Consistent (adj): to have as an essential feature.
I’ll start with saying this: this is not a normal post for my blog, but I think it’s important. This is not a comprehensive post. I have a lot more thoughts and feelings I've left out here. But this has been weighing on my chest recently, and sometimes writing is my release. So here we are.
I'm sure there are a lot of folks in the running community who likely have the same thoughts, difficulties and struggles as I do. I might not articulate my struggle fully here, but as we enter a new year, I want to shake the struggle and start fresh and rejuvenated.
So, without further ado, here are my thoughts on 'being consistent' and the dangerous consistencies I've fallen into in my life:
For over a decade, I have considered myself a ‘runner’. That term has been consistent in my life, though it has had different definitions in my mind in each iteration of my running career. In high school, I considered myself a recreational runner, using cross country as a means of cross training for my true love, swimming. In college, I considered myself a slow runner, and then an injured runner, and then finally a recovered runner. After graduating, I began to consider myself a long distance runner, tackling my second half marathon, then my third and fourth and so on. And then, I considered myself a marathon runner, tackling not one, but two marathons, achieving a sub-4 PR in Baltimore in 2015. By 2016, I had evolved to an ultramarathon runner in the spring, then a competitive marathon runner in the fall. Then injury struck again, and I was an injured runner again. Here we are in 2017, and I’m again an ultramarathon runner, tackling my second 50k in October, and training with a real trail club for the first time ever, looking for 50k number 3 in March.
Running has been a consistent feature in my life, from highs to lows. I've loved it, cherished it, and hated it all at the same time, and at different intensities, since I was in high school. But, beyond the consistency of ‘runner’, there has been another common, underlying consistency.
In high school, some of the guys on my cross-country team told me I would never be that fast, because I ‘wasn’t skinny enough’. In college, I suffered from perpetual shin splints that ended my collegiate running career, and led to a spiral of depression and increased weight. I ballooned to a weight I’d never been in my life, barely fitting into my clothes, and hating how I looked. I became so insecure it took me 2 years to think about running seriously again, and I shut off from the world for quite a while. By 2011, I went on a 6-month trip to a beautiful country full of beautiful people. The culture was active, healthy and fun. I found myself running, playing ultimate Frisbee, and being overly active. But, as I got more involved, I became insecure with myself yet again. I wasn’t thin enough, I wasn’t toned enough. I began running a lot, too much. I had again swung the pendulum of insecurity to the point of starvation and excessive running. I lost 40 pounds in 2 years. You could see all of my bones. It was probably the lowest I’ve ever been.
For the past few years I’ve struggled with these insecurities. I dug myself out of the horrible hole of anorexia, in part thanks to my wonderful boyfriend, in part because I realized I couldn’t be the runner I wanted to be without nourishing my body with the food it needed (fats included). But the lack of self-confidence permeates every aspect of my life. It has only gotten worse in recent months, as I look at social media, run with new people in my community, and try and engage on another level with the ultramarathon community. I see myself as unfit. As chunky. My butt is big, by thighs rub together. Photos of me make me hate how I look. I can’t find holiday dresses I like because I’ve gained some weight recently. It makes me not want to run, which then makes me hate myself more. It’s a horrible cycle of self-deprecation, stemming from a false vision of what I think I should look like as a ‘runner’.
My struggle through the years with insecurity, as captured by photos:
On the New Year
The holiday season is particularly hard on me, which is why I felt it time to reflect on my struggles, and reinvest in myself, find my confidence, and shake my doubts.
For the New Year, many of peers vow to ‘loose the weight’, to ‘eat more healthy’, to ‘get more fit’ and ‘go to the gym more often’. I hear these things, and feel like I have to do them all to. But I don’t.
I’m a runner who has run two marathons, two ultramarathons and has 10 years of experience under her belt. I’ve been at the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and everywhere in-between. I can run 15 miles like it's nothing. Trail runs don't scare me, they excite me. I am always looking at what my next distance will be, what the perfect time for my first 50 miler, 100 miler, and multi-day self supported race might be. My body is incredibly durable, capable to doing things many of my peers have never even thought of doing (because let's face it, ultras are a bit crazy). I can't be both a good runner, and constantly tear myself down with insecurity.
In the New Year, I need to focus on what matters most. Being healthy, happy, and physically and mentally sound. There is no guiding rule that says I should weigh ‘X’ amount, that I should have ‘X’ number of miles under my belt every week, that I should wear ‘X’ size running pants or ‘X’ size dress for work.
I’ll always have insecurities, and I’ll always have running. It’s up to me to decide which of these consistencies wins out. Hears to making 2018 all about running and not about insecurities.