HELP WANTED

I’d much rather offer my help than ask for it.

When I talk about my volunteer work with the Charlottesville Track Club during interviews, I always explain that I will never criticize something unless I’m willing to try to fix it or improve it. That’s how I started with the Marathon and Half Marathon Training Program. I saw the way people signed up (on paper!) and it didn’t seem to be ideal. I made suggestions to help modernize registration and disseminate information on a website and social media. On May 23 we have our orientation meeting for the program I’ve helped coordinate for over 13 years and I can’t wait to keep making it better with each edition.

Asking for help has been really hard for me. I don’t have a lot of memories about my time at the Child Guidance Center in Philadelphia’s Children’s Hospital, when I suffered from Anorexia Nervosa, but the one that clearly stands out is when I couldn’t ask for a tissue. I don’t know why I was crying, but I remember the counselor offering me a tissue and then questioning why I couldn’t ask for one myself when I clearly needed it. That sticks with me almost 40 years later … that I could have tears and snot all over my face and still not ask for help.

I’m trying very hard to change this hesitancy of mine. It’s not that I think it’s weak to ask for help; I don’t. It’s just that sometimes I feel like I don’t want to bother people or I think maybe I don’t deserve help or kindness because there are so many people with greater needs than mine. Or, I fear rejection when someone doesn’t respond in the way I’d hope for.

I’m learning that it’s worth the risk to put yourself out there and ask for something that someone might enthusiastically give you. That’s why I recently sent out an email with the subject line, “I need your help.” I didn’t want to hide the fact that my twin sister and I had been struggling with some big changes over the past year and we wanted our 50th birthday to be special and memorable. A photo from a friend could be the one bright spot in an otherwise challenging day. No one can read my mind so I need to tell people how meaningful it would be get that picture. And guess what? It’s working! We’ve already received adorable and beautiful photos of our “Flat Twins” and I can’t wait to see more.

The sign in the store window for a job opening might be “Help Wanted”, but I’m finding the job hunt to be a lot like dating. It’s a confusing mixture of “Swipe right” and “Swipe left” on both sides. Is this the dream job? Is she the ideal candidate?

We all want the offer/acceptance instead of the rejection/denial. Is it worse to get a interview only to be rejected or to get passed on right away? I can’t quite figure it all out just yet. All I know is that it’s very challenging and exciting at the same time.

I never dated much and I had the same job longer than my marriage, so how do I maneuver myself in this strange world of hiring? Sometimes I think I just need to have the right conversation with the right person and they will know that I want this and that I can do it. (OMG I’m quoting Shiv from HBO’s Succession. I hope my resume doesn’t get torn apart like her memo did!)

I’m very lucky to be getting interviews for positions that I really want or am genuinely interested in, but I find myself thinking afterwards, “Oh **** I was too honest!” I wonder: Is my unique and transparent personality getting in the way of receiving an offer or do I just not have the experience needed? As a former supervisor once told one of my colleagues, “You’ve got to let Leah be Leah.” I know deep down that if I can’t be valued or appreciated for being my authentic self, then it’s probably not the right position for me. That being said, perhaps I should try to avoid any self-deprecating humor next time I’m on Zoom.

I’m going to do a deep dive analysis of my job hunt so far and work on improving my resume and my elevator pitch to market myself to potential employers. I was thinking about writing my bio for a company website where I want to work as if I were hired to see what I come up with. I also thought on my two-hour walk this morning that maybe I need to work on my tagline, but all I could come up with were funny ones for an edition of the “Real Running Housewives of Charlottesville.” Seriously Bravo come here to cast your next franchise!

“I’ve got a one track mind, but don’t always stay in my lane.” 

“No need to analyze my face, just check my resting heart rate.” 

“It’s time for me to roll, but only because my piriformis really hurts.” 

“I want to break the glass ceiling like I’ve shattered my sesamoids … into many little pieces.” 

“Every mile is a gift and I love presents! (especially in Pokemon Go)”

So please send me and my twin lots of birthday “presents” on Tuesday, May 18th … especially Flat Twin photos and Pokemon Go gifts (they’re FREE!).

#TWINSRUN50K

I’m so excited to attempt my first unofficial ultramarathon on May 18th: 50K on my 50th birthday! Why 50K and not 50 miles? Well, first off, it’s a LOT shorter (31 miles), but it’s also one of the most common ultramarathon distances (any footrace longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195 kilometers or 26 miles 385 yards). And, there’s a connection to my favorite past time: Pokemon Go. This mobile game encourages players to walk and the top weekly distance reward level is 50km. I thought it would be fun to hit that in one day rather than one week!

If I had to put a time goal on it, I guess maybe my “A Goal” would be 5:18:59 (the pace I ran at my 2021 Rivanna Greenbelt Marathon and because it fits the birthday theme!). That’s never going to happen (mostly because I want to enjoy this challenge and not die or injure myself), so the “B Goal” is under 6 hours and the “C Goal” is under 7:11, the time of my slowest marathon (16:28/mile), when I walked 26.2 miles in the 2010 Disney World Marathon with a bedazzled aircast because of shattered sesamoids. (Fun fact: someone from Turkey just messaged me on Instagram asking about my sesamoids injury because I posted my x-rays. My advice to her was never have surgery unless you need to crawl to the doctor’s office, because I’ve managed to run for 11 years after the diagnosis, albeit not pain free, but manageable.) Walking a marathon was probably the hardest “race” I have ever done because I knew it was going to take a long time and I ended up getting a huge blister on my good foot because I forgot the lift for that sneaker to keep my feet even. I can’t tell you how much it helped to hear encouragement from fellow runners and compliments on my pretty boot. 🙂

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the impact of running on my life as I take my daily walks. I set a goal on January 1, 2021 to walk/run an average of 10 miles a day while I look for a job which has been vital to keeping me motivated and healthy in both mind and body. It’s helped me realize that I want my next career to be in the running industry because it’s been so life-transforming for me. I am honored to be a 13+ year volunteer for the Charlottesville Track Club, but I wouldn’t mind getting a paycheck doing good work that supports running. Also, with my daily mileage commitment, I easily cash in on those sweet 50k rewards in Pokemon Go!

I started running in 2006 to lose weight and soon realized I had some natural talent, but the former anorexic in me took things a bit too far. I was super focused on maintaining the best “racing weight” and ended up obsessing over the scale and dealing with a serious ferritin deficiency that resulted in me barely finishing my first marathon in 5 hours and 17 minutes in 2007. Over the next 5 years I improved my diet (a little!), gained back some of the weight I lost, and hit all of my PRs in 2011-2012. I was still lean, strong and healthier than when I had relapsed into disordered eating, but even though I was fast, I wanted to be faster and always found some way to negate my accomplishments.

Being “skinny” or “speedy” didn’t make me any happier than I am today, but I’m still not in the best place when it comes to body image. I haven’t touch a scale in over a year, but I know I’m not at my best “racing weight” anymore and it’s hard not to feel “fat” when I’m “normal”. Even though I know I probably look “good” and “healthy” to most people, when I look back at old racing photos of me much thinner, I can’t help but feel frustrated and disappointed in myself. And then I feel guilty for feeling that way because I’m not struggling as much as my identical twin sister who is currently in treatment for her own eating disorder and spoke about it with the New York Times.

Ok, that all just took a somewhat dark turn. Sorry! I wanted to be all happy and positive about this solo ultra run of mine and I really am looking forward to it, but I am also sad that I can’t share the experience with my twin like we shared the 2017 Boston Marathon. That will always be the most meaningful race with my twin because we both worked so hard to get there.

When we started “TWINS RUN”, Malinda came up with the faster twin / slower twin concept. On the back of our shirts we had, “If I’m passing you I’m Leah, If you’re passing me I’m Malinda“. Malinda’s whole attitude was that running should be fun and not competitive, while I focused on improving my race times and qualifying for Boston. That all changed when the bombs went off in 2013 after finishing my first Boston Marathon. Malinda wanted to run Boston with me instead of cheering for me, so she started to train with purpose and after many attempts, she qualified too!

So here we are about to turn 50 and how do I want to celebrate? I’m running for fun and fundraising! Every mile is a gift and I want to share it by doing something good for others. That’s why we are raising money for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer. We’ve been supporting this organization for almost 10 years by running races and sponsoring lemonade stands at the CTC’s All-Comers Track Meets.

At my core, I prefer to be a solo runner. I don’t normally like running with other people unless that’s the only way I can book time with them. I like to run alone so I can think and listen to my music. I’m preparing my #TWINSRUN50K playlist and hoping that my friends and family can share songs and virtual cheers to keep me motivated and give me a reason to think about those special people in my life. I’m also planning a “Chalk the Walk” event to decorate the path I’ll be running back and forth many many times on Tuesday, May 18th with positive messages and art for everyone to enjoy. So please fill out this form to share a song, photo, or mantra.

THANK YOU!

I’ll be running my 50K at Darden Towe Park, starting as early as I can and staying as late as I have to. 🙂

50K on my 50th Birthday!

For my 50th birthday on May 18th, I’ll be running 50K (and let’s be honest, walking some of it too!to raise awareness for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer.

Make a donation to keep me motivated or sign up for your own challenge: runsignup.com/twinsrun50

Be notified of live updates via my Facebook events page.

l’ve been supporting and fundraising for ALSF for almost 10 years and love their mission: ❤️🍋

  • To raise money and awareness of childhood cancer causes, primarily research into new treatments and cures.
  • To encourage and empower others, especially children, to raise money for childhood cancer by holding their own Alex’s Lemonade Stands.
    alexslemonade.org

Trapped in the House with an Eating Disorder by Virginia Sole-Smith

Thank you to Virginia Sole-Smith and The New York Times for the opportunity to share my identical twin’s story.

“Suddenly I had to be in charge of the food. They wanted me to have more variety, but I didn’t want to go back to the grocery store. I started having panic attacks.”

Malinda Hill