How Being a Runner Broke Me and Made Me Whole

I am a runner. I wasn’t born a runner. And never did I think I’d become “a runner.” 

 But now, I can proudly say that I am a runner.

Before beginning my journey as a runner, I was confident that I could get into it but also knew it would be challenging. I knew that the physical benefits of running – feeling healthier and looking better – would be nice byproducts and mentally I wanted to put my skills and all the work I was doing inside my head to the test.

After all, have you ever heard someone say that running is “all mental” or “99% percent mental?” They believe that most people have the physical capability to prepare to run a marathon (or other races) through proper training, but the real path to achieving the goal is through mental strength.

Well, I believe I am a mentally strong person. I have worked very hard to get inside my head, understand my thoughts, and manage what I think and do to effectively live my purpose. I have learned to coach others and help them deal with and manage the mental aspects of business and achievement. And through the years, I built a robust toolbox of resources I can apply to most situations to help me operate from a place of love and gratitude.

In my mind, the mental readiness box was checked.

Over the past two months – after the Tokyo marathon was canceled and our world was flipped upside down by the pandemic – I elevated my running challenge by committing to run every day. At the end of April, I ran the most miles I ever ran in one month totaling 218 miles. For May, I decided to do the Jesse Itzler “Calendar Club Challange.” The challenge required that I run the number of miles that correlated with the day of the month. Meaning on the first, I ran one mile. On the second, I ran two, the third, I ran three, and so on…

I brought my May running mileage to 418 miles and then it came to a screeching halt.

I broke – literally.

As I finished – what is now known as my “last run” – I felt a pain that I knew was “beyond normal” and opted to see my doctor. While I figured it was just a minor issue and I was mentally prepared to keep running, I found out that my body hit its breaking point. Unknowingly, I ran two marathon-distance runs with what I learned was a stress fracture in my leg. The news of my broken foot and the recovery plan hurt in ways I didn’t expect that went far beyond the physical discomfort.

After truly realizing that I was physically broken, I broke on the inside. 

My mental strength was tested in a way in which I didn’t prepare for and I hit a place of panic that cracked the door open and let my inner critic creep in. Then before I knew it, I was in a bad, weird, unhappy place. I was disappointed that my goals were unreachable. I felt like my hard work was gone and it was such a disheartening feeling to know that even though I was mentally strong, no mental force could push me past a broken bone. My inner critic put that demonizing thought into my head that I was going to go back to being “the Old Chad,” the non-runner, out-of-shape Chad that wasn’t healthy or driven.

But I beat the inner critic.

Over time, I learned how to manage those thoughts and push through them. So I put my lessons into action and eventually, I snapped out of it. 

I brought myself to the realization that no injury could rob me of the five marathons and 800+ miles I ran in about 60 days. Nothing could take away the lessons I learned during the challenge, the feelings I got from the people who supported me when I ran (and when I couldn’t), the silent conversations I had in my head to keep me present and keep my feet moving when I knew they wanted to stop – all of that was a part of who I was and nothing could take that away. 

My mental strength was not prepared for my sports-related injury. It took me down and broke me. But I had to break to put myself back together in a brand new way and realize that I can never be the Old Chad. I am a new Chad and this experience brought me another step closer to becoming my best self – the exact mission I wake up every day determined to continue. 

This was a lesson the universe wanted to teach me. So I realize that it’s just a few steps back, which will keep me running many more steps forward.

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