Saturday, May 1, 2010

Who am I?

No, I don't have amnesia! I've been struggling lately with my identity as a runner. One of the blessings I've enjoyed with running has been segments of quiet time to think. Even when I'm listening to my mp3 player on some of my runs, I find that I'm able to do some deeper thinking than I have time for during my day-to-day duties.

So let's go back to this identity thing. When I started running, I was the only one of my friends who really did it. But like in most things, once you start something you find out that lots of people do it, but you just didn't know. It's sort of like when you buy a new car (or just desire a certain new car) and all of a sudden you see them everywhere. It's not that there has been a surge in those kind of cars, it's just that your awareness has increased. So I found that some folks I knew also run. And then a few friends started running because I was running and they figured that if I could do it, so could they. Which is true! But when I started, I was still pretty much an anomaly in my circle... and was ahead of the curve. I felt successful, like I was doing something that was unique and I was succeeding. This was incredibly important at the moment, because I was struggling deeply with autism, and epilepsy, and all the ramifications of those two things. It felt good to be able to control something. It felt GREAT to set a goal and reach it, something that had been such a challenge with kids on the spectrum.

Recently, a number of things have changed. My friends who started running have surpassed my abilities. It's not so much that it bothers me, because I am truly happy for their successes! Honestly! But what has happened within me is this feeling that, yet again, I am a failure at something. Yet again, I try as hard as I can and fail to measure up. Remember how I tried to run faster, to keep up? It didn't work. I still wasn't fast enough, and my knees rebelled.

Reading "The Penguin" you get a sense of reassurance that being slow is just fine. But then you read other running resources, and you find a real bias towards people who are slow. And you find yourself feeling like you aren't a real runner, or that you're not really working hard, compared to other people. And it's not just speed... even distances have been a struggle. I trained so hard for my half-marathon, and when I attempted to share my accomplishment, I was greeted with many people's comments about how they didn't really train but finished in under 2 hours, and stuff like that.

It has affected my desire to get out there and run. Why bother when no matter how hard I push myself, it's never enough?

So this morning, as I got up at 6 AM to get my long run in before my husband and son had to leave for the baseball field, I started contemplating who I am as a runner. I did 6.6 miles today, so I had a while to think about it!

I wish I could say I had an epiphany, but it was a really humid morning and I wasn't feeling too well during the first 2/3 of my run! (It's hard to think deep thoughts when you're tired and feeling like you're going to throw up.) But one thing came to me while I was on the trail. I think I might take a week off from the Garmin. I wonder if it would help if I didn't have the timer and the pacing to give me feedback. I'd just listen to my body, and not really know how slow I'm going. I'd just run. And maybe that will help me to put the focus back on the running and how that makes me feel, instead of focusing on the slow time and how that makes me feel.

So I'm going to give it a shot and I'll be sure to post how it goes! I think I'll do it with my cross-training as well - just try to enjoy the workout! And maybe it'll help me figure out who I am again.

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