My guilty pleasure of reality TV has intersected with my life as a mother runner – worlds colliding! Watch out!
If you tuned in to the most recent season of Survivor, you probably know what I am talking about. Finalist Monica Culpepper, who proved herself to be a true badass Survivor, is also a badass mother runner! And, she will be appearing next month on Another Mother Runner Radio so be sure to tune in.
Many believe the right and most deserving person was crowned the Sole Survivor. That person was not Monica. Arguably, she was not the most strategic player; certainly, she was not the most manipulative or conniving; and maybe she didn’t make any “big moves”. But did she need to? She came into the game, formed a very strong alliance, stayed loyal to them throughout, and inspired them to stay loyal to her. She had a plan to get to the final 3 and she blazed a path there by dominating the physical challenges. And she did it all with kindness. This is a woman who won the food reward and forfeited it for her team. Weighing in at probably 100 pounds dripping wet, Monica asked if she could make a trade and give her reward to the team while taking none for herself.
In the final days on the island and certainly in the final tribal council, though, Monica was pummeled by her fellow players and the jury. She was told she had no backbone because she didn’t betray her alliance. She was called a puppy dog with no opinions of her own because she followed her plan. She was accused of being fake because she was kind. Instead of questioning Monica about her game play, the jury questioned her as a person.
This bothered me to no end because of the double standard. No one asked the two male finalists about how they felt. No one asked them to “speak from the heart” and “be vulnerable”. That would have sounded ridiculous. They fielded questions about big moves and idols and alliances. But when it was time to address the last woman standing, there was a theme – loud and clear. And as a woman and mother, I did not like it.
The jury could not understand how she could make it to the end and not “break down”. That this didn’t happen seemed suspect. It must mean something was wrong with her. Never mind the game, what was going on with Monica? Since she didn’t break down on her own, they then tried to force a break down. She didn’t succumb. Why? Because she is a strong woman. She is a mother who was out there to prove something to herself. She is a woman with mental fortitude and grace who never lost her cool.
The fact that she is also a runner is likely not a coincidence.
Think about the mental strength it takes to lace up and get there. On days when it is too hot. On days when it is too cold. On days when you just don’t feel like it and have a million other things to do.
Think about the physical strength it takes to push yourself further and further, faster and faster. When your legs are on fire. When your lungs feel like they could explode. When every ounce of you wants to slow down or give up.
Think about the mental strength built on those long runs. Pounding the pavement for hours at a time. Running to the middle of nowhere and back. Or running in place on a treadmill because your kids are in bed. But, step by step, you are getting it done.
Running forces you to spend a lot of time with your thoughts. If you want to get to know yourself better, go for a run. There is nowhere to hide from yourself. You cannot ignore the thoughts racing through your head, be they good, bad or ugly. Instead, you have to deal with them and make peace with them. There is a truth that comes with running. It is a sport that keeps you honest with yourself.
And if you take someone who has trained their body and mind in this extraordinary way and throw them into an extraordinary situation, they will likely perform in extraordinary ways. That is exactly the case for Monica. She played an extraordinary game with subtlety and grace. She didn’t need blindsides or idols or big moves. And she certainly didn’t deserve to be bullied for being a strong woman who knew her own mind.
I like to think that her resolve is part of her character because she is a runner. And that holds true regardless of whether you are a woman or a man. It is not influenced by age or beauty, wealth or geography. Running is a great equalizer with no room for double standards.
And that is just another reason why I’m proud to be a runner. And with women like Monica out there representing the tribe, I am proud to be a mother runner too.