Wednesday, December 21, 2011

NaBloPoMo Round 2, Day 21:Born (Not) to Run?

I often think of myself as "not a real runner," because I'm not fast enough, don't do enough mileage, enjoy other activities as much as I like running, etc., running has been a part of my life for the past 20 years or so, on and off.

I have had a dysfunctional relationship with running for most of those years. Running has gotten wrapped up in my quest for thinness, beauty, and unconditional acceptance and has suffered as a result.  I have always, in some way, bought in to the idea that if I could just train enough and in the right way, I would be effortlessly thin.  This has led to some very bad behaviors.  Sometimes I have overtrained to the point of being sick. Other times, I have refused to lace up my shoes because I wouldn't be fast enough or good enough.

The other day my physical therapist said that he wasn't sure I would ever be able to run without injury, that maybe I should consider other activities. He knows that running means a lot to me but also thinks that I'm causing problems for myself by continuing to run. I was dressed to run that day, but went to the park and walked instead, trying to consider what a life without running would mean to me.

The first thing, of course, is that I whipped myself into a frenzy of fear. I am already heavier than I want to be and I have the deep fear that if I don't run, I will gain more weight and end up back in the 200s.  This is a very unhappy story, but logically I know that it doesn't have to be true.  Every reputable source seems to indicate that dietary management is the key to weight management, not activity.  Even if I need to burn calories, there are a lot of other things I can do: Spinning classes, swimming, weight lifting, hiking, yoga, incline walking, sports.

It takes a while to get past that huge fear and consider the loss of the activity itself. The way that I can lace up my shoes and go to the park to meditate on my feet, to outrun anxiety, to just enjoy watching the scenery change with the seasons.  I know I could walk instead, but it isn't the same.

I would also lose part of my identity, the part that is a runner and a triathlete. I have never been a superstar at either of these activities. I came to them both late in life and at first, was just happy to be able to participate.  I still have that part of me that is surprised and delighted to be an athlete of any sort.  I'm not quite ready to give that up. Even when my races are disappointing, as they have been lately, they still mean a lot to me.  I have a t-shirt that declares "I run therefore I am." I bought it as sort of a joke, because I thought it was an arrogant, annoying sentiment, but a part of me believes that it is true. The times I have not been able to run have been unhappy times for me. It's especially hard because my husband is a runner, and we would lose something we have in common.

I am still hoping that the physical therapist is wrong, that I can find a way to run again. Maybe it's the excess weight that is causing the injury, and not so much the running, and if I could find a way to lose it, I could get back to running. Maybe I need to run differently, or wear different shoes, or inserts, or something.  I have an appointment with a podiatrist today and I am still hoping she will have some good news.

If the worst happens and I can't run, I have to find a way to make a non-running life work.  Lots of people do it.

I just don't want to be one of them.


  1. If it's any consolation at all, I tend to gain weight when I'm running, not lose, although I hold out eternal hope that I may someday reverse that. I came to running far later in life than you, so transitioning to walking wasn't as painful as it seems to be for you. Sounds like you need to read "Born to Run," if you haven't already.

  2. I have read it, and it gives very little practical guidance, though it's a great story. McDougall believes in chia seeds, fairy dust, and barefoot running. But I have tried to transition to barefoot and it just seemed to accelerate my problems, not help them.

  3. What about bike riding? It gives me a similar sense of freedom and speed to running. Or swimming, I really enjoy swimming.

    Running is very hard on the body, especially on pavement. It would be great to be thin, but it would also be great to be able to walk when you are old.

    You will find a substitute you like. And I can't imagine that you will give up and gain any weight.

  4. I know exactly how you feel. I had the same thing happen to me after several years of running and getting pretty "good" at it (for me). I love running, my running friends, marathons, halfs, 10k's...running with my dog. I was tied in to running as a lifestyle. Long story, but I found after terrible injury and depression I wasn't biomechanically put together well to run. My doctor finally asked me if I wanted to be able to walk when I was 90? I thought that it was a great way to look at it. I could keep running now, but it probably would wreck my ability to stay healthful and exercise into old age. (I switched to biking btw). But I can identify with all the thoughts you are having. It was not unusual for me to start crying on a walk when I saw people run by in the beginning. But there is life after running if you look hard for of luck!

  5. I hope your PT is wrong too!


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07