As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer.
This is Monique White's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.
I completed race #43 in Chile just days before the country closed its borders.
So close to my goal, yet so far away.
To quite literally run the world, starting with the #MoniqueRuns50 goal, which is to run half or full marathons in 50 countries by my 50th birthday. I was on track to complete this before the world went on lockdown, but all plans have changed and I've refused to allow it to discourage me. Instead, I've pivoted this goal and slightly altered due to all canceled and postponed races.
Now, I plan to meet my goal within my 50th year (before my 51st birthday).
I'm originally from Los Angeles, California, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and Howard University's School of Law. Currently, I live in the Netherlands, where I've resided for 21 beautiful years.
I became an avid runner after watching the 1992 Summer Olympics one day. The sprinters had such beautiful bodies and I needed to get in shape. I started slow, trotting around my neighborhood, carefully finding my rhythm. But I wasn't seeing the results I was looking for. Unfortunately, my Olympic body never showed up that year, but it did fuel my passion for running.
It wasn't until nearly a year later that I ran my first distance race – 10km in Leiden, Netherlands – then a half marathon in Amsterdam and in 2010 my first full marathon, also in Amsterdam.
And just like that, I was in love.
Initially, I just wanted to just run various races around the Netherlands but after completing a few races in France and making a point to log miles in every country and city I traveled to, my vision expanded along with my territory, and I upgraded that goal to a quest to run the world.
To date, I have ran more than 45 full and half marathons in 43 countries, on 6 continents. I have several more on the calendar and I'm only 7 marathons away from fulfilling my purpose. Imagine that; fulfilling your purpose. What a feeling.
In 2013, I considered chasing a much larger goal in earnest. Morocco, Israel, Spain, Sweden, and Iceland were among the places that I ran that year. By now, I was aware that I'd not only completed races in several different countries but on 4 continents as well. However, I had no interest in running on all 7 continents, because all continents would include Antarctica, which means cold – hella cold, freezing even, and...nah.
I continued running the world, and then sometime in 2015 I took a good look at my race history, and with close to closing out 20 countries at that point, I decided to hone in on my quest and make a more defined goal. Additionally, I was going through a divorce, and approaching 50, which, as I noted in my journal: "Creeping up on 50…who am I kidding? There's no creeping. The speed at which that birthday is approaching is faster than any pace I've ever run."
I needed something to focus on, a distraction, something to run TOWARD. With races in nearly 20 countries to my credit and awareness of the trend of running races in all 50 states, I modeled my goal after that. And that is how #MoniqueRuns50 came to fruition.
Over time, I collected memories of some of the most beautiful routes, opportunities, countries, and spiritual pavement miles—my favorite being the Pyramids Half Marathon in Cairo, which I ran earlier this year. Running around the Pyramids was euphoric—the only appropriate way to describe the experience. I have ran lots of races in lots and lots of places, and I can honestly say that none are probably as amazingly scenic as a "race through history" in the Great Pyramid of Giza – the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – as a backdrop. The Florence Marathon was another favorite of mine, which despite – or probably because—running in the middle of a very contentious divorce, I made my very best finishing time—a much-needed personal victory.
Anyway, my journeys, destinations, and travels have always been constant themes in my life, so I held on to my running passion, amidst my adversities, including an injury a couple of years ago which stopped my running for more than 6 months and also put a stop to about 10 perspective races I had planned for that year.
Needless to say, as much as I love running, running in my purpose, hasn't been all cute running gear and awesome medals. There have been some bumps in the road and major setbacks.
Ladies, I share my story, because it's time for us to welcome worldly fitness and healthy habits into our lives, and it is so important that we find joy in it. I preach this to any and every black woman that I'm fortunate enough to come across.
Although I wouldn't necessarily say there are stigmas surrounding black women and running, I just don't always see as much representation as I'd like.
These organizations show that black women's running ability can expand far beyond the scope of what we see when it comes to the training and sprinting and going up and down a basketball court or football field. We can go the distance as well. And we are showing up and showing out in marathon century clubs, 50 state marathon clubs, and even the 7-continent marathon club (like the Black Icee Project).
As for how I'm combating the lack of representation, I just get out there and run. And mostly, I represent.
When I'm overwhelmed, I spend more time praying, reading my Bible, and journaling. Post-runs, I always go for a shower, chow down on something that includes protein, and practice active recovery, such as a brisk walk to help combat stiffness. OH, and a good ole glass of wine. I also look to my amazing daughters (18, 16), they ease any worries I have in my day.
Sisters, if you're interested in marathon running, go for it. Find a good training plan that's at least 6 months long. Build your stamina, go longer than you think you can. Training is essential. Consider starting with the run-walk method/Galloway plan. Remember to warm-up and cool down. And always incorporate rest days.
My 44th marathon will be here before you know it and I'll be hitting my 50th birthday this August (or as I like to say, sooner than I'd like to admit). I welcome you to join my journey and run with me, I welcome you to experience my view.
Because nothing is going to stop me from finishing.
Monique plans to complete her 44th marathon as soon as the pandemic weakens and she's able to continue her journey. Follow her travel or running pages, as well as her hashtag #MoniqueRuns50, on Instagram to keep up with her next marathon.
Featured image courtesy of Monique White
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Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
Food is the star of the show for Thanksgiving, but let’s be honest: dinner wouldn’t be anything special without a good tablescape. Decor is a significant part of the holiday season! Garlands, pumpkins, candles, and other decor can take your Thanksgiving spread from bland to brilliant! However, we understand the stress of making a whole feast for family and friends.
We sat down with Beth Smith of Beth Diana Smith Interior Designs to learn how to create the perfect tablescape for any dinner party.
Set the Tone With Dinnerware
Carolyn Ann Ryan/Getty Images
“Focus on the meal you’re serving and make your dinnerware set the tone and be the highlight of the table,” says Smith. The dinner is why your community is coming together and is arguably the most crucial centerpiece. Decorative pieces are nice, but food and what we use to eat can make it much more special. Smith suggests, “I recommend the Nguka dinnerware set from 54kibo, which is stunning, unique, and beautifully made.”
If you’re looking for a more affordable option, The Stoke Collection by ceramic artists Althea’s Meade-Hajduk is intentionally created to visually enhance any meal experience.
Have Fun With Your Color Palette
Maria Korneeva/Getty Images
In the world of nude palette overload, it’s nice to see color occasionally. Color is a natural mood booster that can bring excitement to the room - or table! “Create a thoughtful color palette that is not the standard Thanksgiving palette of fall colors,” says Smith. Having fun with colors and moving away from a traditional setting can bring uniqueness to your tablescape.
There’s also no chance of your tablescape having the same color palette as everyone else on social media. Smith adds, “If pink has grabbed your attention, this dusty pink set from Our Place has different plate and bowl size options.”
Incorporate Florals Through Bud Vases or Bouquets
Who doesn’t love florals? This look is accepted year-round, not just when romance is involved. “You can’t go wrong with florals for a tablescape if you’re setting it for your family, friends, or a group of singles,” says Smith. Florals are an easy way to make any event look elevated without having to try as hard. If you’re worried about hypoallergenic guests, you can purchase artificial flowers from Amazon. Here, you can find various floral options and even create your own bouquet.
“A floral tablescape can be budget-friendly or as extravagant as you may like. You can select a few bud vases and strategically place them around the table using a bouquet you bought locally,” says Smith.
Unsure of who is your local florist? Black Girl Florist is a site that helps you source local florists in your area. Click here to find a florist in your neighborhood! And if your budget is a little tighter than usual due to the holidays, Smith has a solution that will save you money altogether. Smith suggests, “You can also use dried-up branches and leaves from your backyard, which would be free.”
Elevate Your Tablescape With a Charcuterie Board
Charcuterie boards have become all the rage on TikTok, and for good reason. Mixing your favorite meats, cheese, and grapes has made snacking visually tasteful. Smith says they can also create a fabulous tablescape - killing two birds with one stone. Smith says, “You can never go wrong with creating one large charcuterie board. This makes food the decoration interesting, colorful, and delicious!” This could be especially great for Friendsgiving, and you want to avoid cooking a turkey twice.
The beauty of charcuterie boards is creating a food palette unique to you or your guest's needs. On the flip side, we also understand how overwhelming it can be to decide precisely what to put on your board. Smith has a few recommendations that can be helpful, “You can include cheeses, crackers, and meats, but you can also add specialty items like deserts, chocolate, and truffle mustard.”
Smith refers to the Truffle Mustard by Truffiest, an award-deserving mustard infused with summer truffles from northern Italy. This mustard can be paired with crackers, cheeses, meats, and shredded turkey if you want to stay on the theme.
Build on an Artsy Vibe and Add Layers
There’s no shame in bringing it back to basics. Bring out the old tablecloth your family member gave you a few years ago; it’s vintage! “The goal is to make the table look and feel like you have everything you need and more,” Smith says. Everything you need and more can consist of four main ingredients: tablecloth, napkins, cups, and, most importantly - wine glasses. “Make the tablescape feel artistic with funky dinner napkins and tablecloths. Then, layer with oversized plates, long-stemmed wine glasses, and after-dinner cups.”
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Featured image by Goodboy Picture Company/Getty Images