I have been a multi-sport athlete for over thirty-five years who found running after playing soccer, basketball, softball and lacrosse. The summer after I graduated from college I was depressed and lost because my identity as an athlete had seemingly disappeared. I decided to set the goal of finishing a marathon to motivate myself to stay fit and to hold onto self-worth that could only be found in sports. I trained all winter on a treadmill, starting with one mile and working my way up to ten. I had no idea what I was doing, but determined that putting in the work and training my mind through the monotony of the treadmill would get me to the finish line. I never doubted whether I would reach my goal; maybe it was due to ignorance or better yet the belief that I was a runner.
My best running performances came from period of time when I trusted the process and identified as a runner. If I believed in the training plan and my body adapting to the stressors, then ideal results followed. When my running performances suffered it was due to a pervasive self doubt. Early in my running career, I had the privilege of being coached by the legendary Joe Vigil. He often told me that running was 10% physical and 90% mental. I listened and processed what he was saying, but it took nearly a decade for this concept to truly resonate with me. Looking back at who I was in my 20’s, I see a woman who lacked the confidence needed to optimize performances and even questioned the training (despite being coached by one of the bests). I felt like a poser in the running world and sabotaged all of the work that I was putting in training because I did not believe that I belonged at the front of a start line amongst women who seemed different than me.
The question of identity has come up repeatedly for me as an individual and as an athlete. Throughout my day I wear several different hats that can define who I am. Whether I am running 3 miles or 30, finishing on the podium or dead last, I am and always will be a runner. As we work together I encourage you to see yourself as a runner regardless of what level you are at or working towards. This mindset will help you get out of bed in the morning to run, work through tougher days and make it easier to set long term goals.