As some of you may know, in 2012 I ran the Baltimore Marathon. This was a huge achievement for me, and it is something that changed my life. I was 19 years old when I crossed the finish line, one of thirteen other girls in the 15-19 age bracket in a field of 3,023. Despite knowing what a small number of girls my age ran this race, it took me until now, two years later, to realize what an anomaly I was.
Finishing felt like being on top of the world, it was like I could do anything and, a few weeks later I signed up to run the marathon again in fall of 2013. I never expected a month later that I would be sitting in the study abroad office, learning about studying abroad in England for the fall semester. It was difficult for me to let the marathon go for another year, but I placated myself knowing that I could always defer to 2014 and, that’s what I did.
Now it’s 2014, and I don’t want to run a marathon anymore.
When I ran my first half marathon in 2011, I was 18 years old and learning to define myself. I had made it through the worst year of my life as a college freshman and being a runner became my identity. It was how I reminded myself that I was tough and strong, and I could do this.
It wasn’t until the summer of 2013 that I started to untangle running from my identity. I was introduced to rock climbing in June and for the first time since 2011, running had to share my attention. Then when I went to England, I was mystified that runners were basically non-existent in Leicester and, I joined rowing for a short period of time.
Running had just stopped being fun for me. I was burned out, tired of running ten miles with no race to train for, tired of facing the cold, and just plain tired of running. But, I kept pushing until I got home.
At this point, it was freaking freezing in Maryland and, I retreated to the gym. I returned to my beloved elliptical and started to enjoy exercise again, sweating my butt off in a toasty gym with my Kindle and water in reaching distance. I got back into weight training. I ran on the treadmill sometimes but only when I wanted to, and some weeks that meant not running at all.
I had detached myself from running and, in a way that was really scary for me because for so long, running has been how I framed myself. It was my “I am statement” – Hi, I am Samantha. I am a runner. For so long, it had been my reminder – I can do this.
Rock climbing and I began our abusive relationship (in which I get a lot of bruises and calluses, fall down a lot, and yet feel totally exhilarated when I get to the top of the wall) once I was back at school in February of this year, and right now that has been my focus. Running and I are rebuilding our relationship slowly. The weather is getting nicer and, I am finding myself actually wanting to run again. I also have found a new love of just walking – low impact, deep breathing, and being outside.
After a lot of thinking, I have decided that another full marathon is not in the cards this year. I let myself burnout on running, and that’s something that I have to rebuild slowly versus trying to force myself to train for a marathon that my heart isn’t in. If you have ever trained for a marathon, you will know that you have got to be all in. If your heart isn’t there, your body won’t be either.
I will be downgrading to the Baltimore Half Marathon for fall of 2014 and, that is something that I feel genuinely excited about training for this summer. It is tough for the overachiever in me to let the full marathon go, but as my dad reminded me – at 21, I will have plenty more opportunities to run another full when I am ready.
Running has made me into a tough woman. I have ran five hours straight. Ran through the cold, the wind, the heat, the rain. Ran so long that there was salt crusting my skin. Cried mid-run. Almost puked. Called my dad to pick me up 15 miles into a training run and then made him drop me off so I could finish the last three miles. Thought I was going to pass out the first time I had runner’s high. And tripped over curbs, rocks, and tree roots more times than I can count.
But, if I decided to stop being a runner these things wouldn’t change, I would still be the same, still have made it through the same things. I will always be a runner. It is a part of me. It always will be. But, now I’ve realized that being a runner doesn’t have to define me. In so many ways, allowing myself to break up with running has shown me that running is what I do, not who I am.
And when I cross that half marathon finish line in October, it won’t be because I feel obligated or because it’s what people expect of me, it’ll be for me – and the free bagels at the end of the race.