Wednesday December 06, 2017

This plus-size marathoner gets heckled from the sidelines — but she won't let that stop her

Latoya Snell has just reached the 23-mile marker of the New York City Marathon when a spectator shouted disparaging comments at her.

Latoya Snell has just reached the 23-mile marker of the New York City Marathon when a spectator shouted disparaging comments at her. (Latoya Snell)

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Just five kilometres away from the New York City Marathon's finish line, Latoya Snell stopped.

Not because she was tired or thirsty, but because someone was heckling her from the sidelines.

"I had a guy who yelled at me and he said… 'It's going to take your fat ass forever,'" she told As It Happens guest host Jim Brown.

Snell is a self-described "plus-size runner" and chef.

"I don't fit the stereotypical mould of what a runner's body would actually be, which is lean," she said. 

Snell is decorated with medals from eight marathons and two ultra-marathons (60-kilometre courses) within the past four years.

Still, she has her critics.

Latoya Snell 3

Snell's blog, Running Fat Chef, features advice and commentary on fitness and food. (W. Eric Snell)

Confrontation

Snell wrote about the New York heckling experience on her blog, Running Fat Chef.

At the 23rd-mile marker, she wasn't certain she had properly heard the man and stopped her run to approach him.

"He was actually willing to repeat it to let me know that he was saying this to me," Snell said. "At first, I was overwhelmed with frustration so I ended up cursing at him … and, in turn, two people came over."

"After two minutes of us arguing back and forth, they suggested to me that it wasn't worth it."

On their advice, she carried on with the race.

Running a marathon requires both physical and mental endurance. While Snell says that the altercation threw her off, she eventually finished the race.

Not the first time

Though Snell says what happened during the marathon was an isolated incident, it's not uncommon for her to receive unwanted remarks about her weight.

She frequently receives negative comments about blogs she writes and photos she posts.

"Everything from being fat to actually picking on my [son's diabetes diagnosis] at some point, which I thought was very deplorable," Snell said.

Latoya Snell 2

'I don’t think that I owe — or anyone owes — anyone an explanation for what we do or what motivates us,' Snell told As It Happens guest host Jim Brown. (W. Eric Snell)

She chalks the reactions up to low self-esteem on the part of commenters. Snell believes that they're looking to "deflect" some of their own insecurities.

"I think we live in a society that people feel exceptionally comfortable with vocalising what they feel instead of exercising having an inside voice."

While she occasionally fights fire with fire — she admits to trolling the trolls — she wants to engage with her critics.

"If you can actually stimulate a conversation — a healthy one — where both parties can hear each other … that's where the growth comes from."

No stopping in sight

The heckling won't slow down Snell, though.

Next year, she will again run the New York City Marathon and hopes to qualify for the Chicago Marathon for the third time.

"I'm certainly not the first and I'm probably, unfortunately, not going to be the last to experience something like this," Snell said. "All I can ask people to do is just rise above it and don't let these type of things define who you are as a person."

And while she doesn't believe she should justify her success to critics, she has a message for those who think that plus-sized people can't be fit:

"Don't believe me? Just watch."