I wish I could go back in time and tell my high school and college self that it will all be okay. Those times when it seemed like the end of the world that I was injured, or when I just couldn’t fathom how I’d ever be able to compete with the best girls. Be patient, I’d tell myself, just put in the work one day at a time, and you have no idea how far you’ll go.
It’s so easy in retrospect to see how well everything worked out, and how what seemed like an eternity of struggling to run was just a blip on the radar. That’s the beauty of perspective; you know the end result, and there’s no need to worry when you know how great everything will turn out.
But it’s so hard to be patient in the moment when you don’t yet know where your path will lead. I don’t know whether I’ll come back better after each injury, although I always believe I will. I don’t know how long it will take to heal and be able to compete again, and it’s always longer than I want. It’s hard to be patient when my competitors are putting in mile after mile, dropping big workouts and impressive times. How can I be patient when just keeping up with the curve is hard enough?
Sometimes being patient feels like being lazy. And this is where I really struggle. There’s days when any activity is aggravating my injuries, and the smartest thing is to rest so that I’ll feel better sooner. My mind can start to go a little crazy in those situations. Am I truly resting to feel better? Or am I just being lazy? Will this even help me feel better? How much do I push through and when do I stop? Does this one day of training really affect my fitness?
As a runner, all we want is to be the best possible runner we can be. I want to win every race I’m in, make every World and Olympic team, and crush every workout along the way. I know that perfection is not realistic, but it’s still the dream.
It’s not that I want the process to be any easier; I just wish I could speed it up. And this is where patience comes in. I have to respect the fact that my body works and recovers at its own pace, and the only thing rushing will do is prolong achieving my goals.
I’m such a planner, and I usually have a pretty defined timeline in my head when it comes to my running. I know where I want to race and when, and I have goals years in advance that I’m looking forward to. I can so easily get caught up in what I want and become frustrated when things aren’t working out on my schedule. But that’s when I need to take a step back and realize it’s not my schedule at all, and I’m completely missing the point. It’s not my timeline that matters; it’s God’s. He has a purpose for every step of the way, and he knows the final outcome.
When I just remember that God knows that outcome, it’s so much easier to accept the situation. He is in charge. Being able to rest in this knowledge gives me the strength to remain patient and optimistic.
My most rewarding times as an athlete are overcoming injuries and slowly being able to experience the joy of running and training again. When you start from the bottom, you get to see huge gains in fitness every week. Every mile feels like a victory! And that magical day I’ll finally get to spike up and race again – that’s what keeps me smiling every day. Until then, I’ll just be patient.