Life in Transition: Twenty-Something Runners


Crista has written 23 posts on Salty Running.

I'm currently a graduate student in Clinical Psychology (trying to earn that Ph.D!), freelance creative writer, aspiring ultrarunner, part-time Vegan (and part-time In & Out and Sushi lover), acoustic guitar player and crafter of cute things (like crocheted owls). I like to tackle life head on. I like to learn. And I'm not afraid to make mistakes.

Where will your path take you? img via flickr

Life as a twenty-something year-old runner is a whirlwind! I feel as if my world is in constant motion; I’m learning new things, expanding my horizons and getting to know where my strengths and weaknesses are. I’m in the middle of grad school but at the same time I’m taking running more seriously than I ever did in the past. Balancing training while stressing over school, my job, money and my non-running friends has handed me my fair share of roadblocks! If you’re running in your 20s too I’m sure you can commiserate!Your daily routine is often all over the place. Simply squeezing in a run feels like a challenge!


Sometimes balancing my schedule can feel like a juggling act! Image via flickr

My head spins when I try to sit down and think about all the tasks/ projects/ assignments I juggle each day. Working, grad school, running, family time, friends… sometimes at the end of the day I wonder how I do it all. My early morning runs are often times pushed into other time-slots (which pains me, because I am not an evening runner) or, worse, some days I can’t get a run in at all! Because my 20-something routine is… well… not much of a routine, I have to be flexible when it comes to the when and where of my runs. Sometimes I have to get creative — if I need to do a long run, I might squeeze in five quick miles early in the AM and another five in the PM when I have more time. It helps to keep a planner or calendar and to treat your running routine like it’s a job. Which means working around obligations like work and school, and sometimes giving up time with friends/family/the significant other… which leads me to the next example.

Your friends/ family/ boyfriend or girlfriend may not fully understand your commitment to running.

You mean this doesn’t count as training? Image via flickr

Imagine the scenario: it’s a Friday night and all your girlfriends are going out downtown. You want to socialize, but you’ve made plans for a 6 a.m. group run. “Come on!” they coax, swigging a pre-game beer, “We’ll have so much fun!” …. But you know what a night of drinking and little sleep will make you feel like the next morning. This is the true test of inner conflicts: do you hang out with your girlfriends and risk not being able to run in the morning or do you walk away and promise to hang out next time… and miss out on all the fun?

I’ve been in this situation many times and it made me realize something: this is the point where you decide how serious you are about running.

If your goal is a fall marathon (or ultra, if you’re crazy like me), sticking to a training program is an essential component. That, in addition to getting enough sleep, providing your body with proper nutrition, avoiding unhealthy habits… training for a race can feel like a full time job! Decide what it is that you truly want. If you want to run casually and you’re not training for a lofty goal, maybe going out with the girls is what’s right for you! Know what you’re getting into before you find yourself mid-way through a training program and unhappy. Achieving big goals takes time and commitment.

Sometimes this is more important than running. No, seriously. Image via flickr

All that being said, it’s important to maintain your relationships with your non-running friends. I know I’m not the only one who can become mildly obsessive about her running routine… I mean, you are reading a running blog for serious athletes! If you’re like me, you often become so engrossed that it feels like you eat, sleep, and breathe running. For some of my friends who don’t run, I’m sure my non-stop talking about races, injuries, etc. can become annoying after a certain point. So give your loved ones a break every once in a while, and at least pretend that you’re a normal person.  That way if you get injured, you’ll have someone to hang out with, right? ;-)

You may give yourself a hard time for not being “there” yet.

The twenties can sometimes feel frustrating. You’re working, striving, figuring it all out and more often than not you recieve “learning experiences” rather than great achievements in exchange for your hard work. Like learning that life does not always go the way we hope, and at the end of the day all we can do is keep moving forward. I feel like this part of my life is this weird stepping stone into full-fledged adulthood. Like… well… like I’m just not there yet.

Is this the “there” they’re talking about? Image via

Rosemary’s latest post on personality definitely made me think about how I can figure out who I am and use that to my advantage. Understanding myself better makes me a better runner. I’m learning how to handle the emotional ups and downs of training and not let a few bad runs convince me that I’m a failure. Not too long ago I was quicker to become upset over setbacks. Now I find myself thinking about my choices before I make them. I guess it’s all a part of growing up!

So I guess I’m getting “there!”  Finding balance is one of the keys, I think — having a structured schedule but accepting that some days you may just have to go with the flow will leave you prepared for everything.  And leaving room for fun in your life, because isn’t that what your twenties are supposed to be? Finding your stride and having fun doing it?


So Salties, enough of my growing pains. Are there any other twenty-something runners out there who have experienced the same things as me? Have any tips? What about challenges in different age groups? I could always use some advice for the future :)

15 Responses to “Life in Transition: Twenty-Something Runners”

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  1. Cinnamon Cinnamon says:

    I love this post, Paprika, and it was such a pleasure to work with you on it. Sharing your day-to-day struggles really brings you to life for me, what it’s like for you as a runner. I know so many of our readers (including me, and I’m an “old lady” at 31!) deal with these issues on a regular basis and it’s really nice to know we’re not alone!

    Sometimes with all the stuff you do (your new job, grad school, your Etsy shop) it amazes me that you even have time to train or to blog, but I’m so glad you do, and that you’re a part of our family here at SR!

    • Paprika says:

      Thank you for all your help! It was a challenging post in that I’m still in the process of “figuring it all out” (or does that even happen? ha!). Juggling it all isn’t easy! But the things I do I love, so that sure helps :) I’m proud to be a part of this team of women encouraging each other and sharing their ideas!

  2. Rachel says:

    definitely know the feeling… I know we all are juggling a ton of different things regardless of life stage, but I definitely relate to the “trying a whole bunch of things and having no idea what the hell I’m doing” feelings :) I’m training for my first 50k having just started a new job and moved across the country, bringing my boyfriend and his dog with me (and moving in together for the first time)… so yup, super hectic/stressful/exciting/awesome time!! I am SO grateful, though, to have a boyfriend who understands and supports the time commitment of running (he did his first 50 MILE race last year… yes he is more badass than me ;))… I don’t even know what I would do otherwise!

    • Salty Salty says:

      I definitely wouldn’t be the runner I am today without the support and coaching of my husband when I was just starting out. We met at our company’s fitness center and he was a hardcore runner dude and I was just a “hobby jogger.” He taught me how to train and be patient with the process and of course watching him squeeze in 100+ mile weeks while working two jobs helped me understand what kind of time commitment reaching our running potential can take. I was lucky to have him then (and now for a whole host of other reasons :) Glad you have someone like that in your life!

      PS Cinnamon and I thoroughly enjoyed running in State College! Such a beautiful place!!!!

  3. Leah says:

    Fellow twenty-something runner here! My situation is a little different from yours in that I’m not in grad school, but I work full-time, volunteer, and am the resident curator of a historic property with my husband and have a hard time finding balance.

    I’m new to running in general– only about a year in!– but I’ve improved so much so quickly that I try to focus on my progress and reaching new goals rather than trying to stress too much about the way of getting there. Because I’m not going for time or anything impressive, I can be a little more relaxed with my training and have really focused on learning what my body can and can’t handle. As a newbie-athlete, this is very foreign to me! Being kind to yourself while being firm has been the best way for me to do that.

    Good luck!

  4. Annie says:

    Bravo for writing this! I’m a running student too… I worked 2 jobs thought undergrad and had a couple of injuries that kept me out of running for several months. I’m starting graduate school and have lofty goals of running a 1/2 marathon. I have done some hefty distance cycling so I know my body is ready for it, but the work, school, run schedule is a killer. I have heard that this is an issue with all walks of life, but the sooner you make it a priority, like any other part of taking care of yourself, the sooner you will succeed with training schedules. It’s good to learn earlier rather than later :)

    • Salty Salty says:

      It’s true, Annie! I don’t think it gets any easier. When I was in my 20’s I thought I just didn’t have time, but now that I’m a thirty-something mom of little ones I realize I was insane to think that! Now I don’t have time – I MAKE time! Good for you for figuring it our way before I did :)

  5. Kali says:

    My friends not understanding running and training is one of the biggest problems I’ve had as a 20-something runner. I didn’t start running until after college, so making such huge changes as losing weight and starting to run marathons and now ultras means I’m “lame” and “don’t know how to have fun.” I’m not in grad school or anything, but I do have a full time job that has me working a varied schedule including nights and weekends. I’ve lost friends over it, never get invited to parties or nights out anymore (which really sucks because my boyfriend is deployed right now). But when I really think about it, I’ve made so many more worthwhile friends from running (especially ultras) who care about me and my health and my goals that those people who would rather make fun of me for turning down a night out than be understanding aren’t really my friends anyway.

    • Cinnamon Cinnamon says:

      I’ve had my share of that sort of thing too, Kali. When I found the right group of runners to hang out with my life changed 180°, and now that I have less in common with my non-running friends we don’t hang out very much anymore. I miss them a lot sometimes but when I think about how I feel more at home and happy on a trail with my running friends than I’ve ever felt anywhere in my life…well, I know I’m making the right choices.

      That doesn’t mean I’m giving up on anyone else though! I still love my non-running friends.

      It can be so hard for others when you change, especially if they’re a little intimidated by these amazing positive changes your making, or if your mutual interests start to drift. The best way to handle it is to keep reaching out to them. Let them know you’re thinking of them on facebook or with a text or email. Let them know they’re still important to you and they’ll reciprocate!

  6. martini mike says:

    i can see this on a shirt…
    U L T R A
    crazy like me

    i wish i had advice to give. i’m planning on doing the Mohican 100, next year, so i’ll be looking for advice on scheduling “life” around running! i still have a pretty active social life and nowhere near your juggling as far as school, working overtime, a significant other, or familial obligations. of course, i’m a 30-something runner so that may be relevant. %^) 30-something comes with it’s own challenges, to be sure.

    Kali’s comment made me think about this, though… i can say that your true friends will support you, whether they run or not. these friends will still invite you, even if you’ll only make a cameo at their big party — if at all. whether you’re sharing their Scotch or just nursing a stiff dihydrogen monoxide, these are the people who will want you around, though they know you can’t be there. it doesn’t feel good to miss out, but they realize you’re following your dreams and the people that love you will always respect and admire you for that.

    in balancing work, play, running, etc, there are unending choices; some we can pine over and some rushed. i think the most important thing to do is always ask: will i regret my decision later? that simple but critical thought may help us steer clear of the more serious mires. we’ll still have “what if’s” and possibly regrets but using this question as a metric will keep the ship afloat over the long term.

    • Cinnamon Cinnamon says:

      Agreed, Mike. Just ’cause you go to an event doesn’t mean you gotta drink. Club soda with a lime is the key to a runner’s social life. Look at Ginger’s last training log – she and her boyfriend went to a wedding–A WEDDING–and didn’t drink! If it weren’t for running I wouldn’t DREAM of going to a wedding and not getting tipsy on champagne!

      • martini mike says:

        exactly. with a moniker like martini mike and as someone very well versed in rich full-bodied microbrewed beer, i can tell you that temptation always has it’s grubby little hands on me!

        as my miles have gone up over the last two years, my tippling has — for better or worse — had to go down. i can appreciate a hangover run and feel that it definitely trains your mental capacity for running while feeling like shyte, much like the end of a long distance race. unfortunately, it has certain physiological side-effects we definitely don’t want. i won’t drink or take in caffeine for up to a week before long distance events. ironically, giving up coffee is harder than dropping the cocktails!

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