Do you have a love/hate relationship with running? Don't worry, you are not alone. For many of us, our relationship with running is, well, "complicated." Running is hard. It hurts. It disappoints. It frustrates.
But, running is also very easy to love. It gratifies. It empowers. It challenges. It satisfies. Running is a beautiful thing that provides a feeling like none other. It's pure, it's simple, it's joyful.
On the blog, RADrabbit Elizabeth Forbes shares with us her story about how she got started running and why she still finds joy in logging those miles despite setbacks and injuries. Enjoy the blog in her own words!
Why do I keep doing this to myself?
Sometimes (like now, for a totally random and not at all related example, when I’m typing with my left leg propped up on a bag of frozen peas to ice a recently-strained Achilles tendon), I wonder why I keep coming back to running. The cautious hope, the heartbreak, the slog, and all the other frustrating bits of the running experience together can create an emotional and physical roller coaster that just won’t quit, and always has another loop around the corner. And yet, I can’t seem to quit running, as insane as the roller coaster sometimes feels. I’ve been a runner since high school, when my sister told me that the soccer team at our local high school “sucked” and that I should try out for cross-country instead. The rest is history, or at least it’s my history. I became addicted to all of what running had to offer me, a shy and skinny teenager with energy and intensity to burn: newfound self-confidence, leadership, competitive drive, and sisterhood. (The fact that I magically grew leg muscles and could beat many of the boys on my team were serious perks.)
But running has also given me plenty of lows, including stress fractures, torn tendons, devastating iron-deficiency and anemia, sciatica, and the many heartbreaks associated with falling short of lofty goals. So why do I keep coming back?
It’s for the click; you know what I’m talking about. It’s when months of exhaustion and random aches give way to one perfect day on the track, the road, or the trails. It’s that day when you find yourself running with joy, when you push through your muscles’ pleas for mercy and wring one more surge out of them just for the fun of it. Sometimes you click in a race, and sometimes on any given Tuesday. This feeling is what I suspect is often called the runner’s high, which is definitely a quick and easy way of describing it; but in my opinion, the description falls short. Anybody who has felt their body click into that sublime gear knows that they’re not just feeling capable, or happy, or even joyful. You’re suddenly giddy, and hungry for the next step, mile, or repetition. You push yourself almost too far into the red, but it feels exciting instead of daunting. When your body is clicking along in that mode, it can do anything your mind tells it to; that ability is intoxicating, and I personally can’t stop running and preparing for it to happen again.
That’s why I keep running, even during moments when my latest injury (heyyyy strained Achilles, how’s it going) has got me feeling negatively. No matter how few and far between these runs that ‘click’ get, there is always another one, and just like that I’m hooked on the process again. The guarantee of an eventual click has been especially important for me to remember recently, as the past few years have challenged my running. I moved to Santa Barbara to start graduate school in 2014, after several years of working and living in my home state of Massachusetts. During those years, I had started marathon training and fallen in love: I had stellar training partners, supportive local teammates full of New England spit and vinegar, and miles of roads and trails in my backyard. The summer before I moved, however, those years of too much running with too little stretching caught up to me, and I developed a crippling pain in my left foot. I arrived in Santa Barbara injured, frustrated, and as out of shape as I’d felt in a long time; needless to say, it was noooot a great way to start a running career in one of the most beautiful cities in the country. Adjusting to my new, undefined graduate-school schedule also made it hard to figure out where running would fit; for awhile, I found myself working too late at night and squeezing in runs, cross-training, and physical therapy appointments whenever I could identify free time.
All this change and adjustment meant that after moving to Santa Barbara, I experienced the longest period since I started running without a run that clicked. My motivation for racing dropped, and I felt more anxious while running than relaxed or happy. However, also during this time, I realized how much running competitively meant for my personal happiness. It was the first time that I hadn’t actively incorporated racing and a running community into my life in over ten years, and I felt the loss profoundly.
Fortunately, my foot eventually healed. And, though it took some time, I worked my way back up to running with ease and joy. I started attending the practice sessions of local running groups, and last spring I joined the RADrabbits. I hadn’t realized how revitalized I would feel by being part of a team again. And one day on the track, early in this calendar year, I felt it click. I surged around turns even while splashing through the deep puddles our SoCal winter storms had dumped on the local university’s track, a sh*t-eating grin plastered on my face. Since then I’ve felt that same giddy happiness during several runs, and I’m hungry for more. Current gimpy Achilles tendon notwithstanding, I have been running with more purpose and joy than I have since moving to Santa Barbara; once I shake off the (thankfully) last vestiges of this injury, I’m looking forward to identifying some races I want to compete in, and to seeing what I’ve got these days.
And here we go again…!
- Elizabeth Forbes, RADrabbit