Injury, isolation and identity

I have not been able to run for four weeks now and it feels like the end of the world. Insignificant to everyone else. Irrelevant to the rest of the world. Pathetic to think like that really. Or is it?

The gloom of injury- but there is always light at the end

I was on form, I was training well, I was loving life, then I pulled my calf on the track at Leeds Beckett Uni on my second lap. I have been trying to work out what it is that gets you down when you can’t run. Clearly a tweaked calf is about as insignificant as it gets compared to a disability, a long term health condition, or a long term injury such as a tear, torn ligament or a fracture. So you are still able to cycle. You can still walk. You can still go to the gym. You can still go to Crossfit Regain (I can’t recommend that place highly enough). And don’t get me wrong, I love doing these activities and they are key components to my cross training, but nothing quite seems to fill the void of the run.

But I have come to realise it is not the loss of the physical act of running that is causing this mild depression, it is a loss of identity. For the last five years since I took up running I have immersed myself in it- admittedly only in the last year have I taken training more seriously, but I have been totally immersed in watching, reading about, coaching and generally getting involved in all aspects of it. I have become a runner. I identify myself as a runner. When you get injured it sucks out the enthusiasm, the drive, the energy you once had for the activity, it questions who you are. If I can’t run then I am no longer a runner, and therefore who am I?! My identify has gone. And that is something that is difficult to deal with.

I am sure it is the case for all “athletes” at whatever level they compete at, there are certainly high profile professional sports stars who have spoken of the void that is left in their lives after retiring, suffering a long term injury, or achieving high level success. But I find it interesting that this can also happen to amateurish sports participants such as myself, and to occur in a matter of less than four weeks….

I have had some physio and sports massage and will be able to start running again in a few days, by which time the negative thoughts in my head over the past few weeks will all be a distant memory, but I will certainly try and think back to this. My identity as a runner may be insignificant to everyone else, but it is important to me…..



3 thoughts on “Injury, isolation and identity

  1. Sorry to hear you’re still out Ross. My 7 months out up til this time last year was also tough. I think your point about identity is true. We’re runners, and the hours we spend thinking about it, planning it and talking about it only make any sense if we doubt it. Running is such a simple thing which is why it’s a fundamental loss when we can’t do it. I cycled, walked and physio’d (and mourned my lack of fitness) for what seemed like an eternity! I stared enviously at any out-of-shape jogger who I saw shuffling up Stonegate Road – what I’d have given to even do that! But of course it wasn’t forever. I stuck to good advice and tried to stay patient. Testing out how much I could and couldn’t comfortably do and listening to my body. You’ll get there soon, and when you do you’ll appreciate it every bit as much as you miss it now! (And in the meantime enjoy doing the other things that make you who you are. It’s all part of getting better – and staying sane – and we’re not JUST runners, of course!)

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