June of 2013 was the first…and last… time I visited Portland, Oregon. At the time I was a much more influential blogger in a not-as-over-saturated blogging industry. Merrell had flown me into town to participate in a small “meeting of the minds” at their offices, to discuss the future of their running shoe line and the direction of the industry as a whole. In retrospect, they should have waited until now to invite me to such a meeting, my shoe knowledge and ability to ramble on about things such as lasts, stack heights, and stability posts has increased exponentially. But I digress.
After the meeting, an incredible trail run that I highly regret not taking any pictures of (it wasn’t one of “those” blogging trips), and a tour of the down via a “brew cycle”, we found ourselves at a lovely restaurant for dinner. I was seated next to Peter Larson of RunBlogger.com discussing…you guessed it…blogging and running shoes. I’ll never forget a piece of advice Pete gave me while discussing blogging that night:
You don’t have to publish everything you write.
It was such a simple piece of advice, but it has stuck with me over the years. So I write this post now, reassuring myself that I don’t actually have to hit publish. This one already feels sort of awkward and vulnerable, and I haven’t even penned (typed) it yet.
When I was in high school, I remember teachers constantly pushing the importance of education over athletics, touting that if something happened to your body, you should always have an education to fall back on. This is a given, of course, and not a point I would ever disagree with; our bodies are not infallible. In retrospect, I do wonder why this life lesson was so largely pushed at a small Vermont high school that I’m not sure has ever produced a professional athlete (though fun fact: rumor has it weatherman sensation Jim Cantore is an alumni. The irony is not lost on me that our school mascot was a Hurricane.)
Regardless, this statement never actually applied to me, as I never had a desire to be a professional athlete…save for a brief stint in 8th grade where I was convinced I was going to play Olympic soccer alongside Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, and Brandi Chastain. But that dream was relatively short lived. Instead, I spent my youth focusing on getting good grades that would allow me to get into a good college, to in theory earn an education that would take me places, long after (and if) my body gave up.
Of course back then, my 15 year old self… the one who would nearly cry when Coach Perry would insist that the entire track team had to run a mile for time, yes even the sprinters and jumpers…would have NEVER imagined that twenty years later (insert my jaw dropping at realizing it’s been twenty years) my entire life and career would be built around sports.
I’m one of those very lucky runners that has found a way to build a career around running, without having to actually be an elite runner. Believe me, I’d be an elite if I could, but the rolling of the super athlete genetic dice didn’t play out in my favor on that one. So instead I count my lucky stars every single day that I actually get paid to do (and teach, and talk, and write about) what I love. I work full time in a running specialty store, helping fit people into the right running gear, organizing running events, and coaching training groups. I’m even slowly trying my hand at race directing. When I’m not in the store, I’m working with one-on-one clients (I’m a certified exercise physiologist), most of which are runners. Then of course, there is this blog and the occasional freelance writing gig, where I write about…you guessed it…running.
On personal level, I love to run. My husband loves to run. My kids love to run (most of the time). My friends are runners. We plan our free time around training and racing. I read books about running, I watch documentaries about running…my entire life is pretty much eat, sleep, family, run.
SO IMAGINE MY DISMAY when my body has failed me, and I can no longer run.
It’s not pretty.
Granted, this time out from running is, hopefully, only temporary (I’m having ventral hernia surgery on Tuesday). However it’s been a crazy, and almost embarrassing eye opener to the fact that I currently have no other hobbies, interests, goals…pretty much anything…that doesn’t somehow relate to running (or exercise, or movement in general).
My body has betrayed me, and I’ve got nothing to fall back on.
My silence as of the last few weeks has mostly been due to the fact that I don’t know what to do with myself. Of course, kids and work have kept me busy, but on a very personal level, I can absolutely feel that something is missing. There is a huge, unmistakable void in my world. It’s been 6 weeks since I’ve exercised regularly, and 2 weeks since I’ve done any sort of physical activity at all (even walking for exercise aggravates my hernia). I’m tired, all of the time. My pants are fitting tighter. I’m unmotivated. I can’t focus. My anxiety is at an all time high. But I’m keeping it all in check, because that’s what a responsible, grown up woman is supposed to do. No one wants to hear you complain. Someone out there certainly has it worse. And besides, it’s “just running.”
Or is it?
Through all of this, I can’t help but feel lucky. How many people go through their entire lives without one single thing that brings them so much pleasure and fulfillment? Without one thing they can proudly identify themselves as in this world of confusion and uncertainty? One thing that unites them with other kickass people, one thing that gives so much on a personal, emotional, and physical level? One thing that allows them to give back as much as they receive?
In the end, as silly and pathetic as I feel that I’m now stumbling around trying to figure out what to do with myself (Do I learn to cook? Try knitting? Take up stamp collecting?) I’m overwhelmingly grateful that I’ve found something in my life that I’m so wildly, fantastically, and enthusiastically passionate about.
Long after my legs stop working, or body quits cooperating, I’ll still be a runner. I’ll still share my passion through education, encouragement, or simply putting people in the right shoes (which is an art in and of itself). It’s an incredible feeling to know without a shadow of a doubt that you have found your true passion and calling in life…even if it means that there are downtimes when you feel lost without that passion. I don’t expect most people to understand or relate to the emotions I’m feeling right now. But I guess the real conclusion I’ve come to while writing this post, is that I don’t need anyone to understand.
I’ve got nothing to fall back on, and I’m OK with that.