I Was Never Just a Runner

23 Feb

I like to think that the real me is the me that emerges when I’m joyful and relaxed and healthy and content in who I am.

And I like to think that the me that emerges when I’m stressed and unhappy and injured is the fake me.  And it really doesn’t count.  Because everyone knows that this is not me.  That this is just an evil version that has come down in a UFO and taken me prisoner for a few hours/days/weeks/months.  Right?

But I don’t think there is a real me or a fake me.  Just me.  Lots of good, lots of bad, lots of gray areas.  And the people who have never known me in a good time have no way of knowing what good I am capable of.  And the people who have never known me in a bad time have no way of knowing what evil I am capable of.  And most people have seen both and know that I’m capable of quite the gamut of emotions and personalities.

And no, I am not special. We’re all that way.

But I’ve been realizing it more and more.  It’s been two months since I ran without pain (and the two times I ran were so unpleasant, it’s best to forget they ever happened).  Two months feels like a long time.  I am passionate about running, it fits me in a way that I needed a hobby to.  It makes me feel athletic and strong and it gives me a much needed break from work drama and school reading and life.

I miss changing into running gear for lunch runs with my coworker. I miss catching up on life with my coworker.  I never really appreciated just how much time we spent together training for my marathon. I feel guilty that I’m not logging all those miles with her while training for her marathon.  I miss the river.  I love the river.  My life has revolved around the river these past few years – biking, running, races, suicide, walks, the journey from work to class to gym to school that I have made umpteen times, the bridge between my home city and my work city.  I miss the sweat and how freezing cold you are for the first wintery mile and how quickly you warm up. I miss Sport Beans and power gels and electrolytes.  I miss the running jargon. I even miss all the runners who would smile and nod at my Reach the Beach and Ragnar shirts.  I miss feeling athletic.

And rather than settling into my new identity – the girl learning to live through IT band pain and focusing on strength and core and lifting weights and keeping my knee from buckling during squats – I’ve been grasping for the old one.  And failing.  And being a little miserable git who has no doubt annoyed a fair number of people.

“It’s not me,” I say, as an excuse.

And coworkers ask about my training and tell me that they’ve taken up running because of me (5!  5 people this month!) and HomeSlice asks what crazy event I am doing next.  And I feel boring and dull because I have nothing to talk about but this only-fascinating-to-me world of balancing and muscles and tendons and kinesio tape (I wear the black stuff but lately, it starts unsticking from my skin.  Apparently even my skin is defective.)  I crave early Saturday morning long runs.

Maybe this would make sense if I was a good runner.  Technically, I am. I run straight and true without kicking up limbs behind me or running knock-kneed.  But I am not a fast runner, I am not an especially talented runner, I’m just a girl who loves running.  And biking.  And boxing.  And soccer.  And lifting.  And apparently, even balancing.  But for some reason, my frustration over not being able to run outweighs the rest.

It really comes down to identity.  If I can’t run, can I call myself a runner?  Can I still consider myself athletic? Am I athletic?  Even after all these years, I still feel like I’m the childhood me who was never athletic, let’s be honest.  Maybe because I never tried.  Maybe because I didn’t have confidence in myself. Or  maybe because I am just not an athlete.

If I can’t run, can I call myself a runner?  Can I still read my running magazines and make my fruit smoothies and get excited over planning future races?

And if I am this sad about running, can I trust that liking things and losing them is still better than being apathetic to everything in general?  Is my love of running more important than other people’s needs for me to be happy and focused and independent when I feel moody and distracted and needy?

Unfortunately, no, it’s not.

I’m learning to let go of who I used to be and embrace this time of stumbling towards what I will be in the future.  Maybe a runner again.  I hope so.  But also, just a person with so much more to offer than miles per hour and foam rolling techniques.

I am a runner.  But I was never just a runner.  Just as you are _____.  But you were never just a _____.

We are more than the things we do.  Today, more than ever, I’m grateful for that truth.

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One Response to “I Was Never Just a Runner”

  1. amandaK February 23, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

    Wow, you took the words right out of my mouth. I struggled with my identity after a forced indefinite break from running – and yoga! I finally ended the pity party and challenged myself to learn swimming. Now, I call myself an athlete. Less pressure that way.

    Although I do miss running and races and long runs just me and my thoughts.

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