Un-denting the identity

I’ve been uncool for as long as I can remember…

…and I lost all redemption to become so at the turn of secondary school (when everyone hopes they can be cool), because I quickly adopted the nickname “The Runner” when all other combinations of my name and my appearance to point out who I am, was met with blank faces.

To be honest, this in my eyes, told me I’d made it. I positively loved it.

I was the complete epitome of “that child that loved cross country at school” and probably also that one that high-fived the teacher when told we needed to run laps as a punishment during our P.E lessons. I think even my teachers didn’t quite have the heart to tell me I was something else.

But I won races, broke a couple of school/borough records, so you know what, I’ve got no regrets – but I probably could’ve gone easy on Sports Day turning up in running spikes while everyone else quite literally wore Converse.

I should’ve known then I was doomed.

So, if it wasn’t evident enough from the above, running (and the uncool bit) has been somewhat of my identity for the majority of my life. While like many, I’ve been through small waves of resenting it, not least because I was often made to run through blizzards and up Parliament Hill (if you know, you know) in mud suitable for pigs to roll in, I’d say a good 90% of the time, I have always loved to run.

It has its stigmas. Stigmas I’ve fallen short to. Stigmas I want to overcome. And stigmas I wish to challenge more often. But running has made me the person I am today and rightly or wrongly I do consider it to be, amongst a few other things, my identity.

But like with many areas of our life, the journey is never always an upward trajectory. It peaks, it troughs, it absolutely rollercoasters and for some it disappears completely.

The only thing that has taken a continuous upward trajectory in the last few years, is my love for it. I’m not sure when/where my turning point was but running suddenly became so much more than just getting breathless, feeling sick after intervals, wondering how you’re going to make it back without s***ing yourself, spending tonnes of money on races, gushing over the latest trainer launch and realising how much better medals are when you’re an adult. It became this whole lifestyle and has now even become my job!

That’s what makes it all the harder when you reach those troughs.

Like SO many others before me, I was hit with a pretty bad injury last year and like SO many others, I thought I’d rest a few days here and there and it will be “fine in the morning”. I’d even convinced myself at that time last year I was okay the day after I tore my knee cartilage because I went down to my work basement and just ran a few laps of the shower to make sure I didn’t feel pain. I don’t even know what I was thinking. My knee was the size of a melon. I was total athlete blind.

As a result, one year later, with a heck of a lot of run modification during that time and a shit tonne of bike kms later, I went under the knife and had me some knee surgery, three months ago.

The outcome could’ve either been a 2-3 week no running period, or it could’ve been a 3-month minimum no running period. Dependent on what they found.

The tears fell pretty heavily after I woke up and was told it was the latter.

Three months minimum no running.

So long identity.

Three months in the grand scheme of things, I know full well isn’t a lot. And while I’m not going to sit here in a whole “WOE IS ME”, I will be entirely honest and say these have been some of the hardest days and weeks of my life. Days actually felt like weeks and my zest and positivity had been completely wiped clean.

While this blog started during what were probably the worst months of my life battling anorexia and having a life turned upside down, the past few months I have felt like part of me had just completely disappeared and by a somewhat association, it felt like I had dipped back into that horrid place I was in only a few years ago.

The resilience it takes to battle and overcome an eating disorder, or any kind of trauma, really does equip you with strength like no other to get through other traumas in life, in my opinion anyway. But that still doesn’t take away how hard it can still be to carry through the same strength you’ve shown before.

I definitely lost my way slightly. I pushed myself away. I ignored help and the people it came from. I felt like I’d lost the ability to even feel. I really just became entirely selfish and cared only about my own mental state and while this is by no means a negative thing, there may have been something (or maybe not, who knows) in allowing others in to have made the last few months easier.

But the important thing to remember is that while being in the troughs can feel harder by the day, you’re never going to be too far away from the turning point to when it gets better again, and accepting that the circumstances are shit now, while accepting the support from people around you is a fast-track way to get you there, too.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned from this, is that you are never alone in how you feel and while the closest people to you might not understand (because they’re definitely not expected to) there are so many others that will. You’ve just got to reach out. And to every single person that reached out to me with their own experiences and support, helped chip away at some real horrid days and allowed me to see a bigger, brighter picture – sincerely grateful for those people!

NOW THEN.

We’re three months in and we’re getting ready to put on the trainers again – and you’ll bet I HAVE BEEN SHOPPING!

Here’s hoping we’re on the start of the trajectory, now.

Identity, I’m coming back for you. It’s been a sweet while xox

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