Name: Jaime Franchi
Current Town: East Islip
Marital Status: Married to Marc Franchi
Children: Jacob, 12 and Anna, 10
Pets: Owen Rusty Franchi Jolie-Pitt Biden, cutest pup on the planet
Occupation: Newly unemployed journalist
First things first, I didn’t come to you as a runner. I came here as a writer. As I’ve told Lou, I was only here for RESEARCH purposes, after I pitched the story of the hillbillies, this wide-ranging cast of characters, their insane training regimen, and the bonds they created through sharing their stories to my editor at the Long Island Press.
A few months before, I was having a friendly dinner at Verace on a warm summer night with my friends Nadine, Kelli Long, and Kelli’s boyfriend (at the time) Mike Buttitta (I don’t think I knew him as Chicken yet.) Mike has an infectious enthusiasm for Every. Single. Thing. He is the embodiment of embracing the little things.
He told me about the Selden Hills that night, about this tight-knit group of runners of all abilities who conquer a treacherous course together every Sunday morning. In my mind, I pictured a group of 8-12 people. Vagabonds, maybe. They climb a giant hill and once they reach the top, they tell their stories, perhaps as they pass around a peace pipe. Mike told me the gist of some of the stories, how these people came from all over the Island, and had overcome illness, addiction, the various holes that life tears in you (if you’re lucky enough to live enough.) He told me how funny they were. And how kind. I was intrigued. I wanted in on this group. You know, for journalistic purposes.
The way I was taught to cover stories for the Press was to immerse myself in the story. I knew it wouldn’t be enough to interview the runners. I’d have to join them. I’d have to see for myself.
The thing is, I don’t run.
But another thing is, I’ve always wanted to be a runner.
Yet another thing? I hate running.
There will be no stories of grueling marathon training this week. No triumphant tales of triathalons. I’ve never been athletic. The predominant thought during my high school graduation was: Nobody can ever make me run the mile again. “The mile.” Four laps around my high school track was a nightmare for me. It burned my chest. My legs did not have the strength to keep up a pace for even one lap. I moseyed the last three in the back of the pack, unconcerned with things like “time,” “endurance” or “fitness.”
I wasn’t fat exactly. I wasn’t thin. I was fine. I got away with being sedentary throughout my twenties and early thirties.
Eight years ago on July 6, the night before my thirty-third birthday, my dad passed away. And although we chose not to autopsy, his bouts with deep depression and PTSD made us suspect suicide. I was the last person to speak with him.
As you can imagine, I felt overcome with guilt and loss. Although my dad was difficult to be around those last few years, not being able to hold a job, always borrowing money, we were each other’s favorites. He was the funniest man I ever met. He couldn’t sneak into a room. He loved attention. And food. And people. No one in the world loved me the way he did. After I got married and had children, I was too consumed with my own life—and how hard it was to be a wife and mother—to spend much time with him. I thought I was giving him a gift by showing him I was an adult and self-sufficient, not a baby anymore, that he didn’t need to take care of me. But as soon as I saw him dead, I realized too late that he was the one who needed to be taken care of.
I started to write. For my own sanity. As a way to exorcise some of the feelings I had. As I wrote, I found that chewing things helped when I was looking for the right word. I looked up from my laptop a year after I lost him and discovered that I’d gained bout 25 pounds. Nothing fit. I saw a picture of myself from a friend’s birthday party, a party where I thought I looked hot AF and saw that I looked…fat.
I started to work out. I did Zumba. I worked out for 45 minute clips on my elliptical machine. I became obsessed with WiiFit. From March to November, I lost the weight, and then some. I was thrilled with myself. I was a size 4, wayyy smalled than I’d been in high school.
But then I took a trip with my sister to the Bahamas. As soon as I was off my routine, I couldn’t get back. My mind couldn’t recompute and get obsessive about working out again. I got lazy. It’s starting to creep back.
The worst thing is that I learned I could take it off if I really want to, which makes it east to justify eating like crap, drinking too much, and thinking that I’ll just start tomorrow or Monday. I’ve been doing that for 5 years.
As for running, I’m trying. For the Long Island Press story, I ran the 10K course three times (including a Vampire Wednesday!) and the #5Kkrusha once. I don’t know how I did that except that I’d slowly conditioned myself on the elliptical and Mike Buttitta’s company kept me so distracted I was able to finish. Because I have been trying and trying to teach myself to be a real runner. I’m on a 20 day streak were I’ve run at least 2 miles per day, pushing myself a little further each morning until I could run a 5K. I still hate it, but this strange thing is happening. I look forward to it every morning. I wake up with a buzz in my body, a hum that calls me to run. Is that weird?
This morning, I’ll run the Judi Shesh 5K at the YMCA. (Thanks Mike.) I want to get back to be able to at least run/walk the 10k on Sundays.
Not for research this time. For myself.
Thank you Lou LaFleur for sitting with me in Roast with KC Brett and taking the time to tell me about this group. Xo Jaime