I hinted at this topic yesterday, but didn’t want to combine it into another post.
Lately, the subject of identity has come up in several different conversations, reads, and so forth. Not so much in the classic sense of “who I am” but more in the sense of the place that running plays in our lives (for those of us who are runners). Things that have made me think about the whole subject. Comments that run the gamut of “hey, it’s ok” to “OMG I can’t live without it” like:
“The nurse I talked with said with this I should probably not run marathons. I’ll wait to see what the doctor says, but I’m ok with that.”
“Running is becoming a huge part of my identity.”
“If it’s an injury and I can’t go after my PR, I’ll kill myself.” (I don’t think it was meant literally, but still.)
Now, these thoughts to come are all my personal opinion. I love each of these people (these are examples, and shall remain unnamed). Their comments did get me thinking though, and I wanted to explore the comments and the concept of identity and where running/being a runner falls in the spectrum of our identity. I know many, many people who fall in between these points on the spectrum and who have dealt with injury and time off generally well with the occasional frustrated moment showing through. They are by far the majority and from my experience the most balanced. But let’s look at the spectrum points here.
The first one, to me, is the healthiest balance. It’s from someone who loves running and being part of the running community, but is ok with realizing there may be limits. In further conversation, she essentially said she would rather be able to run some for a longer time than run one marathon and never be able to run again. There’s a balance in that that I really admire.
The second one can go either way on the balance spectrum. I tease the guy who said it as he keeps saying he’s “cutting back on races” and yet they keep appearing on his race schedule. There’s nothing wrong with running being part of your identity (lord knows it’s part of mine – more on that later), but I think that it’s important to balance “runner” with other aspects of your identity so that it doesn’t become all-consuming. When that happens, it’s easy to get into the slippery slope of the third phrase.
As I said, I don’t think she meant it literally, but the sad thing is, there are people who would. I’ve encountered them on running forums, maybe you have as well. They are the people who if they can’t run for even a couple of days start to spiral into depression and don’t know what to do with themselves. To me, that’s a big red flag that it may be time to get more balance in life. (Unless of course you are a professional athlete…and at that point I’d hope you’re working with a sports psychologist. 🙂 But I get that the pro athlete thing is different from those of us who aren’t pros.)
DailyMile had a Daily Mission a couple of days ago that was “Five years ago, were you a runner/cyclist/triathlete? If not, what do you think THAT person would have thought of this?”, and it also made me think on this subject. Five years ago I would occasionally go to a yoga studio or do a workout DVD, but nothing ever stuck. Running was never something I even considered. An occasional walk around the neighborhood? Sure, that would happen. But that was about it. I didn’t know any runners – at least not that I was aware of. I didn’t necessarily think of runners in a negative way…I just didn’t think about them at all. It didn’t seem like who I would ever be.
This picture is slightly more than 5 years ago but it’s pretty close next to January…
I can honestly say that the person on the left had no idea that the person on the right could ever exist. Once a switch flipped inside of me during Spring Break 2010, I started to become a different person. A person for whom fitness was important, no matter what shape it took.
I’ve said it before, I started with Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred, and through my fellow shredheads I met on twitter, began running. Shortly thereafter, I joined Front Runners New York to be part of a running group. In all honesty, it’s taken me a coupe of years to really feel like I’m a part of the group – and it took me stepping up to get involved to do it. I signed up for the Walt Disney World Half Marathon and some local races. I did those, and signed up for more Disney races and more NYRR races.
Along the way, other friends started to begin running, partly they have said because of my influence. We’ve all had ups and downs. We’ve all put running into our lives in some way or other. Some more than others.
I’ve been lucky, so I realize it’s easy for me to say “I’ll be ok if something happens and I can’t run for a while”, but I honestly think that it’s the truth. I’ve tried to keep a balance in my life between different things – and those get to be fit in around my full-time teaching job, my part-time job at The Disney Store, and training. It’s definitely tougher when I’m training for a race.
The training for Chicago truly did affect many other things in my life. I used to go to the theatre a lot. I don’t do that as much any more – though admittedly part of that is that there frankly hasn’t been that much out I’m interested in seeing. I took writing classes at Gotham – I still want to get that novel and that play written – which I don’t do now. Part of it is money – when you’re buying running stuff and paying for race entries, the money for writing classes may not be there. I still try to make time to write, but other than this blog it doesn’t always happen. Church has taken a bit of a backseat, but that’s not completely due to running – things have changed a bit at my parish, and I’m not necessarily happy or comfortable with those changes…I just haven’t been bothered to look at other options (which I’m lucky enough to have).
In terms of exercise, I still have my DVDs, I still occasionally go to yoga, I’m working with a trainer to learn stuff I can do to work on strength and balance. Yes, running takes up the majority of my training right now because I’m training for the Country Music Half at the end of April. I’ll have a few weeks between that race and my training for Hartford (which is my A race for the fall, and in which I want to break 6 hours…but I’m not going to kill myself if it doesn’t happen), and honestly I’m not sure how much running I’ll do in those weeks. I’ll train – I’ll do yoga, do some of my training sessions, I’ll take some classes at the gym as my Disney schedule permits. I’ll run when I want to, not because my training plan says I have to.
At least I hope that is what I’ll be able to do. I like to think that I’ve got a handle on things and have a balance in my life.
Running is, and as far as I’m concerned, always will be a part of my identity, but it’s not all of who I am. It’s a piece.
So who am I? In a nod to Jennifer Graham’s “What I Believe” chapter in Honey, Do You Need A Ride? Confessions of a Fat Runner, I give you my “Who I Am” list…
I am Beth.
I am a daughter.
I am a sister.
I am a friend.
I am a lesbian.
I am a democrat.
I am an Episcopalian…with occasional agnostic tendencies (and yes, those can co-exist).
I am a runner. It takes the form of run/walk…or as I say, a penguin. But I run, therefore I am a runner.
I am a baby yogi. I’m far from perfect, but I love the practice and I try.
I am someone who values fitness – in whatever form it takes.
I am a Disney fan – it’s one of my happy places, and I truly cherish the times I’ve had there and the chances I have to go as often as I do.
I am a reader – a voracious reader who will real virtually any genre (non-fiction math or accounting, trashy romance, or sci-fi not so much, but almost anything else).
I am a writer – unpublished, and with completely incomplete manuscripts, but nevertheless, in the same vein as “If you run, you are a runner”, I claim “writer” as part of who I am because I write.
I am a citizen of the world – I try to live by “think globally, act locally”.
I am a parton of the arts – I do love pretty much all things artsy from museums to opera to indie films to theatre. They all bring beauty to the world, make me think and feel, and reach deep down inside of me in some way, and I value that.
I am someone who tries to find a balance in my life, but more often than not fails. It just means I’m human, and, as St. Benedict said in his rule, “Always we begin again.”
But most of all, I am me. I am ever-changing, ever-learning and ever-growing. Who I am today is different to the person I will be in even five months, not to mention five years.
And I am someone who can truly say love who I am – and who I will become.
So what do you think? Who are you? What’s your identity – and how balanced are the aspects of your life?