I've been running for the past 10 years. I barely remember a time when I was not a runner. Or identifying myself as a runner, for that matter. And in that decade (yikes), I've had enough injuries and pain related to running to be a subject matter expert. Running doctor minus the medical degree. Super profesh. If you need proof, I'll show you my collection of crutches.
Stress fractures. Tendonitis. Plantar fasciitis. Whatever.
I'd still run through it all, ignoring the doctors who told me my flat feet/collapsed arches/weak ankles/blah blah blah-ness made choosing to run equivalent to walking the plank. I paused for injuries, for healing, for surgery, and then would be right back at it.
It reminded me I was alive. That I was healthy. That I could do hard things.
And that's what I've always loved about running. I did it because from the time I was a middle schooler, so many people told me I couldn't, or that I shouldn't.
A 10K (my first race ever), five half marathons, and a few handfuls of 5Ks. Always memorable, always worth it.
But then, a few months ago, things slowly began to change. I had been having foot pain... first in my left big toe area, where I'd previously had surgery three years ago, and then in my right foot. I began to cut back my miles, from a lot to a little. Eventually I was barely running at all, and was worried I was ruining the feet I'd need for another 50 decades or so.
Ugh. Is this 30? Being sensible and reasonable? Annoying.
One new foot doctor and a few visits to physical therapy later, and here I am. Banned from running outdoors, and chained to a treadmill for no more than 2 miles at a time til the unforeseeable future (PT's orders).
Both the doc and the physical therapist have actually said I can keep running if I want, pain and all, and yet for the first time possibly ever in my lifetime, I don't know that the pain is worth it.
No answers. All questions.
I've seen the other side - that I can exist and thrive without running shoes on - and I know I'd be okay if I chose to not run anymore, ever again. But it's still a little bit disconcerting, you know? Like who the heck am I if I'm not Joelle the Runner. That always seemed larger than everything else... it canceled out Joelle the Yogi and Joelle the Writer and all the other titles we feel inclined to saddle ourselves with. And what the heck does it mean that I'm now someone who's kinda, sorta okay with giving up this one-time obsessive love?
With all the time on the bench I've endured throughout my running career, I feel like I've become almost numb to the idea of giving it up. Like I've been trying to come to terms with the possibility for almost as many years as I've actually been running.
But maybe that's it. Maybe we don't have to be the runner, or the yogi, or the Crossfitter, or the ribbon twirler. Maybe we can just be a lot of everything - a lot of all the things we love, that make us happy, and let that be enough. Become comfortable with doing what we can, when we can, how we can.
Letting go of having to do a certain thing a certain amount of days or times or miles for them to count toward who we are as humans.
And maybe - just maybe - that'll be enough.