That’s my advice to a few of you. A few of you that have lost your passion for running; are struggling to stay healthy; are stuck in an endless cycle of injuries and stress fractures; and those of you that feel that you have nothing else to offer outside of running.
Stop pushing your body to do things it doesn’t want to do. Stop taking away from all other aspects of your life to obsess about only one of the many things you’re good at and can have passion for. Maybe it’s for a year, a month, or a decade. But if you’re constantly struggling to be happy and healthy while running, you need to make a difficult choice to walk away.
Why in the world would I do that?!
You should quit running for your health (mental or physical), for your career or personal development, or simply quit running because you don’t love it right now.
I recently shared the stories of my sister, who after 7 stress fractures, has found other passion and is doing a-ok without running. And of my old teammate Ammar Moussa, who could have run post-collegiately, but chose to pursue a career in Washington D.C. instead because that’s what he’s passionate about now.
Both of these runners did something they never saw themselves doing: quit running. Why? For the sake of health and for pursuing other meaningful passions.
Quit Running for your Health
There are collegiate and professional runners all over the country/world at this very moment who are dealing with their 7-8th stress fracture, contemplating throwing in the towel, then deciding that they are stronger than that. They decide that momma didn’t raise no quitter! They’re gonna stick it out because that’s what they do. They don’t want to let themselves/anyone else down, or waste an opportunity they worked so hard to attain.
Female runners dealing with disordered eating and low bone density have an especially hard time quitting. Even in the face of undeniable evidence that their bodies will face osteoporosis in the future if a change isn’t made or that their life outside of running is suffering, they prevail (I say this as one of those people who finally decided to step away temporarily).
Quitting is not shameful
Perhaps because we consider persistence to be honorable and quitting to be shameful. We celebrate the heroes of the sport that refuse to givve up, even when faced with horrible illness or devastating set backs. We LOVE the story of the runner that faced endless adversity but managed to pull through and come out a champion.
But what we don’t see are the many stories of runners that keep pushing through pain and injury and never make it big. Those collegiate runners that stick around for 4-5 years of constant injury and agony, never letting go of a dream, only to graduate and not know what to do next.
I really don’t mean to sound cynical, because I’m not. I’m a dreamer too. I have visions of myself running fast and reaching my goals. I HAVE those visions. I was the injured runner that didn’t know when to walk away. That felt shame in wanting to quit. That felt weak for wanting to quit.
The fact is— quitting is not shameful. In fact, if you’re quitting for the sake of your health or to pursue other passions, it’s a brave and difficult decision to make. It’s way harder than sticking around and trying again and again. But it’s the right thing to do. There’s no shame in putting your long-term health as a priority.
Even the Professionals Quit at Some Point
When you’re fighting with your body and just keep pushing through injury, fatigue and mental burnout; remember that even the professionals have to quit (temporarily or forever) at some point in their lives.
Remember when Ryan Hall retired from running due to chronic fatigue and low testosterone? He did so for his overall health, and there’s no way it was an easy decision to make. Do we think he’s weak for walking away? Do we call him a quitter? Absolutely not.
His body was wrecked from years of hard training and he could no longer compete the way he wanted to. If anything, he should have walked away sooner. But now he’s casually able to run again for fun and has plans to maybe do a marathon in the near future. Quitting isn’t necessarily forever. And sometimes it’s exactly what your body and mind need to recover and regain the passion you had before.
Collegiate runners (and any other runners) need to know that it’s not the worst thing in the world to walk away from a scholarship or from the prestige of being a collegiate athlete. Long term health and personal development are the most important things you can focus on, so if running is getting in the way of that; get the hell out.