We are all filled with unnecessary insecurities when it comes to running. I'm not fast enough. I'm too big to run. I'm too small to run. I don't look like a runner. I'm too old to run. I don't run far enough. The list is endless and defeating. Earlier this year, I had the heart-breaking experience of sitting with a group of women as we painfully shared our own running insecurities with each other. As I watched these women's inner critic speak their piercing words, I wept. I cried audibly loud. As I scanned the room, I was in disbelief that such empowering women could belittle themselves so effortlessly. These were women that I had the priviledge of witnessing speak their truth without fear, write words so fierce and bold, run with both strength and conviction...yet they too easily cut themselves down as they took shots at their own abilities and existence. Then a phrase, so poignant and uncomplicated was spoken and it silenced the room...if you run, you're a runner. It seemed so simple. If you run, you ARE a runner. This freeing statement hushed my doubts. We all sat in agreement that we were all so much more than the artificial limitations we had placed on ourselves. We ran and therefore we were runners. Little did I know that this statement wasn't just about physical movement, but also the mental and spiritual experience of a journey from one place to another. This was a lesson I was going to learn the hard way.
Flash forward to an experience I had about a month ago. I was running on the peak of a mountain in North Carolina surrounded by endless views of beauty. As the trail narrowed, I took one last glance at the captivating sights, rolled my ankle and fell a few feet down the side of the mountain. Another runner came up behind me, helped me up and asked if I was okay. "No, I really don't think I am", I whimpered. I had rolled my ankle many times before. This injury felt much worse and the pain was unbearable. I ran another 4 miles to get down off the mountain. Once I reached the parking lot, I grabbed a change of clothes, avoided eye contact with my fellow running group, and hobbled to the nearest bathroom to cry in private. I cried because it hurt, but mostly I cried because I knew what I had done. I was injured...badly. I wasn't going to be running again for a very long time.
I had torn ligaments in my foot and ankle. An avulsion had taken a piece of bone off the other side my ankle. The diagnosis was grim and my spirit was broken. I wanted to run. I needed to run. How can I be a runner if I'm not running? The next few weeks post injury were hard. Surrounded by fellow trail runners' adventurous training runs and ambitious 2018 race plans only made me feel betrayed. My body had failed me. The next steps were difficult - literally and figuratively. I needed to find a way to feel connected to running and to feel the essence of being runner.
I've decided that I will race plan as well. I will plan to be a selfless part of the running community that has filled my heart and soul over the past 5 years. I will support as I have been supported. I will be the positive voice they hear when their head is filled with doubt. I will be the aid to their pain when their body has given up and another mile seems impossible. I will run without running, because being a runner means more than the physical act of putting one foot in front of the other. It's about seeing obstacles ahead and pushing on. It's about feeling as though you can't go any farther and then persevering. It's about finding the reason in the journey and the joy in the finish. I may not be running...but I am a runner.
Happy Trails -