Remember that time I ran the NYC marathon and shaved an hour off my previous 26.2 time? I sure do. In fact, I was so proud of the achievement that my lock-screen photo from the occasion remains on my phone.

In 2022 the photo evokes a bit of heartache for that time when I felt like such a strong runner. Was it really as great as I remember? Should I just change the lock-screen to a photo of my kids? My garden? A sunset? Every time I start to replace it and just leave 2019 behind, I spend a moment in an identity crisis and then cancel the edits, resolving again to hold on to the photo, and the Runner in me.

After training through the summer and fall of 2019, I had the race day of a lifetime. Frank Sinatra’s starting line invitation to be a part of New York still echoes in my head. I savored every mile through the Big Apple and reached every “A” goal I had, punctuating an intense training cycle with a run through the greatest city in the world. I was in the best shape of my life that fall and felt ready for more big goals. But it’s no spoiler to say 2020 did not bring more exhilarating milestones.


In fact, 2020 brought a running funk that I struggled (and failed) to escape. Covid shutdowns introduced a series of challenges that for some meant a turn to running streaks and workout regimens, but for me it was a loss of my healthy routines. My youngest daughter, then a homeschooled junior, lost her at-school activities like band, and I, in turn, lost a few coveted hours to myself. Ongoing issues with hip pain also worsened, resulting in labral repair surgery in 2021. Recovery went well but my mental health faltered. Plus, slight pain remained; my attempts to return to running were half-hearted and unsuccessful—an easy excuse to stop trying. What’s the ruling about how many months away from the pavement before you have to stop calling yourself a runner anyway?

Attempting to re-become a runner has proven to be one of the hardest things I have done—and to be clear, I am not done. Writing this feels like tempting fate. I have mentally prepared for failure so as not to be surprised by disappointment; thus my ongoing persistence is either an exercise in futility or courage. I can’t always tell. On Instagram I have posted “Trying again! Let’s do this!” too many times to count since my 2021 surgery, and thanks to a number of (somewhat legitimate) obstacles I have been derailed frequently, almost as if I’d predicted it.


In fact, every time I posted on Instagram about a reboot my friends would comment about my resilience, persistence, determination — all of which I tried to publicly own. Privately, though, I still felt like a failure for not actually re-becoming a runner yet. I have spent an unhealthy number of hours in shame and frustration since that epic NYC race day in 2019, mostly while I’m out on the road attempting to actually run. 

If my actual thoughts were the captions for my Instagram posts, they would read like this:

I am so out of shape – how could I let this happen?
How did I ever run 26.2 miles in a row at that pace when I can’t even run 1 mile now?
Why can’t I be like those people with their Covid-era streaks?
How many runs will it take until I can self-identify as a runner again?
Ugh – I work for a running company and can’t even get myself back to running!
I was never cut out to be a runner and should just stop trying. 

As a usually optimistic glass-half-full gal, it has been surprising to see the power of my negative self-talk. Fortunately, powerful memories can be stronger. About a month ago, with my discouragement at its peak, I again considered changing out that darn lock-screen photo, symbolically giving up on seeing myself as a runner. 

But you know that moment when you can hear the click of the internal light switch? It happened on a muggy Monday in late July. My kids were all busy packing and moving into dorms and apartments—moving on, and away. Sitting on my front steps with coffee at my pity party, I saw myself from the street view: a capable woman sitting, staring, watching the world go by, watching her kids soar. I mourned some past version of myself running down 5th Avenue towards Central Park at the pace of my dreams, and immediately I knew I had to get up and move toward something.

The memory of NYC is mine to control, and it represents much more than one amazing day. It was the culmination of many, many steps; many, many miles; many, many piles of sweaty laundry and early bedtimes. There is no reason to think that I can’t do that work again. It’s the work that made me feel most like myself, most alive.

Every workout since that realization still begins with an inner voice going off about this body of mine and its previous–and-definitely-not-current ability to run lots of miles.

I’m standing on my red brick walkway, a pair of tired gray fence posts opening to the street, and I sense the invitation to step into the space that welcomed me on my first run 13 years ago. I turn on my phone where the NYC sunrise silhouettes a medal earned by a marathoner. She is, of course, me. I look up to the sky, take a deep breath, and remember who I really am.

I am the one who trained for and ran NYC.
I am resilient, persistent, and determined.
I am re-becoming a runner because I try again. And again.
I am showing up.
I am a runner.
Let’s do this!

Have you had to restart your running recently?
Tell us what helped you get moving again.