Dorothy Beal defines her life in two chapters: before and after running her first marathon. “The second I crossed the finish line of that race, I was forever changed,” says the mother of three, who went on to run 40 more marathons.
For Beal, the initial upshot of the runner’s life was purely physical. “One-hundred percent I started running for weight loss,” she admits, recounting how a diagnosis of social anxiety coupled with poor eating and drinking habits in college led her down a dark path of weight gain and self-doubt.
“Instead of just gaining the freshman 15, I kept gaining weight, and the more weight I gained, the more my self-esteem went into the pits,” she recalls. Over a break, she stepped on a scale in her mother’s bathroom and hit a low point. “It was a number I had never seen before. I fell to the ground thinking, ‘How did I get to this point in such a short period of time?’” Worse yet, she didn’t know how to pull herself out.
Beal reflects on those days—occasionally posting then-and-now images of herself on Instagram—with a mix of compassion for her old self and pride for the person who emerged on the other side.
What's more triggering than her former weight, she says, is knowing the fraught emotional state she was in back then. “Sometimes I’ll do comparison photos and while there is a difference in the weight, what I look at in past photos is what that girl felt at that time. I was deeply unhappy in my skin.”
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As she's gotten older and more experienced in life and love (and running), she's arrived at a more secure place that's let her think about what are non-negotiables.
She draws on lots of sleep—“I really am not willing to sacrifice on sleep”—and a simple self-care routine. During the week, that includes a moisturizer with SPF and European Wax Center's Pollution Defense Serum both morning and night to help mitigate any damage caused by pollution and environmental stressors (not to mention all that time in the sun). It doesn't add a ton of time—important when she's trying to get out the door for a long run—but comes with a sense of luxurious self-care.
A new find she's recently added to the mix is EWC's Slow It Body Wash (a cult-favorite the brand brought back after lots of customer requests). It's an exfoliating cleanser that helps fight against ingrowns and slows hair re-growth, helping to extend time between waxing.
Beal also used to reserve makeup for special occasions, but after a friend suggested that she look as happy as she feels running, she worked out a manageable, five-product routine: lipgloss, mascara, blush, a tinted moisturizer to even out sun spots, and an eyebrow gel, also from European Wax Center, to help shape and define her barely-there brows (and keep them in place while running).
Known for top-notch waxing services, the brand's product offerings are a further extension of its belief that confidence can come from having your skin in check. Important for all women, it's a lesson brought to life by a serious athlete like Beal. Her body is constantly on display when training and racing; along with needing it to work at its optimal level, the extra boost that comes from looking good is invaluable to her performance.
Similar to the self-care lessons she's learned, running was Beal's first saving grace—but it definitely did not come easy. Just watching her mom complete a marathon for the first time was excruciating. “It took her over five hours, I got sunburned, and the whole time I was thinking, ‘Why would anyone do this to themselves?’” Beal recalls. “Afterward, she was hobbling around—that confirmed it.”
At first, she says, running was just a means to an end. But after walking onto her college’s cross country team, she started to see benefits beyond the calorie burn: For the first time in a while, her self-esteem was soaring. “Running was giving me confidence," she says, "and the more confidence I had, the more things I said yes to.”
In 2003, Beal said yes to her first marathon.
“I thought, 'I’m going to do this once and probably never again,'” she says with a smile. Her current track record begs to differ. “Some people would say that I’m addicted, and maybe I am.” Beal shrugs off any negative implications of her running practice, noting that there's a sobering self-aware reason she won't quit:
If racing was about learning to say yes for Beal, then self-care is about learning to say no. “If I’m supposed to run six miles because it’s on my training schedule, but I wake up and don’t feel well, I just won’t run,” she says. “I want to be doing this when I’m into my sixties, and I’m not going to get there if I’m constantly working against my body.” Her reap-what-you-sow philosophy also means continually silencing her external critics. “It’s cool being at a place in life where I love my body as-is,” she says.
Worn throughout: Lululemon bra, top, leggings; Nike sneakers
Stylist: Rachel Pincus; Hair/Makeup: Ashleigh Ciucci; thank you to Van Cortlandt Park.
Jessica Cumberbatch Anderson is a New York-based lifestyle journalist. Her work has been featured on HuffPost, ArchitecturalDigest.com, Lonny.com, and ELLEDecor.com, where she served as digital director.
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