Culture

Marathon Maniac: Shoe Blues

When a marathon maniac has to put away her running shoes, what happens to her running self?

marathon maniac shoe

When I walk into my closet, my running shoes are the first thing I see. It’s not that they’re front and center—I keep them hidden so I don’t have to look at them. But somehow their blue and lime-green design always peers out at me from be-hind the scarves and shirts. I hear them calling to me, asking why I have abandoned them, why they’ve had so much rest lately.

For the last 12 years, I’ve battled chronic back pain. Since I’m only 28, that’s a pretty long time. Until recently, I’d been able to more or less run through it, but this year I experienced the worst flare up of my life. The damage was bad enough to require surgery. This time I wouldn’t be able to take a couple weeks off and get back into training. It was going to be a long layoff.

Like many runners, I’m a little compulsive about the sport. If I’m not running, I’m talking about running, planning my next marathon trip or buying the latest running gear. Case in point: When my favorite running shoes were discontinued, I bought eight pairs in my size. The look on my boyfriend’s face when he saw the collection read, Is this really necessary? His well-trained mouth said, “Way to think ahead, babe.”

When I was forced to stop running, I realized just how intertwined my life is with the sport. It was enough to cause an identity crisis of epic proportions. If I can’t run, what am I going to talk about with all my running friends? What am I going to write about on my running blog? How am I going to travel if I don’t have a race to go to? Who will like me? How will I justify the amount of candy I eat?!

The thought process quickly spiraled out of control. When we spend so many hours of our lives devoted to one pursuit, our emotions, social circles, actions and, dare I say, sanity can get tangled up in the mix. By focusing on what I couldn’t do instead of what I could, I was driving myself crazy.

I decided to take a look at the other shoes in my closet. There are the cowboy boots I inherited from my great-grandfather, a square-dance caller with bizarrely small feet who shared my love for horses and country music. The dozens of heels remind me of my old office job; the hiking shoes, when I trekked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu; and the comfortable slip-ons, of sightseeing trips around the world. And of course, there are those eight brand-new pairs of running shoes, just waiting for the day when I can put them back on.

This injury hasn’t been fun, but it’s taught me a valuable lesson: I’ve got lots of shoes to fill, and not all of them involve running—just my favorite ones.

My Heart Grows Fonder
What do I miss most about running? Let me count the ways…

  • The chance to clear my brain during a hard workout.
  • The feeling of satisfaction after finishing a long run.
  • Getting beers with my friends after an easy run mid-week.
  • Having an excuse to buy new running gear.
  • Making new memories with my friends during marathon trips.

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Danielle Cemprola lives in South Carolina with her Rottweiler, Rocket. When she’s not running, Danielle blogs at trexrunner.com.