Apologies for not blogging in forever as I have been focused on this memoir of mine. It seems so much of what I was writing needed to be saved for the book somewhat but here’s a little something I thought might be blog worthy.
Surprisingly, several months after being outed as a Vegas escort in late 2012, I was receiving occasional invitations once again to appear at races, make an appearance or give a running related speech. I assumed the running world would want to have little to do with me, but this was a pleasant surprise. As flattered as I was, it just didn’t feel right, however. In a nutshell, I wasn’t ready to get back out there, and believed people were not ready for me either. I respectfully declined these invitations, but showed my appreciation. It was clear these people inviting me believed in second chances or saw what I did as understandable / relatable in some way. Regardless, they were reaching out in a big way.
Well, long story short, another invitation came in towards the tail end of 2014. It was a low-key high school coach’s clinic in Colorado. The gentleman who contacted me said I could speak on whatever my heart desired. He said I had much to offer and give back to the sport. This meant a lot, but I responded with my standard, “thanks, but no thanks”. In the next few days, this one stayed on my mind. If it could be low key and not publicized, perhaps I was ready. With a push from my husband, I re-contacted the organizer and committed to the speaking opportunity.
As I flew into Denver I was nervously adding notes to my speech. I did speeches all the time without an ounce of fear or nervousness before being outed, but now, I was so damn terrified and questioning whether I made the right decision. I knew if I planned to make a future career in speaking again, I needed to get out there. I also knew this was an important part of the recovery process for me.
At speaking time later that evening, I stood up and walked toward the stage and knew that some of the coaches would be judging me. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t ashamed of who I was and that they could not bring me down. As I stood up at the podium and looked over the coaches I would be speaking to, relief set in. I went back to the words my husband left me with when I left our house for the airport. “Just talk from the heart & don’t go all scripted”.
My speech centered on the joy of running, and how coaches (parents too) can encourage this joy through their actions, or take it away. I told the coaches about the first time I really discovered running and why I loved it so much. At age 9, I was pretending to be a horse galloping through the woods near my home. Running was simple then, just purely for utter enjoyment. I felt fast like my legs were not even connected to me and I was just floating. My mind was clear and I focused on sights around me, noting the simple joys of nature. It was a magical experience leading me to want more. So how do we contain this type of enjoyment and passion and bring it to the competitive side of our running? The joy of running is essential in creating great runners, but more importantly, it’s essential to keep one running, long term. In short, my message to the coaches was how do we not screw this up? (I’ll be sure to blog about this more specifically at a later date).
I was able to draw the coaches into my presentation by showing examples of what took away some of that pure joy of running for me throughout my career, but also a couple that truly enhanced it. I focused on how coaches and parents can create positive environments that breed success or negative ones where pressures are too great, expectations are unrealistic, and athletes are destined to quit, burn out, and act out. I encouraged the coaches to create an environment where athletes can use their voice, gain mental strength, and create an environment where athletes feel safe in sharing their unfiltered thoughts, without judgment or embarrassment.
I was putting into practice my message at that very moment. I assumed some in the audience were judging me, but this is where I could show my strength. The strength I displayed in my racing was minimal compared to the strength I had gained over the last two years. I felt more determined then ever at that moment to be proud of who I was and not ashamed. Sharing my most challenging running moments seemed miniscule to what life outside of the running world has shown me. The difficult issues we all experience in our lives are moments where we have the choice to rise above or sink. I knew support helped me get through my storm, and my message to these coaches reflected that. Support your athletes in good races and in bad. It’s those disappointing ones where they need you the most.
Well, the next morning, for my second presentation, I was able to teach “yoga for runners” to the coaches. Like me, I could tell that the audience was more relaxed then the night before. I think we had to break that ice together. They realized I’m “ok”. I’m not the freak they may have envisioned. It was a big step, and a necessary one in my desire to really get my life back. You have to get back on that horse when you fall off. That’s a big message of mine. I want people going through something to think, “If she went through that, then I can get through my challenge”.
Thank you to those willing to cut me some slack and give me a shot. It’s appreciated more than you can imagine.