When Running Was My Identity

So I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what running means to me.  I’m not training for anything.  No races on my calendar right now.  I’m lifting more, going to bootcamps, focussing on building a career as a personal trainer and running out of pure love.  If I don’t feel like running, I don’t.  If I feel like running, I go for it.  Easy as that.

After the Dallas Marathon I shifted my focus to passing my NASM personal trainer exam.  It’s no joke.  As a stay at home mom of 3 it took a lot of my free time to study for that exam.  I was still working out and running, but would easily pass up a workout for a chance to study.

Once I passed my exam, snow and ice hit, kids got sick, I got sick, Spring break happened etc.  You know the drill.  It’s life.  However, I have found myself in a running rut and have been surprisingly ok with it.  I’ve been working out differently. Circuit training, boot camp, high intensity and shorter duration.  I’ve been focussed and enjoying a different style of training.  I know how much it benefits me as a runner so I’ve been throwing myself into training with a different mindset.  It’s not always about mileage.

With this new mindset has come some reflection as to why I’m so ok with shifting my focus for a while and not running as much.  There was a time in my life when I would have felt like I was somehow failing because I wasn’t running a million miles a week.  I’d throw myself into the longest runs I could handle…mostly out of pride.  I liked the way it felt to tell people I ran 11 miles today.  It made me feel valuable and like I had something someone else may not have.  Dedication, passion, drive.

After a while, I realized what was happening.  My identity was beginning to take deep root in the fact that I was a runner.  It’s who I was.  If I didn’t do it people wouldn’t think of me as a runner.  If I “only” ran 3 miles I felt inferior to other runner’s around me running more.  I didn’t even see it.  It happened so slowly.  I remember when I experienced my first real running injury.  Achilles tendinitis.  It crushed me.  I cried and wallowed in self pity.  I was embarrassed to go to the gym and not run.  To say it was a wake up call is a drastic understatement.  God was screaming at me to wake up.  Take notice.  You are NOT a runner.  You are my kid.  Your identity is in ME, not your abilities or hobbies.  I love to run.  It’s a passion and a hobby, but it’s not my identity.  It’s not who I am deep down.  

It was hard.  I was absolutely devastated over the fact that I had allowed how many miles I ran and how many calories I burned or how many races I had run to define who I was.  It was sad really.  I had let my pride and insecurities take control and they began to drive my will to run, instead of doing it out of pure love of the sport.

7 years ago my dad was diagnosed with a terminal brain disorder called Multiple Systems Atrophy(MSA).  It’s a degenerative disorder that was described as being something that would affect his balance, speech and swallow.  It’s been more than we expected.  My dad was a runner.  My whole life he would come home from work, put on his running clothes and head out the front door.  In fact, he was out for a run when he first started noticing some of his early symptoms.  I started running just one year before he had to stop.

Part of me mourns that time I never got to spend with him out on a run.  I would have loved to have been able to share that with him.  However, watching him lose that ability has been sobering.  It’s caused me to stop and consider what would happen if that were me?  Would I lose my identity if I lost my ability to run?

I’m not here to preach at you and I hope you know I’m talking about this because it has been my struggle.  Maybe you can relate.  Maybe it’s not running.  Maybe it’s your appearance, your style or the image you have put out into the world for people to see.  
My question would be this.  What would happen if you lost those things?  What would remain?  I’m in a season of my life where I am surrounded by the fitness industry and it’s only to become more so.  So, I have to be careful.  Guarded that I don’t allow these things to become who I am.  Yes, it’s all a part of me because running, fitness and training are all things I love.  There is nothing wrong with that.  

I’m just asking you to be careful not to allow those things to become your identity to the point that you couldn’t bare losing them.  If someone saw your slower pace, your face with no makeup, your kids throwing fits, or your messy house, they may just relate to you even more.  Maybe, just maybe, letting God determine who you are and letting your identity be in Him could bring you to a place of freedom.  I know it has for me.  

“No unique purpose for your life will fill your soul.  The only thing that will fulfill and settle your soul is God himself.”
~Jennie Allen

7 comments on “When Running Was My Identity

  1. Kelsey, I”m also so sorry for the loss of your mom. Thank you for being so open and honest. I know it’s hard but I know people will read that and be encouraged by it. I agree with Karen. Maybe you are right where you need to be to figure some of those things out. I think a lot about the past 7 years with my dad and how different they would have been if he were healthy. But, I can’t allow myself to live there. We have had extra time with him since he has outlived his diagnosis. So for that I’m thankful. And for you, I know you will figure out what the next step is in your life. Give yourself some grace and sometimes we pray and ask and have to wait for God to show us what it is He wants for us. Praying for you sweet girl, for direction and patience and wisdom. You are amazing and I have no doubt God has some pretty big plans for your life. Love and hugs to you my friend.

  2. I’ll have to read it today Kylie!! Love your honestly and writing. And yes, injuries have a way of bringing certain things into perspective. And girl, I’ve hardly run since December. Seasons. It’s totally ok. It’s not about what we do it’s about how much we love the sport wether we can run or not due to life or injuries or whatever else. Keep pushing!

  3. Karen…I can relate. In fact I was just giving myself a pep talk as I’m about to head out for a run, and haven’t run much in the past two weeks and I haven’t run at all outside in 3 weeks. It’ll be slow, and painful but it has to get done and at the end of the day..who cares lol. Thanks for reading and for always encouraging me to keep writing. hugs!!

  4. Kelly, I loved this post! Thanks for sharing! I struggle a lot being a 25 year old, still living at home, with no real plans. I had planned to move home after college for just one year to save money because I had a real job…although the field of autism and mental health doesn’t pay much. My mom was diagnosed with cancer just three months after I graduated and so it never felt like the right time to move out. 19 months passed and I lived at home while she got sick and then better and then sick and then really sick and then she passed away. And now it’s just under two years after that and I have no plan and I’m still living here.

    And I spend so much time wondering…where would I be if my mom had never gotten sick. Would I have been brave enough to try a new city or a new state. And then I get stuck there because my life hasn’t gone how I thought it should go.

    It’s not really that I need to move on its more like I need to figure out who I am now. I’m gonna have to live without her for the rest of my days on Earth. I’ll never stop missing her but I need to figure out who I am and what I can do while still missing her. I want her to come back but I know she’s waiting in Heaven.

    It’s a lot easier said than done.
    Ok done rambling.

  5. I just wrote my “running story” on my blog today…isn’t it sad that injuries are what wake us up to what we are doing??? I struggle to talk about running to certain people now because I don’t feel like a “real” runner anymore. Crazy!!! We are both going to be stronger, better runners because we are self-aware 🙂

  6. I feel like that about pace. I would probably enjoy running more, recover faster and be able to run more miles if I would slow down but my darn pride gets in the way… And I guess some competitiveness. It’s hard! I love your Wednesdays posts so much- they are always so honest and true.

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