The Hardest Part About Running

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?



    • Thanks brother! I feel as though I need to get a fall out of the way each winter so I can move on and not let that fear bother me anymore.

  1. Oh my gosh, I so empathize about the identity thing. I remember when I had to take long break from exercise to regain weight. At that time, I was aspiring to be a group fitness instructor, and my hour at the gym was the most important thing in my day. I couldn’t imagine my”self” without it. But it was also a time when I cultivated other aspects of my identity, like reading and dancing.
    So I totally empathize and hope you don’t get too discouraged! Take care and heal up.

  2. Oh I know exactly what you mean! I am 37 years old now and have been running for 20 years. My love of running has only strengthened! I thought maybe it would fade after a while… No. And I have many running friends who are in their 60s who still are Runners and they identify as such. I have gotten injured so many times and it is awful. I just believe that it will pass and know God has a plan.
    You will heal and you have such a wonderful, admirable attitude and perspective. Thanks for sharing your insight! You’re in my prayers. I am glad that you are feeling better already.

    • Thank you so much for this comforting comment Amanda! It means so much to me that people are out there who care ๐Ÿ™‚ After reading almost your whole blog, I know you feel the same way I do. Sole sisters haha

      • Hi Ellie – i don’t have a blog. Maybe you are thinking of runningwithspoons? Im just a commenter:)

      • Oops sorry about that! I sometimes mix up the comments I mean to send. Still learning this whole blogging thing =P Thank you so much for commenting on my posts. I can tell from your picture that we have at least one or two things in common ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Ellie, running has been my identity first and foremost throughout my entire life, and I am 50. Accidents and injuries happen and it just solidifies the fact that you love running, you are happiest when you are running, and to never take it for granted.

    It’s really weird but I too, just had a fall on the ice this morning, only it’s my right knee that is messed up. I will be your icing buddy. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. This is so beautifully written. “Running both pushes me out of my comfort zone, and creates one.” —> Wow. I would say this is the ultimate sign of a passion that will withstand a life time. “I feltโ€ฆlike a normal person. It was both traumatizing and intriguing.” Wow again. I get this exactly. But I love that you are keeping that sense of intrigue, even though the feelings are hard. I have felt that same sadness when something – albeit not running but something else – has been forced upon me, or “taken away” from me. Its a strange feeling, this sadness, and I’ve never been able to pin point the exact root of it. Sending you all the quick healing vibes I can, so we can get you out running like you were before in no time.

    • Thank you so much for these kind words Cora. I’m sure acting or performing has the same impact on you. Luckily, these are things we can do in some way our entire lives ๐Ÿ™‚

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s