There is an Amazon Original movie call Brittany Runs a Marathon. This is a spoiler alert. I will talk about parts of the movie that are crucial to the plot line so if you would rather pause here until you watch the movie, this is where to pause.
Brittany is an almost thirty single woman living in New York City. We learn later that she moved there for a great opportunity in advertising, a dream of hers. She tells us she “took a slight detour” in her British facade voice she often hides behind.
I think this part of Brittany is like so many of us. We have wishes and goals and when they start to come to fruition we detour somehow. Brittany’s story is begging us to ask why.
It is easy to see the “why” in Brittany’s life, but we need to put ourselves in her shoes and feel into our own story. That’s what a good movie is all about.
When we feel we have to take a detour it is because some things are in need of repair. The physical body is the communicator for the other bodies so when we don’t like the messages we are getting, or we do not want to see them, we can distract the body with... stuff, so we don’t have to do the work of repair.
Repair work means confronting untrue thoughts. Seeing our wrong thinking feels scary.
Repair work means feeling the real emotions. Letting the depleting ones move through us and move us toward healing. Repair work means stepping into our true worth - claiming it instead of waiting for an invitation.
Repairing can feel like a huge, unachievable goal much like running a marathon.
And, just like running a marathon, it will take small steps over time to achieve it and that’s not only ok, that is the point.
The movie has a great opening. It begins with a 12:37 pm alarm going off and Brittany needing to rush to work and still late as usual. As she shouts for someone to hold the doors on the subway, no one does. She’s invisible when she doesn’t want to be.
At work, her boss confronts her about being late, and she makes jokes, distracts, detours her way out of the uncomfortable situation. This time trying to be invisible.
Physically Brittany is not invisible.
She is 50-60 pounds overweight.
She drinks a lot and becomes loud.
Her diet is large, consisting of unhealthy foods.
She is seen as an object for sexual gratification, not as a person of relationship.
And, she admits to being in a large amount of debt.
All this toxicity attracts toxic relationships that focus only on other people’s needs keeping her own needs invisible. Being invisible is how she is able to cope, but it is also the cause of much of her pain because what Brittany really needs is healing or repair work.
The movie does a great job at showing that Brittany is actually a light person - meaning full of light. Her clothes and style are young and colorful. The actress, Jillian Bell, is fabulous at using body language and facial expressions to convey the thoughts and emotions we would all feel in her situation. At the beginning of the show, you will see a lot of heads tilted down and furrowed eyebrows. She is clearly in emotional and mental pain. As her repair work happens throughout the movie, she has a lot of dear-in-the-headlight expressions as she sees and confronts the things she has been trying to detour from.
At a doctor's appointment where she is trying to pass for someone with ADHD in order to obtain drugs for recreation, the doctor tells it to her straight. She is overweight. Her physical body is sending the message that things are not ok.
This would be my only criticism of the movie. I’m not convinced this moment would have had enough of an impact. The movie was based on a true story and the real Brittany says she was having an existential crisis. Her work wasn’t leading anywhere, the long nights of drinking were wearing on her, and she didn’t like the body she saw in the mirror. She knew she needed to change. So, Brittany decides to run. It's the only exercise she can afford.
She is able to meet some new running friends and once she convinces them to train for the NYC marathon the next year, her goal lights a fire under her. Training for the marathon gives her purpose and helps to make decisions about food and sleep easier.
At this point in the film, Brittany runs to catch the subway and someone sees her. They hold the door for her. This because as she is looking at her inner self others are seeing her too.
Brittany does all the work of the physical body to run the marathon. She eats right. She trains, but it wasn’t enough. Her emotional body needed to allow grief, anger and apathy to exist first and then release. Her spiritual body needed to learn to receive help and love.
Brittany's mental body needed to confront beliefs like, “I am not enough”. “I have to be funny because I am fat”. “My life is harder than others' lives”. “I have to be thin in order to be loved” and “I have to be thin in order to be attractive”.
It is at the high point of her training that she hits a wall. We’ve all been there. She broke, literally. Her right leg gets a stress fracture. Her ability to run the marathon is shattered.
Back at the Doctor’s office, he gives one of the best lines of the movie. He says, “Brittany, you have to pay attention to your pain”. She had injured herself and kept pushing through doing real damage.
I’ve talked before about the ACE score or Adverse Childhood Experiences and their direct effect on health in adulthood. The study came about because of an obesity study for women. In the study, they were helping women lose weight, and time and time again the weight kept coming back. They couldn’t understand why until they began to ask questions. The women struggling to keep the weight off were all sexually abused or traumatized. This was when doctors began understanding that trauma of all kinds changes the body.
If you look at Brittany's broken leg energetically, you can see that it was her right leg that stress fractured. Her mom left when she was young and her dad died soon after. Her love for her father is hinted at in the film. The right side of the body symbolizes male energy. It’s like the pain of mom leaving was compounded with the death of her father. This extra twist of the knife created the need for some detouring. It was too much.
The legs and feet are all about moving forward and her body said, “no, there is work to be done. We are not moving forward until all the bodies get some support."
One of the big shifts for Brittany came when she is back in Philly living in her sister’s basement and it’s marathon day, but she cannot run. They are having a party for her brother-in-law and some friends come over. One of the couples happens to be a curvy woman and a thin man. This confronts one of her core beliefs that she must be thin to be attractive and loved. Like many of us when our beliefs get a knock in the head, she lashes out with anger and resentment.
The woman, Jasmine, teaches her a huge lesson. She explains, in my words, not hers, that she knows she isn’t thin and understands Brittany’s pain about being overweight, but she chose to do the emotional, mental, and spiritual repair instead of the physical repair, and it worked. Her ultimate goal was to be happy. It wasn’t to be thin. Happiness is not directly tied to size. It’s really not.
So, how does Britney heal?
Physically she wears a supportive boot so her stress fracture can mend. One really quick scene says a lot about her physical healing (the physical body is the messenger for the other bodies). When her boyfriend/friend boy touches her and speaks to her a certain way, she recognizes her reaction. She feels the discomfort for a moment and makes a choice the discomfort is calling out for. In this case, knowing that her tendency is to put others first and knowing she is not quite strong enough to test that stress point yet. She sets a boundary and because it comes from a balanced place within her, he wants to honor it.
Healing spiritually, she makes amends where she needs to. She learns to serve others and feels empathy for others. Brittany allows others to support her. She lets this support carry her when she feels like she can no longer go on.
Healing mentally called for her to see her thoughts and false beliefs. She needed to untangle her thinking from other’s thinking and see where she was assuming thoughts in others that weren’t really there.
And, Brittany trained emotionally. We are not meant to never have draining emotions. These serve a purpose. And, we are not meant to run everywhere but if we are going to run a marathon we need to train the body. Even if we jog every day, a marathon requires a certain amount of training.
Our emotions are the same. We are not meant to only feel happy and joy but if we want to feel like we live a happy and joy filled life, we need practice. We need to pay attention to our emotions and see if they require action or if we need to simply let them go.
It is at this point in the film, having done all the work and achieving her goal, Brittany is on the subway and holds the door for someone else and her smile lets us know that it feels really really good. Now that she sees herself, she can truly see another.