An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

From here to the finish line in Boston

Monday marked the beginning of week number six of my marathon training schedule, but because I choose and enjoy and revel in doing things the hard way I completed the long run that day and not this weekend. You already have so many questions, I know, sorry! Like, wait, a full marathon? When did this happen? And a long run on a Monday morning? And will you promote my new app on your mommy blog website?

You guys. The app emails.

(Yes, this is a tangent, and no, I haven’t been taking my meds OR HAVE I. I’m going to let you decide for yourself since you were going to do that already. [You do know that I know better than to go off of my meds, right? You don’t? Okay, good. You having trust in me would make things easy and that is not the example I want to show my kids. If people are always a little bit scared that you might bite them, then you have learn how to make it seem spontaneous when you eventually do. Basic people skills.])

I appreciate that you’ve developed an app and have spent the last three years of your life and all of your savings doing so, I do. That is a lot of work and requires more dedication than the average person can summon. However, every single day at least a dozen people write me an email detailing this exact scenario. As much as you need funding and marketing and promotion, I think you’re in as much need of a support group. My greatest value here would be suggesting a good social worker (I happen to know/have employed/have funded the yacht collection of quite a few).

First: yes. A full marathon. The whole 26.2 miles. From here to the fridge and back a couple of times. To grab a hot dog.

A vegan hot dog.

Second: I’m going to try to give you the shortened/cheater’s version of this story, but when did that ever happen?

I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of running a half marathon in Tanzania last March with ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek and and his wife Jenny on a team representing Every Mother Counts:

A photo posted by Heather B. Armstrong (@dooce) on

Scott treated our whole team to a mini-clinic the day before the race and imparted tips for long-distance endurance that I have followed to the letter ever since. I would then take our relationship to the next level at mile 10 of that half marathon when he’d already finished and was running back into the field of participants to help each team member make it to the finish line. He did that. He finished the half marathon, and then the man basically ran another full marathon running everyone else in.

Everyone except me.

Not because I’m special, no. Not in that way whatsoever. I am not special. I may bite you, and it will get infected. That is all I have to offer.

I never finished the piece I was going to write about that race, but if I had you would have learned that I did not train past six miles. And I never trained on anything but a treadmill. Because I was mildly injured and in total denial. Yep! I am nothing if not prepared. FOR DISASTER. This makes me a model Mormon, let me explain: Mormons are convinced that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is imminent and will bring with it the end of the world, right? Be careful and do not get “The Second Coming of Jesus Christ” confused with “climate change” or “the potential election of Donald Trump.”

Because of this Mormons pride themselves on what’s called Disaster Preparedness. They have a room stocked with food and water and supplies, enough to last at least a couple of weeks before the zombies tear through the walls and eat them. When you buy a house in Utah there’s always one weird room tucked away that looks like a place you might keep someone you’ve casually kidnapped and plan to murder. That’s where you store all the dry beans!

Usually, when it comes to me and running races… I am disaster prepared. I have no idea which bone I’m going to break, but I’ll have paid all my insurance premiums! And, whoa, have I got a diverse collection of frozen ice packs! There is no room for Leta’s prepackaged burritos in the freezer because Mama may come home from Africa unable to walk.

When I come back out of these tangents, you guys, I have to gather my whereabouts… and good lord WE ARE IN TANZANIA! At the base of Kilimanjaro! And Scott Jurek is… running in the wrong direction?? Why was he running back into the field of participants? I really couldn’t focus on that detail because every molecule of blood in my body was focused on not dying. I’d hit a brick wall so hard the mile before that it came crashing down on top of me, and despite the suffocating humidity and 95°F temperature, I was covered in chills. I learned later that this was NOT due to the fact that I had just listened to my favorite Kanye West song while running a race in Africa (I HAVE NOT EVER TYPED A WHITER SENTENCE IN MY LIFE), no. My body was desperately and dangerously trying to cool itself off. My body, it’s a prepared Mormon.

I would use this knowledge to aid the apology I issued to Scott that afternoon when I’d recovered. Because when he approached me there at mile 10, I distinctly remember the doctor tapping my hypnotized body to say, “It’s time to push,” and waking up to the reality and pain of Marlo’s head peaking out of the birth canal. I was in labor. He was that doctor, and mile 10 was Marlo’s huge, bald noggin.

He must have recognized the abject despair in my expression when he asked (now running backward as I tried to propel myself forward), “Hey, are you okay?”

Your guess is as good as mine as to what the hell came out of my face in response to that perfectly appropriate question.

All I know is that I became a primitive human being. I regressed to my most basic animal instincts. And I wanted nothing more than to be left alone. It might have been a string of profanities. It could have been a crude imitation of Chewbacca (I’m betting on this one). I may have mimed slitting my own throat. I have no recollection of how I specifically responded to him, only that it was to communicate: “I AM A DANGER TO EVERYONE INCLUDING YOU RIGHT NOW.”

After bonding with his wife Jenny over one (okay several) highly inappropriate images on my phone over the next few days, I think he may have heard whatever it was that I groaned and thought, “Wow, is my wife ever going to hit it off with this one.”

Last year Scott worked with an organization called Team With A Vision and guided an athlete who is visually impaired in the Boston Marathon:

A photo posted by Scott Jurek (@scottjurek) on

A photo posted by Scott Jurek (@scottjurek) on

Team With A Vision is comprised of runners with visual impairment as well as sighted guides and fundraisers from all over the world who run the Boston Marathon each year to prove that “disability” does not mean “inability!”

When TWAV started looking for potential guides for future races, I think my casual association with Scott appeared on their radar and they reached out to me over twitter. Thanks, Scott, for not warning them about mile 10! Also, let me just take a moment to say, good god, twitter. Thank you. I can barely keep up with the number of ways you have changed my life. Yes, I am speaking to twitter as if it is a living, breathing entity. It’s the way I talk to all the voices in my head.

After a little bit of back and forth with Andrea Croak who works with the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, I downloaded an 18-week Hal Higdon training program, bought some new shoes (the very kind woman who helped me pick out the best fit took a look at my old shoes and said, “Don’t take this personally, but that’s a lotta holes for one shoe.”) and have dedicated myself to this race like I have to no other. I’m doing the training right this time, working up mileage week by week. Because someone is depending on me, and I take that responsibility very seriously. Almost as seriously as my butt. Almost.

On April 18th I’ll be running the Boston Marathon alongside Simon Wheatcroft who in 2014 ran from Boston to New York City and then competed in the New York Marathon. Simon lost his sight at age 17.

This is a man who is reaching in and gathering every ounce of the life he has on earth. I have so much to learn from him.

I am honored and humbled to be a part of this team and cause. I know how lucky I am that my platform has opened up countless opportunities to expand my business, and because of that I feel an obligation to use it for a commitment like this when it lands at my feet, in this instance both literally and figuratively.

twav1

Without fail when I tell people that I’m training to participate in this, that no, I did not qualify to run the Boston Marathon (ARE YOU INSANE?), that I’m there only to give a hand to an athlete who happens to be visually impaired, the response is, “Really? I had no idea that anything like this existed.” Awareness is always the first step in forging change.

You can read more about Simon on his fundraising page.

All funds raised support MABVI’s statewide network of vision rehabilitation services, which include 14 low vision clinics, 34 low vision support groups, and 300 volunteers matched 1:1 with blind individuals.

I will also be writing more about him and his journey, and will throw out some updates on my own training regimen as the race draws closer. Which brings me to the question, “Why are you doing your long runs on Monday mornings?”

Children. I have to take care of my girls every weekend, so I run when they are in school. I could pay a babysitter to come by when I’m out for a leisurely 16-mile jog, or I could say, “Leta, you’re in charge. Before Marlo burns down the house make sure you’ve brushed your hair.” I will instill an appreciation for priorities in that child, so help me god.

Instead, I’m using that time to stick my wet finger in Marlo’s ear rest my legs and spend time with them.

Boston, ahoy!

  • LoLoWyo

    I’m in training too! In Wyoming! Sure is fun to do in the wintertime in the Rockies, right? We’re GENIUSES, DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU DIFFERENT.

    I’m planning on running a half each month from May – August, and then going for my first full in September. We’ll see how that goes…

    Good on you, and good luck!

  • Sheri G.

    I live around the corner from MAB and hosted one of their runners last year before the Boston Marathon. I walked over to Beacon street in the rain with his kids and my kids and we cheered him on, and it was one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever seen. You are going to have 26.2 miles of awesomeness (and probably pain, but shhh). What an amazing thing to do, and you’ll rock it. If you need someone to yell “YOU’RE ALMOST THERE!!” at mile 24.5, I’m your woman. Enjoy your training and see you in April!

  • Debs Zeesp

    Wow! You are a massive inspiration. Good luck and I hope mile 10 seems a lot easier this time!!!

  • jA

    i was starting to twitch, but it turned out i didn’t need to. i brace myself a lot when reading able-bodied people mentioning disability because there’s a lot of excruciating but well-meaning ignorance that’s incredibly common and really insulting.

    learn lots about ablism from this athlete and this foundation and tell your readers about it please? because able-bodied people are clueless about disability issues and it gets my fucking heckles WAY UP. (i was just making an I AM AN INSPIRATION joke to a friend, because i’m so excellent at making an idiot of myself just like a healthy person, despite my severe disability!)

  • AuntHo

    Heather, you are going to LOVE THIS EXPERIENCE. It’s the best time in Boston!

    If you don’t have lodging yet, we live 2 blocks from the finish line and have plenty of space to spare — we usually have a couple of runners every year (love it!), but this year no reservations yet.

    Would absolutely love to host you and Simon or anyone who needs lodging sponsored. Ping me at aunth067 at gmail if I can help. Good luck and will be cheering you both on!

  • MIO

    MABVI has done amazing things for my husband who is legally blind. Camps, books on tape (back in the day), teaching him to read Braille. His sight is still pretty good, but someday, it won’t be. He has been trying to get a qualifying time for Boston for a few years. He has thought a lot about being a guide runner, but worries about slowing his person down instead of helping them. Please tell us all about the process, so that maybe next year he will feel like he can do it.

    Patriot’s Day in Boston is amazing! The energy at the race in different than any other race and will carry you through things like Heartbreak Hill. We live 20 minutes from the starting line. Maybe, just maybe, I will bring my 3 kids to cheer for Simon and for you!

    Also, for good vegan food, check out the Garden Grille in RI!

  • Smeebe

    Never heard of this but LOVE it! Really inspiring!

  • Ankita Narayan

    I’d never heard of something this spectacular. Thank you so much for sharing. Looking forward to your updates!

  • Sarah Toney

    This is going to be great! One of my dear friends is a blind runner with Team With a Vision and they have amazing support leading up to the race and the day of as well as all year long with their great programs! I think if you’re going to do Boston this is the PERFECT way to do it!

    I’m sure we’ll see you in April when the festivities begin!

  • Miss lee

    This – almost – sounds like fun and I get why you want to do it. Best of luck!

    Miss lee

  • Andrea

    I just want to know where you got that peg doll in the first photo of your last post, but the comments there are closed. Please and thank you.

  • Lauren3

    Dude this was a pleasure to read, both for the style and the content. So fun to see you kick ass in both composition and life.

    ^And that was as serious as your butt.

    <3

  • Runninggirl

    Given you’ve never had a smooth marathon or half marathon experience, do you really think it’s wise to do this??? I mean, I get that you’re doing a training programme but I’d be pretty hesitant to volunteer for something where it wasn’t clear I could actually do it and when someone else’s goal is at stake….

  • KristenfromMA

    I second that the crowd will get you through the tough course. People gather along the entire route to cheer the runners on.

  • peg

    That’s the spirit!

  • gracedavis

    Very rewarding. I was an NYC Marathon “runner guide” in 2007 with The Achilles Track Club. now known as Achilles International. I don’t know what the rules are for the BM, but I got a finishers medal for the NYC. If this is okay with Boston, snag a medal.

  • KathyB

    Love that you outmanuevered your usual impulses and are seriously training for this marathon, Heather. Sweet. All you had to do was take the emphasis off destroying your body and place it on assisting this other person. Good job. Excellent job. So very proud of and for you.

  • Heather Armstrong

    Pay attention: doocecom.uoycbnb4-liquidwebsites.com/2015/11/11/run-emc/

  • Runninggirl

    I stand corrected on the half marathon front! (nonetheless, I personally wouldn’t run as a guide if I couldn’t point to proof for the runner that I’d be able to perform on the day as required)

  • Ro

    My 7 month old nephew was diagnosed as being blind recently. Reading things like this make me think everything will be ok. Thank you. Well done. x

  • Andrea Croak

    If anyone would like to cheer for Heather and Team With A Vision, we will be at the corner of Beacon St and Amory St! It’s our Team With A Vision cheer spot, roughly mile 24.5!

  • David Brown

    We could not be more jazzed to have you run, write, inspire, run some more , perspire, run a bit more, write, write , write, run guide guide guide, laugh, cry and cross the finish line of the Boston Marathon as a member of Team with A Vision supporting the Massachusetts Association for the blind and Visually Impaired.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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