I Think I Used To Be A Runner

I have long been reticent to use the term “runner” to describe myself. As a whole I tend to avoid naming my hobbies as identities. I write, but am slow to say I am a “writer.” I take photos, but I don’t know if I am necessarily a “photographer.”

Over the course of last year I became more comfortable with the “runner” label. I think training for an ultra-marathon will do that to you. Caught up in the momentum of that achievement, my goal was to build on it by completing a 80K race this spring.

Well, that race is happening today, and I am comfortably in my living room, blogging in my pajamas. Fatigue, busy-ness, travel, a bad cold, food poisoning, knee pain all snowballed together to completely wreck my training plan. I kept trying to push through and get back on track, but I finally hit the point where I knew it was time to go into a doctor and make sure my body was healthy before I tried to hit 50 miles of difficult trails.

I spent a terrified week convinced my meniscus was torn and then found out that my quad muscles weren’t holding my patella exactly where it should be. Which, as it turns out, isn’t that hard of a problem to fix. However part of the healing process meant no running on hills (hence no ultra-marathons through the mountains).

When I got the diagnosis one of the biggest sentiments I felt was relief, because trying to fit in my training runs had just felt like a burden. I started running because it is something fun that helps remove tension from my life, and if it becomes one more thing that is stressing me out, then I should probably just give it up. This is why I don’t like calling myself a runner.

So though I was still allowed to run on flat surfaces, I didn’t run at all for several weeks. I’m not even sure when’s the last time I went that long without running. There were several other factors in my schedule as well, but it was nice having days off where I wasn’t trying to fit in 15-20 miles of running and not fighting to wake up before the sun most mornings of the week. Not being constantly worried about my nagging knee pain was also a good change of pace.

When I think of myself as a “runner,” to stop running or take a break means losing part of my identity. When I think of myself as a “person” who runs, running stays in its place as a nice leisure activity. Running will always be a choice I make, not who I am. Sometimes I choose to run really far, sometimes I don’t run at all, and sometimes I may just log a couple miles and be satisfied with that.

All that being said, last week I finally got my shoes back on and headed for some beautiful runs. It’s nice to be back at a place where I can enjoy running again. I hope I accomplish some more cool running adventures, but even if I don’t, I’m ok with that.

How about you? Do you run? Do you call yourself a runner? What’s an activity that helps you refresh and de-stress?

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