Running and I have been together a long time. Since college, a million (uh, six) years ago.
It’s always been a little complicated, and I’ve had more than my fair share of heartache because of it.
I started running in the shadow of my best friend Meg after our freshman year of college; she’d become a hardcore runner her first year away at school, and I was inspired. So I trailed behind her on the track at our local gym, and eventually got stronger and more comfortable in my running shoes, and, quite simply, caught the running bug.
It was a deep, intense relationship at first, and I began to run almost every single day — I couldn’t get enough. I didn’t know as much back then about rest days or correct running shoes or trails or even proper nutrition to fuel my runs, and eventually I got pummeled with my first running injury: a fracture in my hip flexor area, conveniently a few months before my last semester in college.
But the pain didn’t stop there, and I have the crutches collection to prove it. From achilles tendonitis to plantar fasciitis to IT band issues and stress fractures, I’ve been told my flat feet are not built for running big miles. Along the way, I’ve become my friends’ go-to person whenever they feel some sort of weird ache or pain. Yay?
And yet despite all the pain and the tears, I haven’t been able to tear myself away. We’ve taken a few breaks on and off throughout the years, mostly to recover from injuries, but I’ve always eventually come back for more. Running has been a part of my identity for almost a decade. I am a runner, end stop. It’s helped me survive struggles far worse than any stress fracture, and feel more alive than most anything else in life.
I’m getting older, though, and I’ve realized that my passion for running has sort of….changed, and faded from what it was seven years ago. In the face of my last half marathon in October, I thought perhaps I was finally ready to give running the boot once and for all. I was so over the entire idea of training, and wanted as much distance as humanly possible between me and my running shoes. I was just burnt out.
I thought it might be for good. Thought perhaps I’d not show up to my next half, and my past as a runner would be a distant memory after a while.
But silly me, I should’ve known. That running is a fickle lover, and he eventually made his way back into my heart, reminding me of what made me fall in love in the first place.
It’s really occurred to me that it’s not the running that I’ve become so burnt out on, but the racing. When I just ran leisurely, however many miles I wanted to, whenever I wanted to, our relationship was great. Rocky, but not stressful. But the racing I’ve been doing the last two years? For some reason, it just brings me stress and makes running feeling like work, instead of a hidden burst of joy in my days.
It’s mainly because I always want to do my very best, and take training very seriously. And I love the sense of accomplishment at the end of races, but overall? I don’t really need the medal. And I don’t need the motivation – I have never had trouble motivating myself to run….. other than when I’m training. Ironic, eh?
A number of my friends here in California race regularly. They love it, and I can certainly understand why…. but as a result, I’ve begun to feel a sort of internal pressure, as if I have to register for every single race too, like it mattered or would change my place in the friendship group. And it doesn’t – no one cares if I’m racing other than ME. Isn’t that silly? And it’s not like me to do something just because everyone else is, whether it be running a race or driving off a cliff. I do what I want!
I think I forgot that for a while.
SO, I’m running again, for me, and after the San Diego half, I will be taking a little breather from running half marathons, and I’ll train for another if and when I ever feel like it…. And if I never want to do another, ain’t no thang. Doesn’t make me (or you!) any less of a runner.