She is a fun writer to read and to prove it to you I've interviewed her for Mama Sweat. I've also interspersed a few excerpts of the book for background and your enjoyment. Is there a free, signed book available for a Mama Sweat reader? Details at the end of the interview...
KT: It's hard to know where to start. I am quaking in my yoga pants fearing that I will come across as one of those “skinny jerks” that you describe in your book. Do skinny jerks still bother you?
JG: Jerks still bother me, yes, but I truly have nothing against skinny people. I would like to be one myself someday. But apparently I still haven’t figured out that “eat less, exercise more” thing.
You skinny people, you have no idea what a gift it is to move around without your inner thighs rubbing together like a couple of superglued haps. Since childhood, I’ve had a major case of Thigh Rub, which sounds like a fried-chicken seasoning, but is just another hidden indignity of the chronically overweight.
KT: I have a friend who sometimes refers to me--lovingly of course, or at least I perceive it that way--as her "skinny bitch friend." Despite that--and I hope you find this satisfying--I still get wicked thigh chaffing when running long distances.
JG: Well, we all have skinny bitch friends in our lives, or we should, anyway, because you guys are like an endangered species that we should protect and cherish. Seriously, have you looked at the US obesity rates lately? Your type is on the way out. You cannot survive in a nation filled with Shake Shacks.
But yeah, on the thigh chaffing--there once was a time when I wouldn’t have believed you, but I went to a symposium last year featuring the first eight women to legally run the Boston Marathon, back in 1972, and these women were hard-core athletes, and every last one of them was complaining about chaffing. So I now accept that this is an affliction all runners share, and I will stop being so pathetically self pitying about it.
I don’t want to train... I don’t even want to run...It is a pity party of one. My invisible coach refuses to participate. “Get up,” Pre says to me harshly. “Get up, and go change your clothes.” I roll over in a show of defiance and lie on my stomach for a while, the sun sympathetically warming my shoulders...But I can’t lie here on the floor until the kids come home. The room is all glass, and the neighbors can see in. Worse, the coach in my head is growing increasingly surly. “Get going,” he snarls.
KT: I've often split athletes into two groups, but not based on weight: the funcore and the hardcore. Skinny jerk/bitch that I am still competes as a funcore athlete. I'd definitely put you in the hardcore group. Because it's not about size or even speed, but the way a person approaches training and racing. You know Pre, obviously hardcore. Dr. Sheehan, fun core. I know you love them both, but if you had to pick one to run along side you who would you pick?
JG: First, those are great terms, indicative of genius. Second, Dr. Sheehan would come back and whomp you with a stethoscope if he knew you were calling him funcore. The man was a serious competitor in his day. And I think you’ve misjudged me, too. If I were hardcore, I’d be a skinny bitch. I love running way too much to take it seriously. I will frequently stop in the middle of a hard workout to A) eat blackberries on the side of the road and B) lie down in the sun and watch deer graze. Then I will go on my merry way, even though I just blew up my workout. But a serious hardcore ultrarunner just offered to coach me, so I may yet turn hardcore yet. Check back in a few months if I’m not dead.
I’m a mess. I’m a newly divorced, emotionally bankrupt, serially broke, unemployed, single mother of four; a southern girl marooned deep in New England, a thousand miles from her family and closest friends. For reasons I can’t fully explain, there are two donkeys in my backyard...
KT: When you finished the book about a year ago the wounds were still fresh from your divorce. Tell us how you're doing now. How are the kids? How are the donkeys? Any other races to tell us about?
JG: Somebody asked me today if I am happily divorced, and I said no, I can’t say that yet, but I’m getting there. I still think divorce sucks with a capital S, and that unless there is physical or substance abuse or something else catastrophic going on, that parents need to get over themselves and stay together for the kids. Yup, I’m a dinosaur who truly believes in utilitarianism (remember from philosophy 101? The greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people?), and also I dislike poverty and kids being shuttled back and forth like they are packages. But apparently that’s just me. So I muddle along, and am sad some days, but deliriously happy most of the time because I pump myself full of sunshine and endorphins. My kids are 10, 13, 18 and 20, now, and all still live with me even though I keep leaving rental ads in conspicuous places around the house. The donkeys, who would be beasts of burden in any other country, remain shiftless loafers who do no meaningful work other than cutting (i.e., eating) the grass. Races – I’m registered for Kiawah again in December, but that’s the only thing on the schedule right now.
It’s ironic. I started to run because I wanted to be thin. Now I wish I were thin because I run.
KT: And I have to ask about your weight. This would only be an insensitive skinny jerk question if you hadn't written an entire book about it. And I know you think I'm asking about the number--I'm not. I want to know where your relationship with your weight stands. In the book you vacillate between using it to your advantage as comedic material and despairing that despite the incessant miles the scale stands firm.
JG: I have no problem giving my weight. As you point out, comes with the territory these days, particularly since people look at my picture on the back cover and start screeching “she’s not fat! she’s not fat!” I would like to point out, however, that NO ONE has ever said that as they’re watching me jiggle down the road.
When I finished the book, I was hovering around 150, which, as I pointed out, was downright skeletal for me, and was causing my publisher to hyperventilate, thinking I was about to get into some James Frey-like scandal. But no worries, I never lost a pound I couldn’t regain, and when one comes back, he always brings friends. Because I’m an emotional eater, and I had a turbulent year, I gained a lot of weight this year. This morning, I weighed 161.5, which is a weight I hate, not only because I swore I’d never get into the 160s again, but because my clothes are tight, and when I weigh this much, and run on city streets, I am violating all kinds of indecency laws. Boobs running wild, or something like that. There just isn’t enough bra to contain me. I gain all excess weight in my thighs and breasts, which is just unspeakably horrible for a runner. So yeah. My weight issues are still my weight issues. There’s something broken inside me that keeps me from losing weight. Haven’t given up on fixing it, but I’m like Thomas Edison, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Over the weekend, I take my youngest kids roller skating, and since I know the strenuous life tastes best, I join them in the rink... At one point, my senses under assault by pulsing disco lights and adolescent karaoke, I look around and realize I am the oldest person on skates... I’m the only woman old enough to be a grandmother and dumb enough to don Rollerblades. Hallelujah.
KT: What do your kids think about your running? If they don't run, are there other ways your passion for running has influenced them?
JG: They don’t run like I do – i.e., it isn’t part of them yet, but I’m still hoping. My 20-year-old has done a couple of races with me to humor me, and he’s been running fairly regularly for the past couple of months. My 18-year-old sneaks out sometimes when she thinks that I don’t see her. It has yet to infect my younger kids, but I think it will. It’s hard to watch someone doing something that clearly makes her ecstatic, and not want to do it yourself.
In the book, I write about standing in line at the Kiawah Island Half-Marathon behind a mom and her two grown daughters, talking about what race they would run together next. That’s my dream … to one day have grown-up kids who not only still want to do things with me, but who would want to do things that involve running.
Here, all these years, I’ve been thinking I haven’t achieved anything because I haven’t lost any weight, but there it is. A sense of achievement that didn’t come from my children, or my writing, or my oft-admired ability to remember birthdays. A sense of achievement that comes from the simple fact that I run.
KT: You live in an enviable place--Hopkinton, the start of the Boston Marathon (that right there is hardcore). Have you figured out yet that you'll run the Boston Marathon some day?
JG: Yeah, it’s kind of inevitable. I mean every runner wants to run Boston, right? But when you’ve been standing on the sidelines slapping hands for eight years like I have, the desire is pretty intense. The only problem is, I haven’t figured out yet how to run Boston without hurting. I’ve driven the route, and it hurt me to go up those hills in my CAR. Plus, I kind of like my toenails. So I’ve been putting it off, but I don’t think I’ll be able to put it off for much longer.
KT: I think other running readers will agree that toenails are overrated. You won’t miss them when they’re gone and they grow back anyway. I DO think you have another memoir in you. The next one will be about how you came to love the body you're in and how that body ran Boston.
If you'd like to enter the drawing for a free--signed--copy of "Honey Do You Need a Ride?" join the conversation on the Hot (Sweaty) Mamas Facebook page and let us know, if you could have any coach in the world to help you become a better runner or cyclist or yogi or tennis player or whatever it is you'd like to do better, who would it be? (Yes, you can pick a dead person too).
And one more thing--Happy Birthday Mom!!