A Moment of Identity Crisis

I was having something of an identity crisis this morning, or truthfully, I’ve been having this perceived crisis for the past month or so. In short, I just don’t know what sort of runner I want to be in this moment, or what sort of runner I CAN be in this moment.

The workout I had on my schedule was a pretty simple, mere 5 mile progression run. This is a workout I’ve done many, many times in the past and really enjoy, the relatively easy start with an increase of intensity throughout, both physical and mental, before letting loose all the way through the effort. I knew today, however, that experience wasn’t going to be so easy…or achievable at all. My running is a mess right now. As I’ve whined about in the past, I have no range with my efforts, and so trying to adhere to this prescribed workout would be next to impossible and probably have me flailing by the third mile. I won’t go into that any further. The point is, I wasn’t looking forward to the workout…and that’s no ok. Nor is that the standard. I love running and I love pushing myself and I love workouts, no matter how hard…that’s the appeal, but lately I’ve not been able to build that excitement because I haven’t been working against my psyche, but rather my body. The psyche I can fix, the body is more static. And so I would attempt each workout, but the excessive suffering, right off the bat, have left me dejected. Even when I finish the workouts, the joy of an accomplished effort remains elusive. Something has been wrong.

I dropped Laura off at work this morning and then started driving to my normal workout location, but with the dread hanging over me like a threatening rain cloud, matching the ones in the sky, I decided to head to a different location for a change of pace and bit of newness. When I arrived at the parking lot though, the excitement hadn’t built and the rain clouds opened up on me, outside and in. I debated doing the workout later in the day. I debated skipping today’s run all together, which would have been the first since November. I debated doing the workout on the treadmill…and started driving back downtown to do just that. Not a few blocks in though, I thought to myself, “Wait…what about a trail run? What about going ‘off schedule’, scrapping the workout, and just putting in a good effort in the woods?” and immediately that sounded great, but no sooner had I considered that, the other voice came into my head, “You’re going to skip the workout completely? Why? Are you scared? Are you just ducking the effort?” and I kept driving towards the treadmill.

I debated that question. Was I just ducking the effort? Was I just scared of failing? Or am I trying to be a runner I just can be at this moment? I drove another block before abruptly making a turn East and heading…to the trailhead.

It was clear to me in that moment, I needed to run the trails, without the workout. I NEEDED to do that, because that was what I was most compelled to do in the moment…not to give up, not to duck an effort, but to actually enjoy my run, because I’ve been missing that so much lately. I’ve been pushing and pushing and pushing and getting almost nowhere. And that’s a problem.

It’s a problem that my body is still so affected by the surgery/chemo/cancer that I can’t find the progressions I’m looking for, but even worse, the combinations are not allowing me to ENJOY the experience of running. That is undeniably not ok. I run and compete because I love to do so, I love the effort, I love the struggle, I love the progression, but above all else, I love the experience…physical and emotional. I seem to be lacking both right now. And it is that foundational emotional experience that lies beneath everything else on top, all the races, all the workouts, all the struggles and success. But I haven’t been feeling much of any of that lately. It’s been bugging me for quite some time, but I needed just that, time, to figure it out, to see if that would change, to see if I was just “in a moment.” Today showed me that I wasn’t just in a moment. I needed a change…have needed a different relationship with my running, for the time being, for quite some time now.

Or else you could say, I just bit off more than I could chew after this last surgery. I talked about the “window of opportunity” and making the most of it…which I’m still doing and still plan to do, but these competitive aspirations are just too much right now. I’m NOT ready for that. I’m ready to get back to where I was, to simplify, to enjoy the experience while I push for more personal goals.

But back to that identity crisis. I took the turn East and started driving to the trailhead, as if a weight had been lifted from me emotionally and physically. I was immediately excited to run, to get back to the woods where I feel most comfortable. But I wanted to be sure I wasn’t just “in the moment”. I started thinking about all the runners I COULD be or WANTED to be in the moment.

I COULD be the runner on the path struggling hard to finish the progression run. I could be that runner on the treadmill doing the same with all the comforts the gym brings. I could be the runner that scrapped everything and decided to just “do the mileage”. I could even be the runner who stayed in bed this morning and said…screw it. But in the moment, I was the runner heading to the trails. And that’s the most important dynamic to recognize, that we have all these runners inside of us each morning we get up to run. We can CHOOSE to be any of them, and there are struggles, accomplishments, concerns, and validations in every one, but ultimately, in the end….we need to decide which one will bring us the most joy, the most excitement, the most intensity. We need to decide which one will bring us the most joy in both the moment and when we reach the finish.

Today, I decided I needed to be the runner that was in the woods, working hard up the hills, letting momentum carrying downwards, twisting, turning and dancing around the snaking dirt, and just being enveloped by the forest like a womb. I knew, without a doubt, that I needed to enjoy the run and nothing would make me happier than being in the forest…being THAT runner.

And so I did…and I was right. I finished the run tired, worked, accomplished, and excited. I thought about all the other runners I could have been today, and I didn’t envy them. I didn’t feel as if I missed out on a greater experience. Quite contrary, I think they envied me.

I realized many things on the run today – that I need to shift my relationship with running at this moment, that I need to be more intuitive and self-guided with my training, that I need to incorporate more of my notions of “soul running”, that I need to give my body and mind more space between surgery and chemo before I make a complete go at competitive running – the most important being that I need to always put the joy and intensity of my running experience before my perceived ambitions. I feel, above all else, that I got back to my real running self today. And it felt great.

———–

With all that said, I’m not writing off entering running competitions, but only doing so when I feel ready and inspired…and I’m not writing off training, but just doing it more intuitively, self-guided, and more in concert with how my body adapts in relation to past damage (surgery/chemo/cancer), and I’m more inspired to push myself, transition and adapt, work towards my ultra run fundraiser in August…and enjoy the experience along the way.

———–

RUN:
1:25:00 of trails

FOOD:
Special magic oatmeal
Coffee
Granola with chocolate chips
Toast with avocado dip
Apple
It’s early…more to come

MUSIC:
Reign Supreme – All the albums…I can’t stop.

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