Why Do I Run? …No, Really, Why?

I’m taking a hiatus from Training right now.

That’s Training with a capital T, because I’m still running, and lifting, and swimming, and skiing, and dancing to “Uptown Funk” like a spaz every chance I get. (I hope that song isn’t too obnoxious and overplayed by the time our wedding rolls around in late May.)

I’m active. I just don’t have a Goal Race. I’m not planning any Big Workouts. I don’t want to Compete.

I’m having some inner turmoil about this. I’m an editor at a running magazine. I’m writing a feature about hiring a coach and working with her for a year. (Which, for the record, was a positive experience!) I’ve been Training for the better part of the last five or six years. And I just don’t want to do it anymore. Here’s my attempt at figuring out why:

Burnout. The most obvious and likely culprit. I hoped—nay, expected—to totally ace Wineglass and then take a month or two to relax and regroup. Instead, when it didn’t go my way, I chose to try again. Soon. I didn’t want to waste my fitness and I knew I could do better, but my heart was never really in it. I still ran a great race in Phoenix—I absolutely couldn’t have gone any faster on that course—but I didn’t have much fun, prepping for it or racing it.

Painful realizations. As much as I enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes from finishing 20 miles with 14 at marathon pace, my last training cycle (plus the time off I’ve had since it ended) made me realize something that hadn’t previously occurred to me: Intense marathon training leaves me too wiped to do or to enjoy other things in life I’d like to do/enjoy.

For example: It’s amazing how much I’ve gotten done around the house during this hiatus. I spent a Saturday ShopVac-ing and organizing a particularly filthy part of the basement. That doesn’t sound fun, I realize, but it kind of was. It needed to be done, and I did it, and now that room looks awesome. (Well. As awesome as a grody, unfinished, freezing cold basement room can ever look.)

And that’s just one example of a Life Thing that not running so much has freed me up to do! I can think of at least two others! Behold! There’s more to life than running!

The tiny room is finally furnished, complete with hanging wall art, thanks to Not Running (TM)!

The tiny room is finally furnished, complete with hanging wall art, thanks to Not Running (TM)!

Soul searching. On that note: Why do I run, anyway? To stay healthy and fit, for one. But beyond that, why?

When I met my coach after the race in Phoenix, she said, “You have to choose a goal that inspires you.” And that made my head explode. It sounds so obvious, but it got me asking myself, “Is training to run a fast marathon so I can qualify for and run Boston still inspiring me?” No! Not really! It’s making me feel frustrated and self-critical and all kinds of other negative emotions. And, because I’m not a fan of enormous, crowded races—hey, NYC Marathon!—I don’t think I’d even enjoy running Boston very much if I did get in.

So, what was the appeal of Boston to begin with? I wanted one of those blue-and-yellow finishers’ jackets. I blogged about that ages ago. And why did I want one of those jackets? So I could wordlessly communicate, “I am a faster and better runner than you are.” I run races partially to compete with myself but also to say to the world, “Look how fast I am! I could maybe beat you! And you, I could definitely beat you.

Which makes me sound like a jerk! And I am kind of a jerk! And I don’t want to be a jerk anymore! What’s with this need to compare myself to other people? That is a part of my personality I don’t like, and training and racing seems to fuel it.

Doing other things. You know what’s kind of fun? Swimming. And skiing. I’m not very good at either, but that’s part of the appeal. I can get a good workout just because my body is doing something it’s not used to doing. And I couldn’t really do either of those things while I was marathon training.

Ski selfies from two consecutive days, because who cares if I'm sore for the rest of the week? I don't have to run! (I ended up not being sore anyway.)

Ski selfies from two consecutive days, because who cares if I’m sore for the rest of the week? I don’t have to run! (I ended up not being sore anyway.)

Also, I miss feeling strong all over. I used to take these strength classes at the gym that are totally butt-kicking but will make you look and feel SO RIPPED. And I stopped doing them because they made me too sore to do hard running workouts. That is silly, and that is why people who run all the time at the expense of other activities get hurt.

The place where we’ll be honeymooning is in a remote part of Bermuda, and I’ve heard the roads around there aren’t so great for pedestrians. Why should I spend a single minute on the treadmill in the gym when I’m in BERMUDA? (As I would feel compelled to do if I were really training.) Especially when we can use the resort’s stand-up paddleboards for free? And I could do that with Paul, instead of by myself?

This has turned into a ramble. I am trying to justify to myself why it’s okay for me to not run very much right now, or ever again, if that’s what I want.

I think I fear falling back into college mode, where I’d run maybe three miles a couple times a week and do nothing else except eat pizza and drink beer, and I wondered why I was a disaster, health-wise.

But health and fitness are more important to me now than they were then. And I do enjoy exercising. I just think the pendulum may have swung too far in the opposite, extreme direction for me for a while. It’s time to find some balance.

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About Meghan Loftus

http://meghanloftus.com/
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7 Responses to Why Do I Run? …No, Really, Why?

  1. misszippy1 says:

    Holy wow do I relate to this, right down to the throwing another marathon on top of a bad one. I think you are in a great place. For me it was as simple as this: I run for the love of it and as soon as the joy is gone, why force it and risk losing that love? Keep on keeping on with this approach and no guilt allowed!

  2. Karen says:

    I feel this to a much lesser level – after a handful of half marathons, I keep toying with the idea of a full. You know, so I can say “Yeah, I ran 26.2, NBD”. I was even signed up for a March marathon. But I did some soul searching around New Years – I was just looking to run a full to say I did, I was following the FOMO fairy. I switched that race to the half am glad I did – I’m happy at that distance.

  3. Love the ski selfies ;).

    And yeah! other activities are fun too! I think paddleboarding is actually a crazy good core workout.

  4. Alyssa says:

    I love this! I love how honest you are! I first ran for the joy of running and then once I got into a running club, all you hear about was Boston. I was driven to qualify for and run Boston which I did in 2014. Because my speed work for Boston wasn’t tight, it ended up being my second slowest marathon time to my first marathon. (I have done 10 marathons so far.) I knew I wasn’t going to run Boston well so I said to myself enjoy the “show”, and it was everything I thought it would be. I took everything in on that 26.2 run. Getting there was the most special experience ever, not only because it was the celebratory marathon after the bombings, but because it required blood, sweat, and tears to get there. After I got home, it became something else. All people wanted to know was what was your time. It was a 4:twenty something which for Boston is extremely slow. My new goal was to run Boston well. I’m in marathon training now for the Philly in preparation for the Boston and I have to say. . . mentally I’m not there. I bonked on my speedwork as well as my 16 miler (which I could easily do in the past) last week just as an example. This training season has been blah! I’m thinking to myself, “W T F!” I pretty much don’t bonk on my prescribed workouts. I also had to rethink What am I doing? If I ran Boston well, then who cares if the experience was miserable. Why do I need to prove anything to anyone? Your coach said that you have to find a goal which inspires you. . That to me is something I have to reflect upon. What inspires me now? The mind will follow the body. I also want to thank you for writing your last article in Runner’s World about your Wineglass marathon experience with your coach. So often, you read about “success” stories or people’s awesome experiences. . .I’m keeping that month’s magazine, because you were honest about your journey and yes, you PRed, but I also liked how you want to keep moving forward with new motivation. It’s a reminder to ask yourself before calling it quits, Why do you run marathons?

    • Meghan Loftus says:

      Thanks for your kind words, Alyssa! Everyone told me after Wineglass, “Not reaching your goals makes for a better story!” I’m glad they weren’t just lying to make me feel better. 🙂

      I’ve found that running to please/impress other people is unsustainable and pretty joyless. I think that’s why I got into marathoning—I wanted to be able to say, “I run marathons,” and have people go, “Ooooooh. Wow.”

      Along the way, I’ve found that marathons aren’t my strong suit, and as much as I’d like to really conquer one (mostly because I hate feeling like I’m bad at things!), the amount of time and effort I need to expend to make each attempt is just astronomical. I minded the time/energy expenditure less when I was single and lived in an apartment and didn’t really have much else to do on the weekends, but now I have a husband and a home we’d like to spruce up and I’m just too tired for all that when I’m training hard.

      (And yet, I’m registered for a fall marathon. I’m writing a fun story about it for Runner’s World, so that’ll be good, but the training part feels a bit daunting at this point. I’m not training to PR, though, so it won’t eat up so much time!)

      I hope you figure out the root of your “blah.” And remember: If you’re not into it, you don’t have to run a fall marathon. You could run a half, or a 5K, or no race at all. Running is supposed to be fun! Try a few different ways to make it fun again—new routes! trails! new running buddies!—and if nothing works, it might be time for a little hiatus. Good luck!

      • Alyssa says:

        I’m looking forward to reading about your fall marathon race experience. 🙂 Good luck!

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