I am a Runner.
I am a runner. When people ask me what I do for a living, that is the first thing that comes to mind and only then what I actually do to support my lifestyle. I identify as a runner before I identify as anything else because running (physically and metaphorically) is at the heart and soul of all other activities that occupy my day. That is not to say that the only thing that I think, dream, eat, and breath is running, in fact that couldn’t be farther from the truth, but the lessons learned on the long tiring runs, and during short burst workouts can be applied just as much to life as they can be applied to running itself.
When I first started running, I ran for fat lose, I didn’t run for me. I hated every step and every mile, I was a slave to the ideal body image that I had in my head and to the coveted single digit body fat percentages. I was lost, I had no idea what I was doing, I kept hurting myself for minimal amounts of gain and ended up with more body fat then I originally started with. I was making the same mistakes that every single female makes when they decide to become active: do minimal amounts of lifting and maximum cardio. I was on that treadmill for hours burning muscle and fat, tearing my joints, and then coming home and overeating thinking that I deserved it.
Fast forward a few years of damaging fitness habits, emotional eating, lowered self esteem, I decided that enough was enough. I really buckled down, did my research and began an actual journey to a better me. Earlier this spring I wrote a post about my very first race and the inspiration, the support, and the love that I felt. That was the time when I knew that running was for me, but it wasn’t the time when I began identifying as a runner.
The first time that I thought of myself as a runner was when my life was in an even bigger rut then it had before. Those were very dark times for me mentally and emotionally and I had nowhere left to hid and almost no one left to talk to. There are only so many motivational texts you can read and therapy sessions that you can attend before they start losing effect and become yet another unnecessary annoyance. There was a day when I was simply lost in the darkness of my own negativity and a tailspin of “why me?” when a surprising thought rang clear as day in the back of my mind: “you are strong, you are a runner, weak people can’t do what you do, push through”. The irony is, those were the exact same words I kept saying when I hit a wall at the end of a very tough race that I ran a few month prior. There I sat on the floor of my bathroom with a roll of toilet paper by my side, eyes swollen from hours of crying, stunned.
There is a point in every runners life, when they are reduced to a state of absolute primal being. You are no longer a person, you are no longer yourself, you are an instinct, a set of basic and yet a very complex functions. You can’t think, you can’t process information (at least not the kind of information that does not pertain to the task at hand, moving your feet forward), the only thing that you can comprehend is that failure is not an option, that the finish line is coming and when you finally cross it, you get to collapse into a tiny pile of mortal flesh and embrace the post run cheering and pain that will inevitably come. The good pain that comes sweetened with the notion of ultimate achievement and the best tasting bagel ever! It is during the primal state that the “chant” or the mantra comes in for me.
I guess somewhere between being mad at the unfairness of the world and beginning to cry my eyes out, I allowed the situation I was in to reduce myself to nothing more than a breathing organism and the autopilot kicked in. The runners autopilot: “you are strong, you are a runner, weak people don’t do what you do, push through…”. The realization of the fact that I thought of myself as a runner for the first time while I was feeling sorry for myself on the bathroom floor shocked me like and ice bath. Whatever my problem was before that realization, did not matter. I was a runner and I could push through. I pick myself up, washed my face, put on my running gear and went for a very long run. I was cured.
From that day forward, regardless of discomfort, nerves, stress, or pain, there is only one answer: Go Run! The endurance that I learned though running allowed me to confidently press through my daily issues with less to no fear because I know what I am capable of physically and spiritually, I am no longer afraid to be afraid. The focus that I learned through running propels me towards my goals each and every hour of each and every day and I am that much more productive. Relentless desire to “cross the finish line” and runner stubbornness to keep pushing despite the odds helped me pursue some of the strangest and almost unrealistic goals. However, the most important lesson that I learned from running is to keep pushing through the up hills, because at the top of that hill, the downhill begins and I get to rest, recharge, and tackle the next hill renewed, stronger, more resilient than ever.