Today, while running, a peculiar thought crossed my mind. Although, at first, it wasn’t really a thought but more of a feeling. The thought came a little later, but it hit me like a ton of bricks: my body no longer feels like an athlete’s body.
I’m not referring to the important and legitimate debate about body images and body positivity, nor am I talking about the often-cited phrase, «Every body is a runner’s body.» It also didn’t feel like one of those disorders where people feel as if parts of their body, or their entire body, no longer belong to them. No, this is definitely still my body. It’s just that it has changed, due to the pandemic, injuries, and breaks from running.
Just a few months ago, it was natural for me to think about marathon personal bests and ultra-runs. But today, this thought dominated my mind: this is no longer the body of an athlete. Instead, it feels like the body of someone who just enjoys going for a casual jog from time to time. There’s nothing wrong with that — in fact, I see people like me every day on the streets, in the park, or by the riverbank. I greet them warmly, feeling connected to them, as we all belong to the same tribe of people. Yet, this realization frightened me.
I know that I only recovered from COVID-19 three weeks ago. I’ve been consciously easing back into training, gradually incorporating strength exercises, running slowly, and not attempting any long distances. I’m fully aware that running can’t feel the same as it did six months ago — and I didn’t expect it to. This makes me even more curious about what has specifically changed, but I still can’t find an answer.
These thoughts don’t bring me down
One thing I can rule out is the much-discussed midlife crisis. I might even be the right age for it, but I’ve already gone through the phase of buying a new bike, colorful running clothes, and a set of kettlebells a few years ago. I’m also very aware that our bodies change with each passing year — and they usually don’t get stronger. These thoughts do occupy my mind, but they don’t bring me down.
Instead, it seems to be more about something related to identity. The image I had of myself, which was, at least when it came to running, closely tied to my body, has been cracked. It might even be crumbling a bit here and there. An intriguing challenge will be to find the glue and paint needed to repair, complete, or even redesign this image in some areas. I honestly have no clue how to accomplish this yet.
But there’s one thing I’m sure of: I will keep running. No matter how fast, how slow, how short, or how far. And through it all, I remain steadfast in my belief that each step I take brings me closer to embracing the ever-evolving journey that is both my body and my identity.