I am a runner. There, I said it. And now, finally, I mean it. I believe it. I own it.
I started running a year ago. I discovered a dream race and committed to it. I trained. I entered races. Lots of races. I increased my distance. I decreased my split times. And yet, I still felt like a poser. A wannabe. An imposter.
If someone asked me if I was a runner, or referenced me being a runner, I would quickly correct them: “Well, I’m not a real runner, I just run.” When learning that I was in training, people sometimes asked me if I was training for a marathon to which I would always say, “Oh, no – just a half marathon”. Just? Since when do “just” and “half-marathon” belong in the same sentence? And yet, that was my standard reply.
Ironically, it has taken an injury that has stopped me from running to help me realize I am, in fact, a runner. And I don’t need to qualify that. Through x-rays, bone scans, orthodic castings, shockwave and ultrasound therapy, the one consistent thing I have heard from every medical professional, stated as fact, is that I am a runner. My bone scans show the shins of a runner. My foot currently tells the tale of a runner. And even my sheer will and determination to get back out there has been noted as that of a runner; my podiatrist told me she recognizes “the fire of an athlete”. Along the way, I have stopped correcting them. Yes, I am a real runner with a running injury that I need to heal so that I can get back to running.
But that’s not all. You take away running for a month – yes, one whole month now – and I crave it. I hear songs on the radio that sit on my now untouched iPod and I want to run. I glance at my Garmin and miss seeing it locate a satellite. I look at my shoes and they silently plead with me to take them for a run. I see other runners out laying down the miles and yearn to be out there too. I get off my stationary bike, sweaty but unfulfilled. There is nothing like the runner’s high.
Dealing with an injury is always frustrating for a runner, but dealing with an injury that receives conflicting diagnoses and treatment plans is beyond that. And dealing with an injury that fully sidelines you from the sport you love is painful – perhaps moreso than the injury itself. As I move from podiatrist to ortho doctor to physical therapist, trying desperately to find the cause and more importantly the cure, I realize I am fighting for my dream now more than ever.
During my training this year, I have always felt that I was running towards a goal. Fighting for each mile, each negative split, each PR along the way. Now I am fighting in a quieter way – trying to trust in my training, trust that my body knows how to heal itself, trust that I will get back out there and I will be able to earn that tiara. I have worked for it. And I deserve it. This is where it changes from a physical training plan to a mental one.
Although some runners choose to step away from their running communities during times of injury, I have chosen to stay fully engaged and immersed in mine. I don’t want to miss out on the increasing excitement that comes with the countdown. Princess Half-Marathon merchandise is starting to be revealed. Soon, race waivers and bib numbers will be received – and with that, the frenzy-inducing corral placement information. Costumes are being finalized and becoming the focus of the online training groups. It is getting close.
Of course all of the excitement is somewhat bittersweet while I am sidelined, biking my heart out daily with a wish and a prayer. But I need the excitement and support and momentum pushing me forward. I have to believe that, combined with my cross-training, this will help me return to running feeling strong and ready.
And the best thing I have heard loud and clear from the running community? Every runner will face an injury at one time or another. We pay our dues and get back out there. Maybe we learn something from our time away from the run. That may be how to cross-train more effectively or how to listen to your body…or it may just be the moment when you learn that you truly are a runner.
With 6 weeks to go, I am so close yet so far from running down my dream. For everyone running with me, keep your eye on the prize:
This will be ours soon enough. After all, we are runners.