Last night, I encountered what “free speech” can really do to a person. In this space, which I realize is public, but feels private to me, I have always felt very safe in sharing my personal thoughts and feelings. I mean, it’s my personal blog, right? Yea, last time I checked. I’m not endorsed by anyone and I’m not paid. I write what I want, how I want, when I want and I don’t expect anyone to use what is said here against me. However, my last blog post, which provided intimate details about my heart condition, caused a backlash I wasn’t really expecting. It caused me to be ousted from the running group I had recently joined. No, not my beloved Roasters, but the “Run & Done” group hosted by Maine Running Company (or Fleet Feet, I can’t keep up with what they are calling themselves these days). I signed up for this group because it was nestled perfectly on days I needed to do shorter runs. I thought: great, I have 5 miles on both of these days (Tues. & Thurs.), I can get up early, meet some new people and then move on with my day. I was also super excited about working with the coach, who I had heard nothing but fantastic things about. The group boasted training for all levels: beginning, intermediate and advanced. It cost $100 and I didn’t flinch a second upon paying it, worth every penny in my eyes. And to be clear, in general, I spend a lot of money at this store. I am a very loyal customer. I replace my shoes every 300-350 miles and I buy a ton of running attire, none of which is cheap.
When I signed up for this group, I signed a VERY lengthy and detailed waiver. I also disclosed (on my own accord), my heart condition on the paperwork in which was meant to be purely informative for the coach. I had also, once again, brought up my heart in an e-mail exchange, explaining that I wouldn’t be attending one of the sessions because it was hard to breathe on days that were particularly cold. Nothing. No red flags, no warning signs. Everyone seemed fine with my condition and my being a part of the group. The coach asked me to keep her informed and we moved on. I came to my first session (Tuesday) and had a great day. It was a short run, with a time trial but I was certainly looking forward to the group evolving and learning new things. But by Wednesday, the coach had read my latest blog post and felt as though she should reach out to the folks at Maine Running Company to get their take on things. The conclusion being, I needed a waiver from my doctor, stating I was safe to run, in order to return. No one from Maine Running Company ever reached out to me to ask me, I don’t know, questions about my condition. No one reached out to me from the store to express their apologies that this was even being brought up. I had to track a manager down, followed by the woman who runs the programs, followed by the owner, to get any sort of real answers. My doctors, who I saw both Friday and Monday all agreed that I was clear to run, however, there is one test, a stress echo that I have yet to complete, and they won’t document that I am clear to run, until I do so. Seeing as though there is no immediate problem, they scheduled this for the 26th, which would cause me to lose two weeks from the group.
When I called the store last night, trying to get some answers as to why Maine Running Company (Fleet Feet) felt the need to discriminate against me (I mean, they’re not asking anyone else about their health conditions, right???), I ended up talking to an extremely combative woman named Denise who took into account zero percent of my feelings. She was rude, harsh and completely brazen to the fact that she was treating me like a child. What made me more angry was the fact that she was telling me what I could do with my own body without even asking a single inquisitive question. When I asked her what my heart condition was she couldn’t answer. When I asked her specifics about why I needed a waiver, she couldn’t answer. When I asked her what the point of their waiver was, if not to protect them, she couldn’t answer. When I asked her why this wasn’t brought up when I wrote it on the initial paperwork, she couldn’t answer. When I asked her: “If I had AIDS, would you do the same thing?” She wouldn’t answer. I feel like I outed myself to the public and I am being punished. I wanted to beat the shit out of Denise, I really did. Because I have clamored, crawled and clawed my way to this moment. I have fought hard. Really damn hard. I have made so many sacrifices. I have lost 30 lbs. I have changed a good portion of my habits. I have done everything my doctors asked so that I could build up to this momentous year and run the Boston Marathon. And now, I am being told, by a fucking running store in Portland, Maine that unless I provide them with proper documentation, I can’t run in this group.
It’s more the way that the situation has been handled that makes me so irate. I’m a person. A slightly broken person, yes, but a person, pursuing my passion for something I have loved practically my whole life. I deserve to be treated with respect and dignity on all fronts. No one has any business reading my blog and then making a decision like this based on what I have written. Someone from this establishment should have picked up the phone and spoken to me like an adult rather than embarrassing me over a series of conversations that I sought out. And, if the standard is that medical documentation needs to be provided, well, then, you better ask everyone. Line them up and ask them all: do you have any pre-existing conditions. Or, maybe read the paperwork I provided you with a little more carefully and tell me before joining the group, that you would prefer medical documentation in order for me to run. Poorly handled. Very poorly handled. Last night, I cried. I was upset. Being told that I can’t do something, being spoken to like I have some sort of “problem” just made me feel really shitty. It bruised my soul a little. And I’m bitter about that, I am.
I’m awaiting a phone call from the owner, John and I’m hoping he will provide some sort of resolve. His attitude this morning reassured me that perhaps there is hope to be treated in a better fashion. Regardless, I won’t be taking part in this group. And perhaps I won’t ever step foot in this store again. I’d rather drive to Boston and buy my shoes from my old running store. But I will say this, maybe on Tuesdays and Thursdays I will show up in Cumberland and run anyway, just to make a point. And while I’m at it, I will pursue this until I receive the apology I deserve. And to put the cherry on the sundae I will keep on writing, here on this blog, in MY forum. I will continue to say what I want to say. That’s my choice. Even if there are consequences such as this.
*Note, I will also be removing all links to this establishment, I will not support a store that is a) no longer local and b) chooses to treat their patrons in such a fashion.