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Why I Had to Break Up with Running (& How I Coped)


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I was never a very sporty kid. My parents never exposed my sisters and me to sports, and I was clumsy. During my very dramatic high school years (aren’t everyone’s?), I could be quoted saying: “The only reason to break a sweat is for a really good shoe sale.”

But then as a college freshman, I discovered an entirely different kind of shoe love when I started going running with a friend. Yes, I wanted to ward off the Freshman 15, but I wasn’t just running for a good bod. I was running because I had fallen in love with it. In fact, I became such a devout runner that I looked back on my high school years and wished I hadn’t been so allergic to sweating. Who knows? I thought to myself. Maybe I could have run track.

Like most die-hard runners, running quickly became my therapy. While other friends dreaded their daily trip to the gym, I woke up excited to go for a run. I loved how free I felt, and the way my ponytail bounced behind me as the sun kissed my shoulders and cheeks. I could go for miles without a care in the world. I quickly went from being someone who’d rather die than run to someone who felt like she’d die if she couldn’t run. I was convinced I’d be the one long distance runner whose knees wouldn’t eventually crap out.

But, in fact, my knees did give up. After a recent series of MRIs and x-rays from a top specialist in Los Angeles, I’ve learned that I don’t actually have much cartilage left in either of them. Sure, my knees can be rebuilt — but the surgery requires a six-week recovery, which is impossible for me right now as the mother of two young kids.

When I first got my diagnosis, I figured I just needed to take some time off from hitting the pavement. I went to the gym, gutted it out on the stationery bike, and counted the days until I was pain-free and could run again. When I did get back out on the road, I felt like my kneecaps were crumbling. For the first time in my life, I walked most of the way home. Actually, I limped. And so I did the unthinkable: I broke up with running. I walked home and put my running shoes in the back of the closet, knowing I’d probably never wear them again.

Much to my surprise, life has gone on. I didn’t die when I stopped running. In fact, I’m actually coping with the break-up of one of the most significant relationships in my life better than I’d expected. 

Like all breakups, it was a slow burn. There was the bargaining period as I tried to find alternatives. I’d run every other day. I’d run with pain. I’d get surgery. But as a mom, the thought of willingly going under anesthesia just so I could run seemed crazy, even to me. 

I feel envious every time I see a runner bouncing down my street. I miss running. But like most great loves, we weren’t meant to be. I don’t want to be crazy. I don’t want to be beholden to anything. And so I decided not to be, simple as that.

And while you may no longer be able to find me sweating my way through the running paths of Los Angeles, you can find me digging in to a hard spin class or a great workout at the gym. My running shoes miss me, but I’ve moved on. Call me crazy, but it’s not so bad.

Photo: Getty