Marathon Mom: I’ve Lost My Identity! I Can’t Run Anymore

Dear Marathon Mom,
I joined cross-country in junior high and have been running ever since. It’s been more than 20 years, and running has become who I am. It’s my identity. It’s my only real hobby and passion outside of my family, and I’m perfectly okay with that. I love running. It’s been there for me when times were good, bad, and ugly. However, for the first time, I’ve been told it’s no longer an option for me. It can’t be. I tore my hamstring very badly, and have been told it will take months–maybe even a year–to fully heal and allow me to run like I used to. I’m devastated. I don’t know who to be if I’m not a runner. How do I deal with this?

Lost Runner

Dear Lost Runner,
Wow, I’m so sorry to hear that you tore your hamstring so severely. That must have been an extremely painful experience, which has now extended to emotional pain that will last much longer. I’ve been down the long-term injured road before too and empathize with how lost you’re feeling right now. Go ahead and take a week or so to digest the hard facts and wallow a bit.

Then start moving forward with a much different attitude.

Just because you’re recovering from an injury doesn’t mean you cease to exist until you can run again. Dig deep and find the other parts of your personality or character that are separate from running and focus on reconnecting or further developing them.

I hate to be so harsh, but that’s honestly the most effective thing you can do for yourself in this situation. There’s nothing you can do about the fact that you are injured, but there’s everything you can do about how you handle that injury and the extra time (welcomed or not) it has provided you.

First, the obvious; do everything you can to address your injury appropriately. Don’t miss rehab or physical therapy appointments, and do all of the exercises you’re given every day. Without fail.

There’s a lot that can be done for your running that doesn’t involve, well, actually running. For instance, you can really hone in your diet and nutrition, strengthen your core, hips, and back to improve running form, and you can read up on all the latest running books for added inspiration (or to get your running fix vicariously).

Next, step back a little further and see yourself from someone else’s eyes. Perhaps your partner’s or your children’s. To these people, you are much more than ‘a runner’, whether you realize that or not. Running has clearly been a very large presence in your life, but you’re not running 24 hours of every day; you must be doing something else, accomplishing other goals, making connections, and living a life that effects and is affected by those you love and who love you. Take this time off of running to deepen and strengthen your connections with your family, as they are the solids in life that will always be there. They know more about you than anyone else and still love you all the same. These types of connections with people cannot be rivaled by running alone.

Hang in there, you’ll be back on the roads soon enough.

Best of luck,
Audra Rundle, Marathon Mom