Finding My New Way

Oddly enough, this cartoon was one of the first images returned when I Googled, "Who am I?" image

If you read The Book, you know I grew up a reader, not a runner. And despite my seven marathons, newly minted Half Fanatic status, and being a regular contributor to Runner’s World, there’s always a part of me that forever worries about backsliding to being that sedentary person. Now even more so because, deep, heavy sigh: I just got diagnosed with plantar fasciitis. (I’m rolling a frozen water bottle under my right heel and arch as I type this…)

But don’t check your inbox for an Evite to my pity-party quite yet. For now, I’m philosophical about being sidelined: I figure I dodged the injury-bullet for 25+ years, so sooner or later I was bound to get hit. The orthopedist who diagnosed the PF agrees: He took one look at my arches (which he deemed, “twice as high as most people,” a distinction I feel about as proud as if he’d told me I have “twice the amount of dandruff most people have” or “twice as small boobs”) and declared he was amazed I’d made it this long without succumbing to an injury.

As you can guess, though, I am not taking the diagnosis sitting down. While I haven’t run since May 17 with one, um, “minor” exception I’ve become reacquainted with my bike (a good friend when I live in San Francisco in the late 1990s) and I’ve been strength training at least twice a week. But, as we running-mommas know, nothing compares to the heart-thumping sweat induced by a delightfully simple run. (Insert another heavy sigh here…)

Other than finding a suitably sweaty alternative, the main thing I’m grappling with my identity. It’s finally T-shirt weather here in Portland, and I’ve found myself reaching again and again for my beloved “another mother runner” and “The more I run, the less I want to run away.” tees, yet I can’t bring myself to pull them on. While I haven’t yet reverted to being simply a reader, I am not currently a runner. So while I’m spinning away, mulling over this question, I think about what my friend (and fellow RLAMer) Megan reminded me: Not that long ago, I deemed I was “a rower who runs,” and in the past I’ve self-selected as a Masters swimmer. It’s only been in the last three or so years I’ve ID’d myself as a runner first and foremost.

Ashley's oh-so-appropos card

And nothing like a little kick from kismet: With the, “if I’m not a runner, then who am I?” question incessantly pinging around my brain, I got a card (yes, an actual piece of mail) from Ashley (a mutual friend of Megan and me who ran the Boston Marathon in April). Ashley wrote, “…I have been in a weird funk since I am taking a marathon break. Didn’t realize how much being a ‘marathoner’ these last few years defined me (at least in my head). Spending a little time resting & re-defining what running is to me right now….”

While these comments from dear women whom I respect greatly as runners and moms don’t get me back to running any sooner (a final sigh for good measure), they certainly helped get my head in a better place. And, as well all know, the body follows where the mind leads.

42 responses to “Finding My New Way

  1. My physio just told me today that I should stop running, possibly for 4 weeks, while we sort out what’s going on with my hip. I’m getting a 2nd opinion, because for me, nothing compares to running, and I just don’t want to stop running unless that’s the only option.

  2. I’ve had this for 4 years, it’s an ebb and flow type of injury, sorry. I had to skip 2 weeks of my full training this winter, and was just devastated. The good news is that if you baby it and take time off you WILL come back faster, push it, like any injury and it will push back, badly.
    I always do my stretches before I get out of bed 1st thing in the a.m. when it’s being testy, and wear my Danskos as much as possible (I have some that are sandals, too, which helps.)

    Irony: 0 interest in running since my 5/1 marathon, did maybe 6 miles. Ran the Race for the Cure Saturday (my runiversary race, 5 years) and PR’d for that race. Interest in running is back, planning my next full- and PF”s back, too. Joy.
    Patience, this too shall pass.

  3. You know what I did. Swallowed my lump and cheered by BFF through her first Half. Volunteered at the Seattle Rock N Roll – the race I won’t be running because of PF. And yes, it’s always that nagging “who am I” without the road that bites the hardest. Do I really just want to be a mom? Wife? No. I want to be a BadAss Mother Runner – Like YOU! 😉 It’s just the moment where you are right now. It’ll change soon.

  4. Ugh..PF…I’m so sorry! My boss is a bit of inspiration – she’s back after 2 months of PT and has been happily running pain free for nearly a year now ever since….

    Yup…I’m trying not to define myself as a “runner” right now, although by running nearly every day I am definitely one….I’m a bit scared of the competitive monster who has come out when I decide to define myself like that in the past (two sports in college, 11 workouts a wk and a broken rib while rowing national team training) Will the munchkins keep me balanced this time around?

    But it feels so good….and now with a good 5 wks under my belt, I’m getting so I CAN speed up, do a little testing, have fun on the trails, rather than just survive the runs….but can I keep it fun?

  5. I hear ya. I’m having the same re-discovery going on in my psyche right now. After 3 years of being a stay at home mom I’ve gone back to work. It’s a weird transition.

  6. Keep your eye on the prize! You will be back on your running feet before you know it. Thank you for bringing so much running humor into my life. Get well soon & thank you for all that you do.

  7. Two things: one: minimal shoes– might as well try it since you’ll have to start in small mileage (I’m tellin’ ya, it’s a miracle!) and two: you are so fortunate to be a swimmer, so this is a mere bump in the road. I’ve had breakage and PF and bronchitis, and backsliding always loomed, but never won, because I had swimming and cycling and yoga to lean on. That way every obstacle was just a snag on the river, and I kept on flowing regardless. Good luck, enjoy a really short but worthy pity party, and on with the game!

  8. I feel for you. My friend and I just did half fanatics and met our goals. We were also starting our training for my first and her second marathon in September. Just last week I had a hypoglysimic episode, emergency surgery and doctors found some sort of infection in my body(all within hours). All training plans are gone…I was really sad about it.I felt like my body had failed me. All this training and I fall ill. Now all I can focus on is getting better. I have been a runner for 12 years I have always loved it. It’s such a big part of who I am. I realised that now I need to take care of my body, figure out what’s wrong with me so that I can enjoy the things I love. I need to be healthy first. I think once we are better we will love it even more.
    You guys are inspiring! Thank you

  9. Ug, so sorry, it’s such a PITA or PITFoot, I should say. I had it for a while and if anything good came out of my 7 weeks of hospital bed rest before my daughter was born last year is that time cleared up my PF.

  10. I just started running about a year ago and have just started to consider myself a “runner”, and now I am right there with you with PF. I have not run for a few weeks and it’s killing me (especially after the beautiful weather we finally had this past weekend – yes, I’m in Seattle where it seems the rain never stops)! And to boot – my husband bought me one of your glorious “badass mother runner” t-shirts for my birthday – and I feel sort of sad because I am not running right now! But what I figure that means is that I must get out there and run again as soon as I am able! I am still hoping to run the Seattle RnR half at the end of this month, but we’ll see. In the meantime I took a spinning class this past weekend and remembered how much I like it – so I am planning on keeping it in my cross training repertoire once I am back to running.

    Thanks for the post and hope you are back in action soon!

  11. Having come off 3 weeks of rest due to my crazy champagne cork eye injury (!), AND having had plantar fasciitis on and off my whole running career, I can definitely sympathize. Keep using the frozen water bottle and do the runner’s stretch all day, as often as you can remember to do it: In hindsight some of my injuries have been my biggest blessings. I would have never learned to swim or use my bike if it wasn’t for my injuries and therefore would have never thought I could do a triathlon. Anytime I’m injured I revisit this article which helps me feel like I’m training for something even when I’m injured:,7120,s6-241-286–13412-1-1X2-3,00.html. Best of luck and keep wearing those running t-shirts! And to the mother runner who wonders if she should take the 26.2 magnet off her car, remember this, “There will be days when you don’t think you can run a marathon. There will be a lifetime of knowing you have.”

  12. I know how you feel! I went through something similar last fall when my first HM was delayed by an Achilles injury. I wanted to cry when I saw people running while I was riding the elliptical and swimming. I tried to tell myself that all the XT would make me a better runner – and I was right. I am better. I’ve now done that HM and have a full marathon in my sights. And I still XT (never did before). Just hang in there – you’ll be back on the road again soon!

  13. Wear those shirts, woman! This is just a different training plan, a different project to manage. Just attack this project like you do all your other ones, and you will be back.

    That said, I look in the mirror several times a day, wondering if the chocolate I just ate will result in all 40 of my lost lbs coming back in an instant, so I know that “will I backslide?” feeling well. Then I remind myself it’s not about falling off the metaphorical horse, it’s about how many times I get back on, and THAT I get back on, no matter what.

    You ARE a runner! always will be!

  14. i am just getting back to running after a knee injury during my (first) january marathon. it has been such an insane, emotional rollercoaster of a journey! it for sure made me re-evaluate myself as an athelete/runner/what am i? and also made me re-evaluate any running goals. so i feel your pain! (literally- i’ve also dealt with plantar faci too!)

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