chords and cadence

Another runner's writ

Struggles of seriousness and self-identity

I started training for my first half marathon a little over two years ago. By the time I crossed the finish line of the Horsetooth Half with a New Belgium beer waiting for me, I had already caught the running bug. I shopped at Fleet Feet. I wore running clothes when I wasn’t running. I subscribed to Runner’s World, learned about Plantar Fasciitis and how to pronounce it, and gleefully discovered a whole big world of sweaty, carb-scarfing people who loved running as much as I did. I began to identify as a runner, and quickly many who knew me did too, and I was really proud of it; I wore it like a badge of honor. Heck, I created this blog because of it, essentially.

Fast forward, and sparing you details, I injured my foot during marathon training with 7  weeks to go before my third marathon this spring. I took 11 days off of running and jumped into cross training: cycling, swimming, yoga and strength training. What shocked me was I didn’t miss running. My familiar, neurotic don’t-miss-a-training-run self was out to lunch in China.

I missed out on a few weeks of crucial mile-building for the marathon while waiting for my foot to get back to normal. As it stands, about a week out, I have decided the smartest thing to do would be the half marathon instead. I know better than to fight through 26.2 miles, even if my foot feels fine-ish now, without having built up the mileage the right way. Plus, to keep running healthy for the rest of my life without a prolonged injury is ideal.

The struggle doesn’t lie in the fact that, for the second time now, I’m switching from the full to the half marathon. I’m secretly (or not so, now that it’s on the record) relieved. The struggle is in how I self-identify.

The more I’ve cross-trained, the less I’ve wanted to run. The more I’ve explored cycling HITT workouts and shakti kicks and chin-ups, the more interested I’ve become in pursuing fitness goals outside of running. As a result, I feel like less of a runner, like I’m betraying my sport.

If I don’t self-identify as a runner because of my own subjective definition, then who am I? (Okay, anyone else picture Zoolander looking up at the stars and asking the same question before his matchbook-size cell phone rings?) I know there is more to me than my PRs and mile splits, but everyone is proud to self-identify somehow; it’s personal, and it can mean a great deal.

Recently I had a wake-up call through a conversation with my mother. She was giving me a thousand reasons why I shouldn’t be so hard on myself and I was coming up with a thousand and one reasons why I should. She finally said it, casually, but it was like a light switched on: “I think you take things too seriously. Your dad and I have talked about it,” she said. Instead of getting butt hurt, I laughed because I knew it was true. And not only true, but something so easy and relieving to change. I gauged the notion of taking things too seriously with my boyfriend too, demanding he not spare my feelings, and tell me honestly. He agreed with my parents. Confirmation received.

As a result, I’ve been (trying) not taking this whole not-feeling-like-running thing too seriously, but there is a little part of my brain that is knocking: “Whooooo are you?!” I know it’s silly to structure my self-identity around a certain number of weekly miles on my calendar, but I have for the past few years, and breaking away from that, like any habit, isn’t easy.

Next week, I will be thrilled and excited to run the Country Music Half Marathon. I will miss running with those I’ve trained with, and not being able to say I have three marathons under my belt. I’ll be excited about the carbo-loading, the celebrations afterward.

I may just do a cartwheel over the finish line or something fun and weird. That wouldn’t be taking things too seriously now, would it? Maybe I could find a new identity in just that.

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2 thoughts on “Struggles of seriousness and self-identity

  1. Great piece. We runners do take ourselves too seriously. We are so driven and competitive with our own selves that we forget sometimes why we really love running. Taking time off is not that big of a deal. I have learned to embrace it (the time off) and remember that if I (we) want to run for the rest of my life then I have to enjoy it and soak in why I love it. Just the pure beauty of being ABLE to run. It doesn’t have to be about races all the time. Good luck on your half marathon!!

  2. You’re still one badass chick whether you run every day or once every month. Taylor, running doesn’t even come close to defining you. You have much more to offer (and damn it, you’re one hell of a writer). I had a similar post/affirmation after I was injured last year for so long. In 2014, I’ve ditched running with a watch and have been focusing on making running fun again. The two halfs I ran near my birthday sans watch were the best! With all the blogs and social media, you can get caught up in it–comparing yourself and pigeon holing yourself….but then you step outside of the glass house and realize how silly and really how comical it truly is. I’ll support you no matter what you do, the common goal is always just to have FUN! Life is too short. Do what you love, love what you do. Kick ass at next week’s half and slam a brewski mid-race! 😉
    Another great post from you, Taylor!

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