Growth. The process of developing or maturing physically, mentally, or spiritually.
I’ve mentioned countless times before how I have the uncanny ability to get inside my own head and ruffle my own feathers, but thinking about the process of growth really inspires me.
Since confessing that I will be taking a hiatus from long distance running, I’ve fielded my fair share of questions on if I’ve given up on distance running for good. The short answer to that question is no. BUT, if you fancy reading a story, you’ll find the real reason in the paragraphs to follow.
Over the past 3.5 years, I’ve been in a constant state of shattering my own misconceptions and proving to myself exactly what I’m capable of by crushing goal after goal. I will even go so far as to admit that I love being a self-proclaimed goal digger, but if I’m being honest, I also have to admit that this past summer was by far my worst season of training. I was sore, I was tired, I avoided lacing up practically every chance I got, and I was just downright miserable. Basically, the romance in this relationship was over.
As runners and athletes, we have a tendency to be hard on ourselves and set our sights high on achieving great things. We harness all of our energy into our goals because nothing, and I mean nothing tastes sweeter than how victory feels. However, it also comes at a cost for some and that cost is something we rarely talk about.
What we often talk about is our need for speed and how that speed defines whether we’ve “killed” a race or not. We also talk about being in the trenches of training and how much it sucks when we’re experiencing it, but what we don’t talk about is how some of us allow running to define us as people, or more importantly how we allow this definition of ourselves to dictate our self worth.
Experiencing my training misery this past summer forced me into understanding why I was struggling so much and it took an inspirational conversation with a friend to look past my good old classic reaction of denial and to own up to the heavy feeling in my gut.
Defining myself as a runner was EXACTLY the reason I was feeling so bad about my own self worth. It WAS the reason I was feeling shittier than usual about training. It WAS the reason I continued to feel not good enough.
For the last 3.5 years, I have without a doubt defined myself by my running successes and accomplishments. And why not? I’ve been able to free myself from my own misconceptions and I undoubtedly found my sense of confidence because of it…BUT I’ve also allowed it to control me.
Let me break it down for you. Defining myself as a runner basically brought me to a place where I taught myself that now, after crushing all of these amazing goals, I needed to be faster, and I needed to be more competitive. It wasn’t about racing or finishing anymore. It wasn’t about proving myself wrong anymore, and it definitely wasn’t about fun anymore. If anything, I turned it into a chore and you guys, I REALLY hate chores.
But the best part, and by best part, I actually mean the worst part, was by putting all of this pressure on myself, it only made me struggle more. I actually got slower, and my mental state took an even bigger blow. Cue a depreciating sense of self-worth with a side of doubt and anger. To be honest, I’m not even sure what I was more angry about – not achieving my ridiculously high goals or the fact that I let my own head get the best of me. Either way, it’s taken me this long to admit it.
The part I want people to understand is that it’s so easy to get yourself caught up in this mentality. It’s SO easy you may not even realize it.
What you need to realize is that you are more than a series of race times and PB’s. You are more than a series of training cycles that traverse you to your goals. You are so much more. You are a human being with intricate layers.
For me, it was reminding myself that I am Alex McGillivray – daughter, wife, awesome auntie, friend, adventurer, queen of solo car ride vocals, lover of a little bit of everything, AND a runner. That if I fail, it is merely one more step towards success. That if I fail, I am actually better for it, and that if I fail, I must rise and rise again because that is what growth is. It’s learning. It’s expanding. It’s ultimately working toward being a better person than you were yesterday, and as each day passes, I can say with 100% of my heart that I’m working so hard to be that person.
So my question to you is why limit yourself to one definition?
Remember. Remember who you were before the world told you who to be. Better yet, remember who you were before you told YOURSELF who to be.