard a concerned volunteer asked me if I was okay. I nodded. Tears ran down my face. My lungs heaved. The girl next to me vomited. I’ve never been so happy.

Just before my 1st Half Marathon Last Year

Just before my 1st Half Marathon Last Year

As of writing this, I’m already signed up for my second half marathon. I’ve got a 10K race in a few weeks. I want to run a marathon before I turn 30. I’m less afraid. I run at whatever time of the day I want. I actually talk about running to other people, instead of clutching it close like a secret I’m afraid they’ll laugh at me about. I don’t count calories anymore. Running has led me to the person I was always supposed to be. What’s more, it keeps propelling me forward: to be better, to do better.

Recently, I found out Mirna Valerio not only has an Instagram (and she FOLLOWED ME BACK), but also published a book. In it, she describes trying out for a field hockey team as a teenager. I was floored by the way her experiences seemed to mirror my own, right there on the page. She wrote about how she had to stop in the middle of running a warm up. Then, a miracle happened—the coach pulled her aside and encouraged her to keep going. Somebody followed her. She didn’t walk out. She started running again and hasn’t stopped.

I cried reading this passage on the bus home from work. (Sorry to everyone on the 80 North. Feelings, okay?!) If someone had pulled me back into that basketball tryout so many years ago, or had just told me they saw a spark.... What would have changed? Would I have believed in myself a little more? Loved myself harder? If I had seen more diverse bodies on running magazines, or out moving in my neighborhood, would I have heard my calling, louder? Clearer? Earlier in life?

I think so. That’s why I’m writing this.

I love running. I love moving—dancing, hiking, bouldering, biking, yoga. Uniting with my body through exercise makes my soul sing. I just didn’t recognize that there was a place for me in fitness or sports before—I had to figure it out for myself. If I had seen someone like me earlier, I might have come home to myself sooner. I might have found this amazing thing that fulfills me, even on the hard days, when the memories are heavy and the world feels unloving. It doesn’t have to be that—we don’t have to let it be that.

So I’m here to pass these words on to you, whoever you are, wherever you are, however you’re secretly aching to follow your calling:

Don’t quit.
You can do this.
You belong here.