If you happened to be in Griffith Park this morning, you may have seen a guy running by in a neon green tutu. That guy was me! I competed in the Pride Run 5k, and the costume was in honor of my friend Richard Simmons.
Richard was in the news again this weekend, reportedly hospitalized on Friday night. It was a tabloid story that spread like wildfire across the interwebs, which is not surprising, given that the last set of headlines were so weird and outrageous.
I heard the news when I got home yesterday after my stair race in Oxnard (that recap is coming soon!), and Richard has been on my mind ever since. I awoke this morning at 5:15am with Richard in my thoughts, and decided at that wee hour to honor him during this 5k.
Why the tutu? Because Richard gave it to me.
That turned out to be one of the last times I saw him – he disappeared from the public eye a few weeks later, and excluding two phone interviews with “Today” and “Entertainment Tonight,” he has not been seen or heard in public since.
Richard gave me the tutu on my 4-year anniversary. Four years prior, Richard offered to help me lose weight. I weighed 402 pounds at the time, and with Richard’s help, I lost 160 pounds. I’ve kept it off for five and a half years. (My original blog post about the tutu is here.)
So wearing the tutu to honor Richard, and to let him know I’m thinking about him, was an easy decision. Plus, it was the Pride Run, and if there ever was a race to wear a tutu and get embraced with open arms, it’s this one, which benefits GSA Network, a trans and queer youth organization, and serves as a kick-off to LA Pride Week, which celebrates all things LGBTQ. Before the race, a perfect stranger (possibly a race organizer?) came up to me, gave me a hug, and said: “Finally! Someone’s wearing a tutu!” (Another perfect stranger, who was working the registration table, recognized me from this blog, and that was cool, too!)
It’s been frustrating, since Richard stepped out of the public eye, because my mind has raced with all sorts of worry and concern for Richard, and there’s nothing I could ever really do. I continue to email Richard, sending my love and giving updates, but I doubt they’re being read. Wearing the tutu was a small gesture I could make to put some good energy out there for Richard, at what might be a very scary or difficult time for him. Plus, I wore a black shirt and shorts on purpose, so the tutu would really pop, a move I think Richard would appreciate as well.
I’m so glad Richard didn’t give me a pair of stiff jeans or platform shoes, because running in a tutu is a breeze. Tulle is really light – the whole thing probably weighed a couple ounces – and it didn’t impact my run at all.
As for the race itself, it started bright and early at 7:30am. There were over 100 people doing the 5k, but only one of them was in a tutu! We ran around the perimeter of a golf course, occasionally dodging piles of horse shit, and except for some very mild undulations, it was flat, flat, flat. It was as thrilling as it sounds. The most exciting part was the first mile, which was alongside Interstate 5. There was only a fence, a ditch, and a guard rail separating us from 10 lanes of freeway traffic.
I gave the race my all, but I was feeling pretty sore from my race the day before. I managed to sprint the final couple hundred yards, passing a guy that had passed me earlier. Afterward, I left without even checking my official time, although my friend Jeff saw it, and thinks I finished around 31:34, which was good enough for 4th in my age group! (I’ll get the results soon, and we’ll see how good Jeff’s memory is, and how many guys were in my age group – my guess is four.)
**UPDATE** Jeff was slightly off. My official time was 31:29, and I finished 4th in my division… out of five!
The tutu, however, continued to race for a couple more hours! My friend Veronica asked to wear it during her 25k trail race (that’s 15.5 miles!). Of course! Veronica grew up studying ballet, although I wonder if any of her tutus when she was a kid were neon green.
Veronica messaged me after: “The tutu served me well!” I’d say! She finished FIRST among women and SEVENTH overall. Wow!
Ummm… that tutu looks awesome on everyone, by the way.
And maybe the positive tutu vibes worked! I was at the race when the news broke that Richard had left the hospital. A few hours later, Richard released a statement through his publicist that he had been “dehydrated” and that he’s much better now.
In addition to honoring Richard, the tutu ended up serving as a poignant reminder for myself. Prior to meeting Richard, I wouldn’t have signed up for any kind of race, not in a million billion years. Now, six years later and 160 pounds lighter, I race all the time – this was my 10th race of 2016 – and that’s about as dramatic a turn-around as I can imagine.
It shouldn’t seem odd that the tutu reminds me of Richard Simmons – he gave it to me, after all. But it reminds me in other ways, too. Like Richard, the tutu is bright, a little silly, and impossible to ignore. Richard taught and encouraged me to love myself and take steps towards building a healthier, longer life. The tutu reminds me of all this, too, and most importantly, that change is possible, and success isn’t found at a finish line, but by continuing to push forward every day.
Keep it up, David!