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. I’m not even a running momma but I can completely identify with your post. In fact I’ve been struggling with the same problem (and periodically venting frustrations at since being sidelined in April with a stress fracture. I totally feel your pain and frustration! Hope the PF clears up soon!

  2. You hav always been so MANY things from my perspective. Not just a runner. I secretly like the idea of you redefining yourself once again. It’s always a spectacular result. You have taken on every challenge; writing, running, and mothering, with all your heart. Here comes the corny (or should I say “korny?”): My experience with life’s setbacks is that they lead somewhere wonderful once you go with the flow. It usually takes me YEARS to readjust. You’re at your depression-acceptance phase right now. Acceptance is next and I can’t wait to see how you spin this with the you normal enthusiasm and determination.
    Also, am I mistaken or do all these gals love your writing and your personality? They don’t actually see you run every day. It’s YOU they like.

  3. I, too, lived my life as a reader, not a runner. I never ran a step until I was 31. I was recently sidelined with pneumonia for 2 weeks and I completely stress out because I am terrified that the time off is going to take my “Runner” status away. I still qualify my runner status- I am a lawyer and one of the Judges I am before every day is a runner. When he points out to my clients (as he frequently does) that their lawyer has run a marathon, I always point out that it was slow. I am not sure I will ever be comfortable identifying myself as a runner.

  4. SBS – I will ALWAYS consider you a runner. Think of this injury as a small bump in the road of life. Time heals everything and you will be back on your feet before you know it. Hang in there!

  5. I feel your pain. I’m 11 days away from running my first marathon and I haven’t run for a week because I have such intense pain in my hip when I run, I just can’t keep going. It’s hard to take a break and trust that the rest will heal the hurt and make it better. However at this point, that’s all I can do. The feelings that you’re talking about so mimic many of the feelings that I’m having. It took me along time to admit that I’m a runner and I don’t want to lose that status now just because I got this freak injury.

    You are awesome, you have inspired countless women, and you can do this!

  6. As always, your words resonated with me!! I went from a monthly mileage PR of 122 for April down to a piddly 38 for May because of a strained posterior tibial tendon. It has been such a difficult month as I have struggled with my identity – I’m a runner!! If I can’t run, then what am I?!? Not to mention the emotional roller coaster I have been on because of the pent up energy, closing of another school year teaching, and watching my third baby turn a year old (sobs!!!). After several ART sessions and massages, 2 sports physician appointments, a round of prednisone, wrapping, icing, rolling, stretching, and many tears, I am hopeful after today’s first physical therapy session. I even had an awesome 5.5 miler tonight!! Hang in there SBS!!

  7. So sorry about the PF. I suffered from it years ago (heel spurs and everything) but have been wearing custom orthotics ever since and haven’t had any trouble. I don’t wear cheap shoes (I stick to Mephistos and Danskos and running shoes that I don’t run in) and I almost never go barefoot. I’m a new runner (less than a year) and was afraid the PF would come back, but so far, so good.

    My mom had a terrible case of PF a couple of years ago after a vacation (lots of walking on concrete, left her almost unable to walk at all). Her podiatrist recommended a “Bledsoe PFS” ankle brace (bledsoebrace dot com) and it worked wonders for her in a reasonable period of time, and she hasn’t had trouble since. I don’t know what makes it different from other braces, but that one worked for her. Maybe worth a try.

  8. “With the, “if I’m not a runner, then who am I?” question…”

    This quote resonated with me so strongly. When I suffered my stress fracture in 2006, I was devastated and really didn’t handle it well. After unsuccessfully trying to “run through it,” I pretty much just walked (or hobbled, rather) away from running for a long time. I didn’t want to be anything else than a runner. I didn’t want to cross train. I didn’t want to bike, swim, row, or lift. I wanted to run. And because I couldn’t do that, I did nothing. I really didn’t have perpective. Now, I don’t just look at myself as a runner. I look at myself as a mom, a wife, a runner, a librarian, a reader, a laundry folder (just kidding!), etc. And when I got injured last summer and was out for 12 weeks, I was able to hit the bike and weights and stay in shape without the pity party–because while running is a part of me it is not all that I am.

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