Leaving the Past Behind


The other day, I received a random text from my ex-husband. We have an amicable relationship but we don’t speak very often and, since we have now been officially divorced for four and a half years and separated for more than six years, we don’t really have much to say. As a result, I don’t think about him that much anymore, which didn’t really occur to me until I received that text, for some reason.

See, there was a time in my life when he occupied every single brain wave and thought. The trauma of our marriage and divorce weighed on me and it seemed I couldn’t get through a conversation without bringing him up in some way. I dealt with terrible flashbacks and panic attacks for years after we split up (let’s just say he’s a good person now but he wasn’t always) and I wondered how long I would be a prisoner of something that had already ended. Then, I got that text and I realized, all of a sudden, that all of those things almost feel like they happened to someone else. It’s like I know that they happened to me, but they aren’t me. At least, not anymore. They feel distant and removed, almost like childhood memories.

Although I recognize that that’s kind of a weird and dark lead-in to this post, that text message and subsequent realization then made me think about running. I started to reflect on why I’ve felt so different while training for the Prague Marathon than I have felt in recent years. Why have I been more positive and successful this time? Why has it felt easier? Granted, I’m not that far along in training, but it feels different this time.

I think the answer is because my running past is starting to feel like it happened to someone else. And that’s a good thing.

Healing_Quotes1As you know if you’ve been reading here for any length of time, I’ve run 50 marathons. I ran 22 marathons over the span of 365 days, and ran in 16 states in one year. I used to regularly run 50 or 60 miles a week, and running felt easy. It felt fun. It was my life and, quite often, the best part of my day. When I finally had to have back surgery to deal with my chronic back problems, the comeback was slow and painful. I couldn’t run as much as I used to, and training was more challenging. I agonized over the idea of quitting marathons, wondering who I would be if I didn’t run them anymore and what I would write about. I wondered how I would define myself and who would care about what I had to say if I wasn’t talking about marathons. I struggled with the loss of my identity.

Eventually marathons became miserable, and ultimately, I made the decision not to run them anymore and to stick with half marathons. I didn’t run a single marathon in 2016 for the first time since 2010, when I ran my first marathon. I did do plenty of half marathons, though, which were much easier on my body and allowed me to totally remove the pressure I put on myself about running. Even though I didn’t exactly hit any of them out of the park like I had hoped, I spent a year just running for fun and getting back to making the sport fun again.

Since I’ve started training for the Prague Marathon, I’ve noticed a huge shift in the way I’m thinking about running. First of all, I’m approaching it with excitement. I haven’t run a marathon in what feels like forever – it will be 18 months between my 50th marathon and Prague, assuming I make it to the finish line – so there’s been a restoration of that sense of wonder that comes with training for your first marathon. You start each week excited to see what you can do and looking forward to your next run! Each milestone is celebrated and every long run feels like an accomplishment. Nothing is taken for granted.

Second, I’m not nervous. There’s something a little unique about this situation, which is that I do actually know my body is capable of running a marathon. I mean, I’ve run 50 of them, right? I voluntarily made the choice to stop because I was dealing with a lot of pain. If I experience that again this training cycle, I can make that choice again. I have nothing to prove to myself here. Knowing that I have done it before and can do it again if I work hard and am having fun makes it less stressful. Knowing that I don’t have to if I don’t want to is a calming feeling.

Third, I have really very little recollection of how my body used to feel back in 2012-2013 when I was running so many races. That is hugely helpful because, just like my divorce, it now feels so long ago that it feels like it happened to someone else. I’m not spending all my time comparing my training now to my training then. Sure, I can look at my times and read back through old blog posts if I want, but that doesn’t serve me. That person is not who I am today. Being able to let go of my running past is helping me to move forward with my running future. At the same time, knowing those abilities are buried deep inside me somewhere is super helpful.

1169022941-26546-time-doesnt-heal-any-wounds-its-what-you-do-with-time-thatI don’t know where this training cycle will take me. While I certainly hope it takes me across the finish line in Prague, I’m ok if it doesn’t. I’m finally learning to be content with the runner (and person) that I am today – regardless of where the road ahead may lead or how fast I travel it.

LEAVE A COMMENT: Have you ever found yourself stuck on a past part of your life? How did you move forward?





20 thoughts on “Leaving the Past Behind

  1. Oh this resonates with me on so many levels! I definitely have things from my past that I’m happy to say feel like they happened to someone else. I also turned to triathlons for some of the reasons you mentioned and, I have so much FUN training and racing because I still feel like I’m new to the sport, have so much to learn, and faster times to chase.
    GREAT POST and I love following your journey to Prague!

    1. Thanks, Allie! I think that “new sport” feeling is really exciting because it represents a new challenge. I understand why people switch sports or preferred fitness types – I mean, there was a time when I went to 6 barre classes a week before I started teaching. I’m happy that my past happened because it made me the person I am today, but I’m glad I don’t dwell on it anymore. I can’t wait to hear how your race in Cuba goes!!

  2. I can relate to this so much. My training has drastically changed over the past few years and even back when I was swimming, it seems like such a distant memory. I’m glad you are running and enjoying it again.

    1. Yes! This must make so much sense to you since you swam competitively for so many years and now never swim. I wish I had been reading your blog back when it was “LOLZthatswim”

  3. I think you have hit it. That is exactly what is different about you that time, and now that you have said it, I can read it in your words.
    I’ve been stuck in the past, I’ve been stuck in what the future should be. I’m still trying to find the present. I’m still trying to find a meaningful way to move towards the future.

    1. That’s one of life’s biggest challenges! Learning to embrace the present while preparing for the future and incorporating your past is tough. I think a lot of it just takes time. I had to really resist the urge to quote Taylor Swift in this post, so I will do it here – “I found that time can heal most anything and you just might find who you’re supposed to be.” Whew, I feel better!

    2. I really love this scattered comment Suz – because it is so TRUE … and because it is so YOU!

      Traditional thinking said you had to get to a certain place to make life-changing decisions … reality, especially in our always-on life over the last few decades, says that ‘certain place’ is a myth! So while you are trying to find the stability that allows you to contextualize all the balls you are juggling … you finally realize that is life. It just keeps moving.

      You are at an incredible point of your life – yet one that is stressful and exhausting. I remember our multi-year struggles with infertility and miscarriages … and it was quite the ‘joyride’ of emotions. But what we saw even then was that as we came out of each valley, Lisa and I were stronger – but looking around we also saw that wasn’t always the case for others. THAT became our foundation, our past, present and future. So that even now as we realize that empty-nesting allows us to completely up-end what we assumed was our path … the uncertainty can be stressful, but the certainty of each other is not.

      1. That’s a really great lesson and such a positive way to look at things, Mike. I have definitely see infertility struggles (and hey, let’s be honest- kids too!) break couples and the stresses make it easy to see why. Looking at this time as an opportunity to build a foundation might not make things easier, but it gives a purpose to the pain and stress.

  4. (I am reminded of something you did years ago, making a comment on a post of mine to apologize for not making more comments on posts of mine. 🙂 Been reading and loving your posts … just no time to breathe!)

    I am reminded of a saying that goes something like “You are no longer the person you were yesterday, and not yet who you will be tomorrow” … or another one “Everyone has gone through something that has changed them in a way that they can never go back to the person they were before”.

    It is funny to think how long I have been reading your blog … since the very, very early days. So many great things and yet so many dark things you have shared (and obviously experienced) in the years since. You are not that person anymore … and yet you are afforded the luxury of no longer being that person precisely BECAUSE you once WERE that person. It that remotely makes sense.

    For me it is ‘the fat kid’ – there is a corner of my soul in which I will always be the fat kid. I mean, I have lost >100lbs *twice* (more precisely ~200lbs and ~125lbs), and have now spent more of my life at a ‘healthy weight’ than overweight … and having run more than 16,000 miles since kicking into ‘distance runner’ mode in 2012 as part of my post-thyroid weight loss, it is hard to look back to myself in 2011 being heavy and out of shape and connect.

    Yet somewhere inside of me I will always be connected to the fat kid. Because that set of sensibilities and sensitivities informs how I listen, how I see the world, how I view and treat others. Because of how I was treated … and perhaps more importantly how people changed in their treatment of me once I had lost the weight – and, as Lisa reminds me, how *I* changed in terms of my interactions when I lost weight.

    We all have these moments we think of as ‘pivotal’ or ‘defining’, but then with the gift of hindsight we realize that it is the slow grind that happened BEFORE and AFTER those moments that were the real fundamental moments of our lives.

    I am excited for you in so many ways – because of how you have grown through the years we have interacted, your sense of openness, sharing and adventure, the happiness you share with AJ (as an old romantic nothing gets to my heart like that!), your indomitable spirit, your tenaciousness, and on and on. I hope things go well with Prague, but love your attitude – because ultimately no race matters more than your health!

    Thanks as always for sharing 🙂

    1. That’s a perfect comparison, Mike! You spent many years overweight and it hugely informed who you are as a person, but now you’ve spent more of your life at a healthy weight than an unhealthy weight. Like you said, it almost feels like it happened to someone else but it still informs who you are. I have now been divorced from my ex longer than our relationship lasted, and I am finally reaching that point as well. It’s a good feeling to be moving past that, but I still don’t want to forget the lessons I’ve learned and the person I became as a result.

  5. This post couldn’t have come at a better time. The last couple days I’ve been thinking about an ex boyfriend of mine who was incredibly abusive to every way possible. It’s been well over a year since we’ve spoken, but like you, he consumed my every thought. And even more recently, a person I’ve been seeing decided to get back together with his ex girlfriend…also someone that consumed my every thought, and then poof he’s gone. I haven’t wanted to run, do yoga, nothing…I’m struggling with moving on from both situations. I feel differently about running. My passion isn’t there as much as it used to be.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear you are going through such a tough time, Leslie! That’s an awful situation and obviously, I know exactly how you feel. I think it is normal to struggle with moving on in a situation like that, and there’s no right or wrong time frame. What I have found really helpful in situations like this is to not set long term goals, as crazy as that sounds. I feel overwhelmed when I do that! I just focus on achieving something that day, or even that hour – like maybe going for one short walk in my neighborhood, or doing 10 minutes of a yoga or barre video – just something. As I start to get back into it, I start to feel better, and then the pattern is easier to continue. It’s really, really hard, though. Please don’t hesitate to email me if you want an accountability buddy! I have really benefited from being able to text my coach over the past 6 weeks and tell her every time I finish a workout! It seems silly but it has been very motivating for me. I hope you start feeling better soon. It may take time, but you will!

      1. Wow, thank you so much for the suggestions and offering to be an accountability partner. I’m sure you’re days and weekends are jammed packed full of stuff. I will definitely take you up on that offer.

  6. Danielle,

    So timely for my day today to read your post. The last two years of running & singing have been challenging & frustrating since having blood clots in my lungs. Its almost a grief I am going thru because the future is still unclear as to whether I am in a new normal or if my body will cooperate again someday! Thanks for sharing the reminder to be fully present and to let go. Still working on it!

    1. I completely understand the grief you are talking about, Denise! I love the phrase “new normal.” That was one of the biggest struggles for me because the reality is that I am in a new normal now and that was very hard to accept. It was hard to find the love in running once it wasn’t quite so “easy” anymore, and a lot of that had to do with just letting go of my past expectations. It took a really long time, though! I hope I get to see you guys soon!

  7. Great post! This really resonates with me. I always always think of where I am as my ‘new normal’. Wherever I am in my running/training/barre-ing/yoga-ing, is where I am…and that’s different from where I used to be. I have had cycles where I was doing a heck of a lot more…and cycles where I’ve been doing less. Life is an ebb and flow…body changes, lifestyle changes, schedule changes…all lead to changes in energy and time available and you adjust to do what you need to stay healthy and sane.

    Personally, I’ve been through some difficult stuff and much like your opening remarks…I was stuck and never thought I’d find my way out of being consumed by that sadness and darkness. But as you mentioned, I rarely think about those difficult times anymore. And when I do, my thoughts are focused on positivity. I think ‘look at what I’ve been able to accomplish given where I was’ and think about how strong I am that I have overcome the obstacles that seemed insurmountable at the time.

    1. Caroline, that is fantastic that you are able to view things from that “new normal” perspective. I have really tried to do that over the past 3 years, but was never able to do so until I actually stepped away from marathons. Taking that break really allowed me to find the distance between these two times in my life. You’re so right, though – that is definitely the best way to look at things!

      I personally agree with your 100%. I absolutely view the difficult times in my life with positivity for exactly the reasons you mentioned. They prove to me how strong I am and give me a ton of confidence in my ability to overcome more challenges in the future! I try my best to enjoy the high points in life while knowing that the lows will come and preparing accordingly. Thanks for the great comment!

    1. Thank you, Sandra! It took me a really long time to get to this point. I had my back surgery almost 3 years ago – crazy!

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