Running has always been a big part of my life but there have been a few times I quit running. The first time I quit running was after my senior year of high school. By the end of my senior year I couldn’t take it anymore. I was certain I would never compete again and if I ever ran again I was certain it would be for recreation.
During cross country season I was having severe pain in my lower back. It hurt to sit down. It hurt to stand up and it hurt to run. I was obviously performing terribly and I was discouraged. It took a while but finally we discovered I had something called a pilonidal cyst. The pain I was feeling wasn’t fake. It was a real thing–trust me several people didn’t believe me and thought I was saying I was “injured” to have an excuse for running poorly. I was happy to prove the haters wrong but I was still discouraged and miserable. At that point no matter what I did I wasn’t going to have a good season and I was sick and tired of having to justify why I wasn’t having a good season.
*Fun fact–The same day I had to go to the doctor to have this cyst drained was the same day I found out I had held a course record for two years. This was only revealed because that course record had been broken the day before.*
Needless to say, this particular day was an emotional day for 17 year old me. I was mad I had held a record and no one told me until it was gone. I had never held a record before and I knew I never would again–10 years later I still don’t have another record so I feel justified in being so dramatic at the time. I was also discouraged and sad that I had raced poorly the day before. I was miserable because I was in so much pain and I was scared because I had to let a man with a knife cut my lower back. I remember crying all day that day and I remember asking myself if any of this was even worth it. Running wasn’t fun anymore because I felt pressure from all angles about my performance or lack of performance. I couldn’t explain to people why I wasn’t “performing” but I knew something was wrong with me and I was furious with myself for not being able to overcome this. I felt weak physically and mentally and I just didn’t want to run anymore.
Fast forward to that afternoon in the doctor’s office: I am laying down on my stomach with my face buried into a pillow sobbing and feeling bad about myself because I just couldn’t live up to the expectations everyone was setting for me, also because I was sad about the course record I never knew I had. Additionally, I was sobbing because I was missing practice that day and I felt like this would only make me run worse and because the man with the knife was about to cut me and drain this awful cyst. I was screaming and crying but not because the doctor was cutting me, because I was furious I didn’t get to celebrate an accomplishment when I had the chance and I hadn’t been accomplishing anything at all lately. Mentally I was in more pain than I was physically.
I couldn’t run for several days after the cyst was drained. No one knew how or why I got this cyst to begin with, but I did. I eventually started running again and I was still in severe pain. I finished out the season and ran worse than I ever did and I did not make the conference team after making it every other year–again I felt like a failure. When I crossed the finish line at the conference meet I told myself I was done running. I had just lost all hope of this going away and getting better and I had lost all hope of ever being a decent runner again.
When the season finally ended I had to have the cyst surgically removed and take some time off from running to let it heal. During this time I missed running and I decided to run track. Senior year of track went even worse than cross country season did which I didn’t think was possible. I could barely break 7 minutes in the mile. I somehow managed to get tendonitis in my right ankle and I ended up missing a lot of workouts and training. By the end of track season I had had several cortisone shots and I was still running horrible. At my last track meet I threw my spikes in a field and quit running. Running wasn’t fun anymore, running was hurting me physically and mentally. I was done. I quit and I felt relieved. I didn’t have to feel bad about underperforming anymore and I didn’t have to feel bad about myself anymore. I didn’t have to feel like a failure anymore. *Another fun fact, I had another one of these cysts the next year in college that I again had to have surgically removed–lucky me*
But obviously, I didn’t quit running because I am still running. Over the summer I joined the cross country team at my college. I think I just needed time away from running to heal physically and mentally. Sometimes you just need to step away from something to realize you can’t live without it and I can’t live without running.