Training

Fighting Through Running Burnout

Our Marathon Maniac learns a lesson in physiology and philosophy when she puts her trust in a new training plan.

maniac rethink running

Shuffling along at a pace I couldn’t have guessed if I tried, the wind whipped through my hair as I jammed along to the sound of Bruno Mars. For this run,
I only had one goal—to end it being happy that I had gone in the first place.

There are plenty of motivational Pinterest quotes and Facebook posts that say things like “The only runs you regret are the ones you didn’t do.” But that hadn’t been true for me for longer than I cared to admit. I regretted the runs I ran too fast and even more so the ones I ran too slow. I regretted the runs that felt too hot or too cold, the runs when I felt tired and the runs when I didn’t get to talk to my friends. I started to feel as if I regretted them all.

Struggling with burnout in the aftermath of my last marathon, I wondered whether I would ever want to run again. As someone who has spent five years letting running define my existence, I couldn’t believe how much bitterness I felt. Combine that with the guilt I carried for not being grateful that I could run after months of injury, knowing how many people would kill to be able to get back on the roads, and the results were ugly.

Regardless of how selfish I felt, I knew I had to find the fun in running again or leave the sport behind. Life is too short to run (or do anything else) if you  hate it.

So, I let running go. I didn’t run at all some weeks and ran four times during others. I ran 2 miles, 4 miles or 10 miles. I ran at whatever pace felt right that day. I left my Garmin at home and brought my iPod, and I tried to remember all the things running has taught me and why I loved it so much in the first place.

Related: What Happens When You Experience Burnout

Perhaps most importantly, I asked myself: “If I knew I would never PR again or never run another marathon, would I still run?”

It took me six weeks to answer that question, but eventually I found myself looking forward to lacing up my shoes. I got the itch to sign up for a marathon and start training again, although this time with a lot less self-imposed pressure. Of course I would still run.

Over the years, I have run for emotional salvation, to achieve personal bests, as an excuse to travel and make friends, and even as a justification for that extra glass of wine. But now? I’m just running for me and for fun. I realized that it was misguided to think my relationship with the sport would stay the same even as the rest of my life has shifted. Like the supportive family member it is, running welcomed me back with open arms. The prodigal runner has returned.

4 Ways To Rethink Your Running

1. Check in with yourself and see if the reasons you started running still apply today.
2. If they don’t, what goals should you set based on your current motivations? If they do, how can you continue to improve?
3. What is your favorite thing about running? How can you do more of that?
4. If needed, take some time off to figure out how you really feel. Running will still be there when you come back!