my running journey.
College. Its not what I was expecting to say the least. I knew I wouldn’t be one of those people who goes crazy and gets drunk and has sex all the time and starts to cuss, etc, etc. But I also wasn’t hoping to become one of the students who isolates themselves and spends late nights wanting to sleep but crying the whole time instead. I wanted college to be what people said it would be. I wanted “the best years of my life” to at least not be miserable?? In reality this was the worst year of my life. Depression billowed in ways I never thought it could or would. Loneliness left an ache more real than I knew possible even though I was surrounded by some of the most awesome people I’ve ever met. There were days full of life and an epic love for that life, but that feeling usually only lasted a few hours till we took some pictures to remind myself that I didn’t like the way I looked or we went out to eat and I reminded myself how much I hated myself for not giving into an eating disorder throughout the months and months (9 out of the past 12) without running and without being “skinny” and “fit” and “goals” like all of the elite athletes I was surrounded by.
In high school if we were talking about food or dieting or anything like that within a friend group I would get singled out as the “skinny one” who could eat whatever I wanted. Well the truth was that I didn’t feel like the skinny one. I wasn’t as skinny as the competitors who surrounded me at every track meet. I also wasn’t as fast as them. I hadn’t been since sophomore year when the injuries really started. I had been hurt my freshman track season and a brief period after my 8th grade track season. But the season of injury ended before the next season of running started up. It wasn’t like a perpetual pain cycle. I really don’t think I would’ve been able to hang on if I knew the past 4 years were going to go the way they did. When I got hurt my sophomore track season briefly after qualifying for footlocker nationals as a sophomore, completing my “dream season” I was able to hang on in a rather positive manner. My grades did begin to slip and it was still really hard not to be able to run all season except for the last few championship meets and state, but it was “ok” in my head because cross country (my favorite season) and health were just around the corner if I could make it through that track season. I didn’t even mind the summer FULL of physical therapy appointments and new rehab exercises because it got me closer to where I wanted to be (back at footlocker, back as a nationally ranked runner).
Welp, those dreams were quickly shattered when junior xc season began and my races got slower one week at a time. This frustration was different because there wasn’t a physical pain like an injury to blame it on. My legs simply could not physically move fast after one mile of racing. I would start the race with around 5:20 mile pace and 1st place by a good margin, but within the next half mile 3-4 of my competitors would catch up and lead the rest of my struggle/the race to the finish. I remained so so confused and frustrated. I am not a cocky person at all but I knew I was faster than most of the people who were beating me because I was confident in my talent and training. I had beaten them in the past and I knew I could do it again, but there was something wrong with me. I just couldn’t figure out what it was on my own. So, even more doctors and physical therapists yay!!!!!! Haha.
Now physical therapists turned into nutritionists, pediatricians, and dieticians. First of all they told me to gain 6 pounds (I had to eat around 3500 calories a day which let me tell you is not a fun task. Stuffing down extra meat in your sandwich when in reality the cheese in your fav part and eating two greek yogurts at lunch when you normally wouldn’t even eat one because you don’t like greek yogurt is not particularly appetizing. Actually having to eat icecream after dinner when you are full and do not even want any ice cream (I know this is hard to believe coming from me cause I almost always want ice cream haha)). This process of weight gain broke down my metabolism and my bodies’ natural cycle of eating when I was hungry and stopping when I was full because I was forced to eat beyond this point by my doctors.
Once I had gained the weight required I was 8 pounds heavier, a little more insecure, had no idea what parts of my metabolism were trained to say I was hungry by the doctors or if I was actually hungry, and there was still something very wrong with my body. Walking up stairs took everything out of me and my legs would ache for about 3 minutes just from one or two flights of stairs (this is not usual for runners, walking up the stairs is actually very easy for us lol). So, more doctors! What else was I supposed to do?
Long story short and a million tests and question marks later we found out my ferritin level was low. Ferritin is like a type of iron but it is not iron itself so when u test someone’s iron levels their iron can be completely fine when their ferritin is actually very low. So we didn’t figure this out till junior year was completely over. The two most important seasons (junior year xc and track) of my high school career for college recruiting purposes were shot. Thoughts going in to the summer were “its ok u had a bad year but u have iron now and everything is going to be ok!!” I lost the extra 8 pounds pretty quick when I got back to running how I used to and won my first race back at the beginning of senior xc, BUT then came some more fun stuff woooo! This time it was like NO I CANT DO THIS, THIS IS MY LAST CHANCE TO RUN FAST IN HIGHSCHOOL, LAST CHANCE FOR SCHOLARSHIPS. Freak out mode for me and my parents was in full force as my senior xc season was full of 3-4 different random hip and ankle injuries which kept me out almost the entire season.
One of the hardest parts was going on official visits to see where I would run in college. The girls on the visits with me would all go run together, but I would be stuck in the training room biking by myself because I was still hurt. Let me tell you, finding out where you’re going to college is hard in the first place, but add isolation to the process and it becomes almost impossible. How are u going to get to know the team and coach and program if u cant even see yourself in the situation since you’re stuck in a dark room by yourself cross training while they all go run (your favorite thing to do) without you. And on top of not being able to run was the painful realization that college costs a LOT of money and you thought you weren’t going to have to worry about any of that money because just your sophomore year you were one of the best highschoolers in the nation with full scholarships in reach.
However, injuries and iron quickly put that “national ranking” in the back of college coaches minds. Instead of nationally ranked now I was just another girl trying to get a walk on spot. This was absolutely heartbreaking to both my parents and I. Out of all my official visits only one school offered me any scholarship money. It was samford university. At the time I did not feel life I was supposed to go to Samford, I felt led to go to Baylor even though it was insanely expensive and student loans were a very scary and real problem, my parents and I went for it because we knew God wanted me there. Being part of such an awesome program as Baylor was one of the most fun experiences of my life. Until I got hurt again. I was already coming out of a boot from severe plantars fasciitis from senior track season going into freshman year at Baylor, so I was definitely not at peak performance level yet. However as the season progressed I got faster and faster and running just got funner and funner again. I still wasn’t as fast as sophomore year, but I was the closest I had been to that point since all the injuries. Then it happened, the thing I had spent nights praying wouldn’t happen again, crying cause I was scared it was going to happen again, and.. well, it did. I got hurt again. The hip issue I had struggled with so much in highschool was a slight tear in my right labral tissue of my hip, and now mid cross country season at Baylor it was my left. I spent hours and hours on the bike and in the training room, getting any and every kind of treatment they could offer, but nothing helped.
Lets just say I wasn’t running for the last two months of my favorite time of the year and even though they were exciting times, traveling with my new team (some of the nicest and coolest people in the whole world, love love love my baby bears), I still felt pretty lonely because I wasn’t actually running with them. Anyways I just continued to cross train because even if it was the last thing I did as a runner I was going to compete at the NCAA national meet in Terre Haute, Indiana with my lady bears.
Giving up a chance to run at NCAA’s would be like giving up a million bucks, it’s the experience of a lifetime. This trip was insanely fun but also the most humiliating part of my running career. I’ve never gotten last in a race, it’s pretty hard to get last if you have at least some talent. But nevertheless I got last, yep last place at natiaonals. Haha, I got the pity clap! I never in my life would’ve thought I would be getting the pity clap. God brings us to our lowest for his highest though am I right? Granted some girls had dropped out who were behind me so technically I wasn’t last, but I finished that race in dead last so either way I got last. That was super hard to get over but I had to just deal with it and move on.
So thanksgiving and Christmas came and I struggled through more weight issues as it just continued to come on pound after pound since I couldn’t run and all the holiday food was high in calories. A lot of runners, especially females develop an eating disorder when they encounter injuries, especially injuries that take them out for an extended amount of time because we think we have to be almost anorexic skinny looking in order to be fast. Well, thankfully I did not allow myself to develop an eating disorder during the 7-8 months of on and off no running. Every day of cross training felt terrible during this period because I had already cross trained more than I had gotten to run the past few years. I’m not gonna go into all the details of the struggles of the past 6-8 months with trying to get back into running then having to stop again then trying again because it’s emotional stuff between me and God and this blog is already gonna be way long enough lol.
Long story short I am home now and running again, about 40 miles a week (holla woooo so pumped yaya). I could just be like YAY I’m not injured anymore I’m just gonna forget about all the pain filled nights & days, all the times I had to watch other people run and I couldn’t, but I’m not going to do that. These experiences fuel my every desire to run again and make me appreciate literally every step I take during every workout and recovery run. Coming from these places of pain I know there are so many others in this place as well and it would be a TOTAL waste of my pain if I didn’t continue to have compassion for people who still feel like they are in those dark places. The truth is those pain places don’t have to be all pain, they don’t have to be dark places. So far they have been pretty bad for me and I have not trusted God and found joy in the journey the way I should at all, but every day & experience is just another chance to try again, to grow a little closer to JC and let him get a little deeper into my heart.
I always pray and sing lyrics like these “take me where my trust is without borders” “lead me deeper than my feet could ever wander” “draw me a little closer, take me a little deeper, I wanna know your heart,” from popular christian songs. Sometimes we sing song lyrics without actually knowing what we are asking for haha. One time I was up in my closet crying cause I had just gotten back from the doctor with some really bad news regarding one of my injuries and my dad came in and talked me through it while I cried my face off. He said “I don’t know why, but this is what God does to his friends, all throughout the bible he does this to his best friends.” We both started crying, my dad doesn’t cry much. I don’t claim to know why God does what he does and allows certain things to happen to us, but the reason his “best friends” or those who have enviable intimacy with him almost always have hard stories is because that’s how that intimacy grows. We draw closer to God by fighting battles with him and for him. Every time I come out of an injury and as one of my friends puts it I can “see the light at the end of the tunnel” again and I’m just like HECK YA THANK YOU GOD I AM OK NOW. But He wants me to be full of hope even if I cant walk, talk, see, etc. The circumstances of this life CANNOT be what defines my joy (or yours). Running is not my purpose. Being “skinny” “fit” or “goals” is not my purpose. Being epically in love with Jesus & then spilling that love all over others for his glory is my purpose.
God, help me to face the next battle with you like I never have before, getting up && going out everyday with joy and purpose no matter what the earthly circumstance. In your presence I am home, not in the praises of this world. As John Piper says, may my every cry of “I cant” become “I must” because by grace “He can” because in Him “I trust.” Amen
>> I promise not all my posts will be about running and injuries cause that’s just a part of all God’s doing, but I just wanted to start out with my running journey cause it’s been a tough/fun one.