The hardest part about running is also one of the things I like the most: Identity.
It took me a couple years of running to actually consider myself a runner. It wasn’t that I felt I needed to get in more mileage or be faster, but when I began running, it was because I was running away. It was avoiding my problems and trying to cultivate a healthier lifestyle. I didn’t own a gym membership at the time and streets are free. I ran when I was upset (which was often), I ran to feel better and I ran to get away from toxic relationships.
Running has become so much more to me. It is a way of life. I plan my day around running. I read so much about. no so much as to get as fast as I can (although that is a goal) but also just to immerse myself in my tribe. I love to read success stories, stories where people failed and got back up, stories about anything related to putting one foot in front of the other. I do not think one mode of running is better than the other. Trails are fun, track is great, roads are perfect, heck even though I’ve never done it, pool running is legit. I love it all.
I have come to identify myself as a runner. It is a the purest expression of who I am. A body in motion, a mind engaged but also lost in the moment of exertion. Able to float freely between states of hard work and play. Running gives me everything I need (once I learn to eat while running, what’s to stop me?!)
Running both pushes me out of my comfort zone, and creates one. A zone of pleasure, sweat, happiness, pain, exhaustion and bliss all at the same time. I don’t know another instance where I could feel all those emotions and not explode. Running gives that to me.
On Monday, I had an easy 8-9 miles on the schedule. The day after a race is about recovery and not doing more damage. I am building muscle from speed work (had to buy bigger jeans) and so rest is important. I began my run at a cool 20 degrees with no snow. About 5 miles in, the snow began to fall beautifully all around me. I was admiring how wonderful it was to run in this. The sun was coming up and the path of fresh snow only had my footprints in it. I was finishing up the waterfront trail by Cass Park (great Ithaca park) when I remembered that it rained A LOT yesterday, and it was freezing now…anyone see where I am going?
Just as I thought to slow down and move to the road, I hit a patch of ice hidden under that same snow I was marveling at earlier. If you are as tall as me (5’8″), you know us bigger girls, we fall hard. I was down, had the wind knocked out of me and tears were flowing. Immediately I repeated “You’re ok, you’re ok, you’re ok” over and over out loud. I started to pray that I would be ok because I was 2 miles from home. I got up and started walking. It hurt a bit, but largely I was just upset. After a bit of walking I was able to jog home. I cleaned up, texted my coach, made breakfast and was thankful I was still able to get home.
Well, then my knee blew up to the size of a grapefruit. In addition to a huge raspberry on my knee, it hurt really bad. I got to work at CTB and was limping around trying to do stuff. I tried to put on a brave face, but it was rough. After about 4 hours, my boss told me to go home. I was in pain and needed to ice and sit. I agreed so I left and did just that all afternoon. That’s when I started to get sad.
Even though I knew logically this would eventually get better, I felt like I was lost.
My identity was stolen. I could not run (or walk really) and I could feel the sad feelings coming (I don’t want to say depression because that is more serious that what I was dealing with I am sure). I read all night to keep my mind off it, but it was there. I didn’t feel like a runner anymore. I felt…like a normal person. It was both traumatizing and intriguing. I started imagining my life without running. I saw myself at more bars, up later at night, sleeping in more. That looked fun, but I also saw the terrible things. I saw never racing again. Never feeling like I was free. I saw myself not moving.
I was so scared. I was going down a really bad road.
When I lost my identity, for a brief time, I asked myself what I would do. I am a runner. That is what I will be my whole life if I have anything to say about it. I felt so dumb for not being able to prevent something I couldn’t see (no, I could not see black ice under an inch of snow) but somehow this was my fault. I was really sad. I texted my coach about it and she said simply “First, stop stressing. Just ice.” Following those instructions, however simple they were, made me feel better. I felt more like a runner who got injured rather than an idiot. I prayed a lot that night, not to heal quickly, but to accept that I might not be able to move for the next few days. I prayed for strength to get through that because I knew it would be hard. It still sucked, but I gave it to God. He knows what is best for me and I trust that.
I went to bed and woke up the next morning and…I COULD WALK! If I tell you the pain of the night before made me question going to work the next day and then waking up to more uncomfort rather than pain, it was a miracle! I couldn’t believe that I could actually go to the bathroom without pain. Answered prayer is what that is. Answered prayer and doing what my coach said. I iced, I laid around, I took pain reliever, I prayed. That was all I could do…and it worked!
I still haven’t run since then, but was able to elliptical a bit and although I don’t have a full range of motion, it is getting better all the time. I’ll be ready to race again in no time!
When writing this post, I thought I was going to write the hardest part about being a runner was getting injured, but for me, the hardest part about being a runner is the feeling of losing that identity and how to deal with it.
What is your identity?
What’s your worst injury story?