Redefining and reinventing myself: Life without running

Over the past three years, running became a staple of not only my life, but also my identity. I didn’t just run — I called myself a runner.

I trained for a marathon. I raced half-marathons, 10ks and 5ks. I joined my local running club. I wrote and wrote about running. I posted pictures of me running and updates of my training progress all over the internet.

Sadly, numerous injuries also kept me from running and racing over the past three years. And every time I was sidelined, I felt like part of myself was missing, like I wasn’t whole. This fall, when I developed yet another running injury (shin splints), I decided it was time to redefine and potentially even reinvent who I was. I was tired of not only being injured, but feeling wholly incomplete when I was. It wasn’t healthy, and it certainly wasn’t sustainable.

I’ve come to realize that while it’s good to shape yourself and your identity around certain morals and ideals, you can’t shape your whole life around one sport. What happens when you can’t play that sport? What happens when life changes in the blink of an eye, as it so often does?

Rather than making running a cornerstone of my identity, I decided to reinvent myself with the prevailing ideal that I love fitness and love being outside.

Running is far from all I do. In fact, it’s often kept me from doing the other sports and outdoor adventures I enjoy: weightlifting, biking, hiking, snowshoeing. As someone who simply loves fitness and being outside, I can enjoy the same overarching reason for liking running without having to sacrifice my identity when I can’t run.

As I patiently wait for my shins to heal, I took up CrossFit, started biking to work, hiked many, many mountains and have strapped on my snowshoes numerous times this winter. Best of all, I haven’t felt an ounce of self-pity or sadness for having to do other activities and therefore not being “who I am.”

You know who I am? A fitness junkie who can’t sit still and needs to be in nature. Whether I’m running or doing something else with my body, I love to sweat, move, see what my body can do and see the amazing wonders of this world.

In many ways, NOT running has been a godsend. I’ve had the chance to focus on CrossFit more — I’ve set numerous PRs in the past month and finally started to gain confidence with difficult Olympic weight lifting movements. I’ve spent more of my weekends hiking instead of training for a race, and hiking can quiet my mind and soul in ways that other activities simply cannot.

I know that no one honestly cares whether or not I run, or how fast I am when I run. The people in my life just care that I’m happy. Learning to be the Savannah who loves physical activity rather than Savannah the runner has helped me find happiness again.

I’m not sure what the future holds for me and running, and I’m trying to not give it much thought. But I do know that the future has a lot in store for me when it comes to fitness. Colorado is participating in Winter Bike to Work Day for the first time this year; Blake and I have our sights set on Pike’s Peak this summer; I have no idea what the coming workouts in CrossFit hold, but I do know they will be challenging and help me improve!

Running has taught me important life lessons, and I’m looking at this experience as yet another one. Learning to be a more well-rounded athlete opens up a world of possibilities for me moving forward.

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