This is a good reminder for my all-in, gung-ho personality. I’m either doing it or I’m doing something else. Does that resonate with anyone else here?
A Recent article by Trail Sister Katelynn Wagner got me thinking about mileage defining a runner. I’ve had countless people tell me “I run, but not like you do.” To which I constantly reply, it doesn’t matter, we can relate as runners. And in my own current shift (the fodder for this article) I realize that the mileage I am running right now doesn’t shift my definition of a runner. Another fellow Trail Sister, Maria Dalzot has a great analogy she explained during a nutrition talk. She used a temperature dial versus an on off switch to describe and gauge one’s relationship with diet. It doesn’t have to be a perfect or horrific day in terms of what you ate, it can be a dial turned up or down. I’m applying this same analogy to the runner identity. The dial (mileage) is in a range, not completely on or off.
Balance has always been the goal and the struggle, and I find it coming up again as I shift and morph pieces of my life. While trying to figure out how all the bits fit into a day, week and month, I find myself asking, how does one be a present partner, have time for family and friends, train long miles, integrate with a new family, work, write a book, have a pup, travel, take care of physical and mental self, volunteer… let alone the basics like take a shower or cook a meal?
To me, finding balance in it all means I have to prioritize and, inevitably, something has to give. That last reality is a struggle for my “I can do it” insistence. The amount of energy I have to put my all-in attitude into a lot of directions has a limit (a limit that has changed as I’ve added years, but that’s perhaps another post). Multi-tasker extraordinaire, the real gift is to know when to say no, for now.
I’ve been lucky, made sacrifices and worked hard to be able to prioritize big blocks of training on a near daily basis for a number of years. I’ve taken breaks and focused on other things for short periods of time, always with another running goal planned to kick off a restart in the future. Maintaining a constant goal-oriented mindset. Now, pausing a bit longer on setting the next goal I had to work through the in-between. I battled a bit with a couple of questions. If I’m not prioritizing my daily running am I still a runner? Can I still call myself an ultrarunner if I’m running 30-mile weeks? I mentally threatened and may have even verbally announced that I’m “retiring”, but I realize now, and with some supportive conversations, that was just my all-or-nothing attitude toward trying to figure out a new relationship with the same thing. Truth is, I can’t imagine life without the thought of being able to go for a run. I can trust that 3 miles or 30 miles can give me a similar connection to the constant that has always been there.
I have a quote “There are not many issues in life that a long run cannot solve, sometimes the run has to be a bit longer.”
Giving the same quote a little twist on the meaning has also helped. Knowing that sometimes I physically cannot run those longer miles (time or not being in condition for it). Having had many long run experiences to work through life’s issues has taught me how to work through and I can create the same headspace in other ways – walk with the dog, meditation, writing.
“It’s not always; it’s just right now,” another quote learned while pushing through tough times on the trail and again when I first adopted PD, plays forward to know that whatever mileage I’m running or time I’m putting into other aspects of life is fleeting. Things will change. Energy will shift.
Regardless, running is my constant and when I check-in, I know it will always be there for me. It always has. Through all of life’s changes, highs and lows I have always been able to go for a run. I may not be ticking off 60-100 mile weeks (for now), but I have a lifetime identifying as a runner.