I am a museum curator living outside Washington, D.C., with my fiancé. When I’m not running, you can find me snuggling with my dog (a black lab mix), visiting museums (I can’t fight it), trying to remember to read for pleasure, bookmarking recipes I probably won’t ever make, and (gulp!) planning a wedding.
As of this fall, I’ve been running for 20 years. Just with any two-decades-long relationship, running and I have a complicated history. Like many runners, I started as a soccer player, initially joining the 7th grade cross country team to get in shape for soccer, my preferred sport. But I soon found that running came naturally: my slight frame was much better suited to covering long-distances than fighting bigger, stronger girls for the ball.
I continued running cross country and track in high school, which is when I discovered one of the magic secrets of the sport: the harder you work, the better you will be. Over four years I gradually improved. Eventually, I met my senior-year goal of finishing in the top five at our championship meet and breaking 19:00 in the 5K. That moment, when my dedication and discipline paid off, remains one of the happiest of my life.
After graduating from high school, I joined my D1 college team as a walk-on. I was one of the slowest people on a team of talented standouts. Here, I discovered another secret of running: sometimes hard work isn’t enough.
My college running career was marred by frequent injury and frustration. I learned that my body is not genetically suited to the high intensity of a D1 program. More significantly, the disciplined approach that had previously served me well led to a pattern of disordered eating and obsessive cross-training that made my injury problems worse. Throughout college, I had a handful of successful races but mostly found myself in a cycle of injury after injury. In the fall of my senior year, I learned that I had a labral tear in my hip. I opted to get arthroscopic surgery to repair it. Surgery had a 4-6 month recovery, so my college career was over.
In the years after college, I ran only to stay in shape. Emotionally exhausted from constant injury, I chose running over running fast. I was scared to train hard and set goals out of fear that my body would betray me again. To be honest, it was liberating to not feel obligated to run. Being away from the intense college environment helped me recover from disordered eating habits.
I started lifting weights, doing yoga, and gained 15 pounds. Still, I missed running: the camaraderie of being on a team, the crisp scent of fall leaves on a cross country course and the tired-to-the-bone satisfaction of completing a hard workout. So after some time I started running a little more, eventually signing up for a couple half-marathons. Seeing that I could run longer and stay healthy was exhilarating, so I decided to register for a fall 2016 marathon, with a goal to BQ. I trained conservatively, but neglected to keep up with my strengthening and #extrasalt. With one month to go, I felt a sharp pain in my IT band that wouldn’t go away. I never made it to the start line.
A year later, I’m learning a third secret: working smart is more important than working hard (secret 3a: strengthen your damn glutes!). I don’t think I will ever be someone who can run every day or log 60-mile weeks. I will likely always have to do those annoying PT exercises to stay healthy. And that’s OK. By knowing and accepting the limits of my body, I can push myself to the edge, my edge, without going over.
I wish I could say I’m now training for that marathon again, but I recently learned that I have another labral tear in my hip — the same hip as before. Apparently my bones are shaped in such a way that they are inclined to tear the cartilage. I’m hoping to avoid surgery this time, instead focusing on physical therapy, which has worked for others with this injury. My goal is to get back to running consistently and maybe, just maybe, cross a marathon off my bucket list one day.
Here at Salty Running, I will write about chronic injury, disordered eating, and returning to competitive running after a very long hiatus. A huge fan of the sport, I’m also excited to keep tabs on the world of track and field and the history of women’s running. I can’t wait to get to know you all!