(Photo: Courtesy Artemis Simon)
The Daily Rally

Artemis Simon Is Done Pushing Past Her Limits

The competitive endurance athlete chose not to complete a grueling marathon. That's when she realized: you don't have to finish everything you start.

Courtesy Artemis Simon

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Artemis Simon told her story to producer Sarah Vitak for an episode of The Daily Rally podcast. It has been edited for length and clarity.

When you push your body to these limits with these kinds of endurance sports, you can die. And that’s what I was doing prior to that one race. I was putting myself into an unsafe zone.

I’m a professional dominatrix. But that’s only one avenue of it. I work with clients on the mind, body, and spirit. The actual title is a somatic practitioner. I also really am into running and traveling. And I like being a mom to my kids and my fur babies.

I didn’t speak, read, or write until I was nine years old. I could make sounds, but the only people who could understand me were my caregivers. Or people that were with me all the time. I probably didn’t know what was going on, until right around middle school. That’s when it really got shined on me that I didn’t talk. I wasn’t able to write, and I dealt with horrific dyslexia.

Every day after school I would ride the bus home with one of my friends. We would always see their mom out running. And I would just be inquisitive about it like, “What’s your mom doing? Why is she running?” I was so curious.

When I went over to the friend’s house to visit for a sleepover, I actually woke up in the morning when the mom went to go running. I asked if I could go with. So, we all went running together. Come to find out, the mom was training for a marathon. She could tell that I took a liking to it, and actually asked if I wanted to do the Jingle Bell Fun Run in Seattle. My friend of course was like, “You’re not gonna go to this race with my mom without me.”

I started with local 5K fun runs, and it was like a whole new world for me. About six months into the running, my speech impediment stopped. I wasn’t slurring my words either anymore. Then spelling gradually started coming in as well. I was able to start reading and writing. I read Green Eggs and Ham for the first time ever from cover to cover. And my parents were so excited, they actually made me green eggs and ham.

I don’t think it dawned on me until my thirties that I was doing a somatic practice and healed myself. Through the movement of my body, I forced my brain to rewire.

I did a lot of track and cross country, which moved into ultrarunning. The first two years of me ultrarunning, I was really hard on myself. Like, How dare I not finish. I need to finish. I would even beat myself up the whole way to get to the finish line, and there would actually not be a whole lot of even congratulating myself at the end. Really not a lot of pleasure or excitement with even like finishing it.

I hate marathons; the marathon distance is my least favorite distance. But for some reason, I would sign up for them and then feel this weird obligation that I had to finish. At the Missoula Marathon, at mile 21, I couldn’t stop vomiting. I don’t know how many people at how many different aid stations said, “You should stop.” I would literally vomit in front of them and be like, “I’m fine.”

My cousin and I both did that particular race, and she ended up lining up with me, I think around mile 23, where I was laying in the grass of somebody’s house vomiting. And she was like, “Hey, I know you. Maybe you should actually stop.”

I perked up and quit vomiting around mile 25. So that last mile I was able to get through, and I was standing at the end. But even when I crossed the line, I was like, That was so stupid. Why didn’t I just stop at mile 21? I’m so dehydrated now. I’m so depleted. I’ve caused more damage to my body than I would have if I just stopped and listened to it.

In my ultrarunning, I definitely needed way more recovery than I was allowing myself. I did cause myself plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis so bad that I was crippled for six months.

During the peak of ultrarunning for me, I developed an eating disorder, where my food started becoming so regimented that it became dysfunctional. I wasn’t receiving the nutrition that I needed to actually do the big miles that I was doing.

I have been on courses where people have died, in the race that I have been in. So that’s really eye-opening, too. I can traumatize my body to a place that it won’t recover. I’m playing in that zone right there with this sport.

I was supposed to do this particular race, the Tillamook 100K. It’s all uphill. So, I trained a lot uphill.

My race got canceled due to the forest fires. So my coach said, “Let’s not let that training go to waste. Why don’t we do this other race?” It was a 50-miler, so it was gonna be shorter than the 100K. So I was like, “OK, I’ll do it.”

This course is extremely hilly. It’s up and down, up and down, up and down. I had only trained uphill, so my quads were just burning on the downhills. I think I probably made it to mile 30. And I went into the aid station, and I was just ripped up. I looked at the guy, and I had the biggest grin on my face, and I said, “I can’t believe how excited I am to DNF right now.” Which is, “Did Not Finish.” This is my first DNF ever in my whole entire running career since age nine. I have always finished my races up until this particular race. When I got into the back of the truck to go back to the starting line, I was thrilled. I felt like I won the lottery.

I was like, “I made the best choice for myself. I’m not running for anybody else but me. And that wasn’t my race. It wasn’t my day to cross that finish line on foot. It was my day to cross that finish line in the truck.”

Really my running started being for me and nobody else. I didn’t need to prove anything to anybody at all. I feel like that’s what a lot of it I was when I was crossing that finish line, dying; I was really doing it for a lot of other people, and not because I wanted to.

I started picking courses that I actually wanted to be on, and I started doing bigger challenges, and I didn’t care if I crossed the finish line. I think that is when I started really discovering my self-worth, because I was able to know where my edge was, and I loved myself enough to stop.

That lesson that I learned in that DNF really translated to so many different things. I was ending relationships before it went too far. I was ending things that were going on in my career. I just quit pushing myself past the limit of no return.

I would catch it before that and just say, No, this needs to end. I saw the red flag. It needs to end.

My last race was a hundred miles around New York City, but I made it to mile 41 and was like, “It’s too hot. I wanna go home and eat ice cream.” So I went home and ate ice cream, and I was happy with my decision.

Artemis Simon lives bi-coastally between Portland, Oregon, and New York, New York. She is a somatic practitioner, professional dominatrix, an ultramarathon runner. You can find her online

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Lead Photo: Courtesy Artemis Simon