A Life Without Running

I feel there are many reasons I developed an eating disorder (predisposition, type-A personality, being a people-pleaser, etc). It began with disordered eating (which, unfortunately, is very common), and when the key turned into the lock at a track race back in 2010 (the final trigger), it went from disordered eating to an eating disorder as I flat-out dropped twenty pounds from a perfectly healthy bodyweight, strove to please a coach, compared myself to a smaller runner, and felt the approval of success with my faster running times.
Eating less and running fast became everything to me.

Of course, as many of you know, the raw food diet stepped into the picture a year later. Then entered a year of bingeing, and another year later something cracked–literally–when my kneecap broke.
As devastating and as painful as this injury was (more to be shared in an another piece/manuscript I’m writing?), a part of me also felt that it was the end to the madness. There was no possible way for me to race. I no longer had to compare my body to other runners. I had time to sit with myself and see what else there was to my life beyond running and food.
This, of course, was not an easy transition–and the eating disorder worsened before it improved–but by the end and up until this day I am better off not running consistently or competitively.
There's nothing like breaking your kneecap to get you to stop running.

There’s nothing like breaking your kneecap to get you to stop running.

Grieving
I no doubt still love to run. And when I think about how fast I used to be–how wonderful it felt to float across the ground, how much I enjoyed the freedom, how excited I felt to race, what a joy it was to help out my teammates while racing–I know I just can’t go back to it for a while. Even when I do try interval training once in a while or simply go for a run, if I know the distance or time I get down on myself, or get so competitive that I think about how I could restrict again or purge and how good it would feel to reach the top.
Whenever these thoughts flood back into my mind, I remind myself of where I am in my life: happy and fulfilled at last. As much as running adds happiness to my life, it also has an element of madness, and I do very well without running, as I’ve come to find out.
I will always miss running as fast as I used to. I will always yearn for that euphoric joy. But I know that when I ran that fast, it was really the only area of my life that brought me happiness. At this point, it is too risky to be competitive, and simply exercising too much causes the eating disorder that lurks beneath to surface.
Benefits of Low-Key Lifestyle
A life without running does have its perks. I’m not as hungry as often (since I’m not burning as many calories), which makes me less self-conscious about how much food I eat in front of others. I don’t binge as often either because I can go longer periods without eating and not feel ravenous. I also have embraced my body a lot more because I no longer solely view it as an instrument for running fast.

friends

I also find myself more daring–I can stray away from my previously strict schedule, I can participate in activities that may risk a little injury (even the smallest things like a blister or scratch on my foot caused great distress for me in the past because it might mean a day off from running), and I allow myself to eat other foods because I don’t feel the pressure to eat “purely,” or eat as few calories as possible. And even though I allow myself to be much more fluid with my food choices, I do not do it in an unhealthy way–I eat some treats without going over the top.
No one tells you how much grieving there is in loss, and I have certainly had a long grieving period. I am still sad over the loss of running, but the tradeoff–having my life back–is well worth it. Running will always feel like a long-lost friend, but I know there is potential for it to return to me (healthfully) in the future.

About Rachael

Rachael Steil is a graduate from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts. Steil an author, speaker, and a recipient of the Spirit and Outstanding Runner award for the Aquinas College cross country team and has received 6th place All-American accolades in cross country as well as 7th place in the NAIA track nationals.
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2 Responses to A Life Without Running

  1. Regan says:

    All I can do is smile, reading this, and knowing that you are happy and healthy and quickly rising! <3

  2. Anonymous says:

    I stumbled upon this blog randomly. I am an alumna who spent the years at Aquinas in recovery from anorexia. I just wanted to let you know that I found this blog to be very brave and I wish you success in your recovery.

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