Injury and Identity Crisis

I’m one of those lucky runners who, for whatever reason, can put in lots of miles without getting injured. I try to be smart about it — not building too quickly, strength training regularly, listening to my body if something hurts — and it works. At least that’s what I thought.


A few weeks ago, for no apparent reason, my left butt cheek started hurting in the middle of a fartlek run (insert butt-and-fartlek jokes here), and the pain didn’t stop, despite my stretching and slowing down. I have no idea why this would happen now, when I was running less than half the mileage I run when I’m training for a race, but the pain was there, and it was persistent.

Some Internet research told me I had hamstring tendinitis, and I found stretches, strength moves, and general advice on how to treat it. I’ve been doing it all religiously: stretching, strengthening, foam rolling and rolling on a tennis ball, taking short walks to keep it loose, taking several days off running and resuming with short and easy runs (no hills or speed), and even getting a massage, but still the pain persists. I can run 4-5 miles, but 5 is the most I’ve run in over a month. Frankly, it’s starting to mess with my head.

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I know I should be grateful that I can run at all, and that this happened when I don’t have any races on the calendar. Plus, I’ll be so busy soon with moving and starting a new job that running long shouldn’t be my priority anyway (but I will have this new town to explore…).

But there’s a huge part of my identity that is distance runner, and even though it’s been only a few weeks, I feel like that part of my identity is misplaced. Sometimes I toy with the idea of just moving on from that identity — becoming someone who works out purely for health reasons, with less cardio and more strength training and yoga — and for a minute, that seems like a great idea. After all, I’m certainly not a professional — it’s not like I’m paid to run long. There’s no logical reason for me to keep doing it. In fact, it would probably be healthier to go the other way.

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But then I see an ad for a race, or a post in a Facebook group about an epic trail run coming up, or my trail shoes sitting by the door, looking sad because I haven’t taken them out lately, or even the “4.00” on my watch at the end of yet another short, slow road run, and I think, “No, the just-for-health exerciser is not who I am.”

I realize this post is a complete pity party, and if you’ve made it through my word vomit thus far, thanks for sticking around. I feel like I should end this on a positive note, especially because I know, in the grand scheme of the world, that this is not that big of an issue and probably doesn’t even warrant its own blog post. But I feel grumpy and negative right now. Here:

Commiserate with me: Tell me about an injury and how you recovered/are recovering. Or give me a magic piriformis-healing bullet. 


5 thoughts on “Injury and Identity Crisis”

  1. As runners, we are entitled to pity parties when we are injured! And you know what, we have alllll been there, so getting the words down on your blog and sharing with others can really help.

    I know you are trying to look on the bright side- you have no races, etc, but still, not being able to run when/where/how long you want to sucks. I hear ya. No, in the grand scheme it’s not a big deal, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be sad about it!

    I’ve had butt pain before and for me, it comes on with speed stuff but not ALL the time. Maybe like once a year it happens and I just baby it and it goes away. So no magic bullet unfortunately.

    My injuries normally come on like yours- for no apparent reason at all. I always stretch, do my lower body PT stuff, try not to do to much too soon, but sometimes, shit still happens. It is something I have just come to accept from being a runner. If I continue to run, I WILL get injured eventually. It’s just part of it.

    Even if you can’t run as long as you want to right now, you are STILL a distance runner. And I am sure you are a lot of other wonderful things. My guess is distance runner may be an important part of your identity, but it’s not the main thing your friends and family love about you! 🙂

    Chin up! You will be back to running long distances. This is a blip. Get swole in the mean time! You can get jacked at the gym. 😉

    1. Thank you so much for this response, Megan! I appreciate it, and it makes me feel encouraged. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has a mysterious injury pop up (and throws pity parties about it). I don’t have a gym membership any more, but you’re right –this would be a great time to work on some other weaknesses (like doing big-girl push-ups). Thank you!!

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