Running is a brutal sport. It can deplete your energy levels, create a looming sense of dread about the next race or workout, and break your body down, muscle by muscle, bone by bone. But it is also an incredible sport. The feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction at the conclusion of a race or workout are second to none other. For myself, I find it a constant balancing act of stress and recovery, of finding the perfect combination of hard work and rest so I can perform up to my and everyone else's expectations. But it's not necessarily a chore. I love it. And when it works out, when I accomplish things that I've never before thought possible, it vanquishes my doubts about the process.
But this fall, the scales tipped the balance into a place I wasn't expecting.
Before Emory, I had some previous injury issues, but I brushed these off as I jumped into the weeks of training. For a time, everything was going exactly how I wanted it to. I was training well, crushing workouts, taking my fitness to places it hadn't been before, and enjoying it all. So when I suffered a right hip avulsion fracture, it was devastating.
Being sidelined for a month is always worse than it sounds. Especially on a college team, where most of your friends come from, it is extremely challenging trying to maintain a feeling of belonging. I'd look for any semblance of normality wherever I could.
But this isn't about my struggles during the injury.
It's about the future.
See, it would be easy for me to jump right back into the normal routine I had before. But common sense tells me that would be foolhardy and irrespective of my prior history. I could take it easy for a while, but that goes against my inner desire to crush it with my teammates.
Besides finding the perfect balance, this situation presented an opportunity to reevaluate my goals and motivations. Coming in, I guess I had an idealized vision of what college running would be like. But between the 60-mile weeks and lift sessions, I pushed the envelope a little too far.
I saw the not-so-pretty side of college athletics for a while. The part with a backdrop of medical appointments, x-ray machines, and constant therapy sessions. And my experience with it makes me want to avoid it in the future as much as possible.
When faced with adversity, it is easy to let it creep up on you until it takes hold and doesn't let go. Adversity is something I usually enjoy facing because I am usually able to face it and overcome it. Tests, relationship issues, personal strife; I find these to be things that I face constantly yet am able to resolve. But with running, it is so different. Ever since I've known that running is something I love and am able to succeed at, it has been a devastating experience whenever it's been stripped away. I seclude myself from all things running, unable to live with myself being unable to keep up with all of my teammates and competitors. And while that speaks to my competitiveness and true joy for the sport, it is an extremely unhealthy way to deal with it.
Something should change this time around. With my years of competing flying by so fast, it's exigent to enjoy running unconditionally. That means even if I'm too injured to run. That means always being there for my teammates. It means putting in the work on my own time to keep up, and it means continuing to build the community we have.
And as I think about my next move, I realize that this will be my new future for the sport I love.