Sometimes I run to exercise, sometimes to compete, sometimes to clear my mind, sometimes to socialize, sometimes to relieve stress, sometimes to burn some energy, sometimes to push my limits, sometimes to increase my aerobic capacity, sometimes to work on my speed, sometimes to win races, sometimes to improve my endurance, sometimes to see a city, sometimes to be out in nature, sometimes to change my mood, sometimes to feel better about myself, sometimes to be the best runner I can be, sometimes I run to be me.
For the past 10 years or so I would have said I primarily ran to compete, thus my motivation. I’ve wanted to be the best athlete I can be. This quest has been filled with passion and enthusiasm. Its really easy to be committed and dedicated to something when you really love it. Train every day, check. Push limits, check. Get phsyical therapy, check. Read about running, check. Eat well, check. Sleep well, check. Limit other phsyical activity so that you wont be tired for workouts or races, check. Move countries, check. Leave family and friends in order to train and compete, check. Accept tiredness as your default mode, check. Skip getting a “Real job” (because you would be too tired for training and racing), check. Forget about travel and vacations if they aren’t to training or racing venues, check.
I guess when you are an athlete, there are things you give up in order to be the best you can be. But thankfully when you are doing something you love, it doesnt feel like you are giving anything up. You willfully build your life around the athletes lifestyle, because in the end, you are living your dream life. Who wouldnt want to live thier dream life?
However, when your dream life changes course, as all lives do at one point or another, there are changes to be made. This can be due to a whole host of reasons: loss of love for your sport, family changes, injuries, financial pressures, illlnesses, old age. Some of these are lifestyle- your run might not be the focus of your day, you will probably have to get a job and change the rhythm of your energy and day, you can say yes to social engagements, and eat whatever, whenever. But equally as confusing (if not harder) are the emotional and psychological changes you go through.
My life is transitioning from the life of an Olympic athlete to life beyond and after being an Olympic athlete. I’m in-flux. I dither back and forth between “maybe Ill be back to my old self in this next workout” to “I’m moving on and Ill be ok.” At first when I finally came to terms with the fact I wasn’t feeling strong enough to make it back to the Oympics, I questioned why I would even bother running any more. Will my life be turned upside down? Then I spoke with some great friends who assured me that while I might not be going to London, that “I am still a runnner.” Really? Well yes.
Running has always meant so much more to me that making an Oylympic final. Yes, the past 6-8years, running became my focus and my career. But before, and now again, after, running and all is joyous benefits, will still be there. I feel like now I get to enjoy the same things I always did, the feeling of running, the fun on the run with friends, the sweat, the endorphins, the freedom, the fatigue, the fitness, the fludity, the focus. But I dont get to compete in front of thousands of people. I can still compete. Just not at that level. Its like I get to enjoy the cake without the cherry on top. To be totally honest, some cherries aren’t that good anyways. But, it is like transcendental experience when the cherry is perfect. It just makes it all so much sweeter. Ill miss the goals I’ve had for so long. But now I can make new goals. What they will be, I’m not sure yet, Ill spend time reflecting, readjusting, and refocusing. One moment that feels scary and then the next it feels so exciting and liberating! Goals are still important as they create a motivation gap, which gives you the necessary energy to do the things that excite and motivate you. I will join the rest of humanity, those who aren’t Olympic athletes.
I just hope my life will be filled with passion and enthusiasm, the sort that I’ve been blessed with for years. The sort that will have you travelling to the ends of the earth without any qualms whatsoever, that will have you up early and eager to get going, that you will do with or without someone watching over you. That has you gladly join the community of others that share your passion. The sort that Chris Rock talks about- “I gotta work on my projects." I know the best way to find those passions is to follow things that are enjoyable and fun and interesting. So its good that I find lots of things fun, enjoyable and interesting.
All the while, I know Im feeling a sense of loss of my identity as an “Olympic Athlete.” It kind of hits me in waves. I know intellectually that “I am not what I do,” but I also know as athletes we sometimes feel that we are “only what we do.” Its the ego of course. Its the egoic side of sport too. The fickle and superficial side that makes you feel amazing when you do good, and like hiding under a rock when you do poorly. It makes you feel less-than when you run slower than someone, and superior if you run faster. Kind of silly really. In a way its how professional running operates- you do well and you reap rewards (glory, prizes, sponsorships, fans). And becuase you are the only one on the track- and you put your heart, body, and mind out there for all to see- its hard not to feel repsonsible for the good times and the bad times. I did that. Its was me. I guess we can sometimes over identify with our performances.
Its easy to loose sight of the “rest of your life” and the fact that your athletiscism is a gift, even if you work hard to be your best. Its still not you. Its something you do. Just as a broker, or doctor, or teacher is not just their chosen career, athletes sometimes forget this because there really is no “clocking off” at the end of the day, being an athlete is a way of life that affects your entire day.
Just when a caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly- Unknown.
If I imagined a few years ago, not running, it was hard to imagine being ok about it. However, with the past few years, having a baby and starting a business, I see there are other ways to feel good, and in a lot of ways, feel even better about my life.
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