The Evolving Runner

By: Toni Kengor

By: Toni Kengor

I’m letting go of the identity “Injured Runner.” It didn’t hit me until recently that I internally have made this my identity for going on 2 years. 

What started off as a light and almost carefree label (because of feeling that it would be very temporary) has turned into the only association I have between my body and running. 

I want to move forward from that though. At the bottom of my heart, I feel like I need to acknowledge it all so I can let it go, move on, and heal. 

I’ve held onto so much pain, sadness, and bitterness these last 2 years. It didn’t hit me until I did a guided meditation back in the spring. This meditation told me to put my hands over the area of pain. I instantly put my hands on my feet. It then said to just feel the pain and I started to cry, which turned into sobbing. 

The tears were an accumulation of the sadness about the timing of it all, while I was in the thick of working towards a goal I’d dreamed of for years and was so close I could taste it. Confusion on what I was doing wrong, because of genuinely trying to make an effort to do everything right. Bitterness towards my body for not cooperating with my heart. Worry that this would be where I would always stay. I had this barrier of strength up for so long, that I didn’t allow myself to actually grieve what I had been going through.

I do want to acknowledge that in these last 2 years I did have some of the biggest highlights of my life. I got married, left my full-time job to become a full-time coach and business owner, traveled to places I’ve never been before. I have a little bit of guilt even writing this because of those highlights, but I’ve always looked at those moments with gratitude because they put life and my current situation into perspective. 

Perspective was a tough thing for me to navigate initially. I would see friends, and others succeeding – achieving the goals I too wanted to achieve, and running the distances I wanted to run. It was this weird combination of being happy for them and equally jealous. I’m ashamed to say that I was jealous, wishing we could be closer to the same. But I can now acknowledge that my jealousy was a result of my own fear that they would continue to succeed and I would continue to stay where I am. 

I forgive my jealous thoughts, my loss in perspective along the way, and my negligence of realizing I needed to work through my emotions. 

Something that has baffled me in all of this is the fact that those thoughts and feelings of jealousy or bitterness didn’t bleed into my work of being a running coach. A comment commonly made to me is,
“It must be so hard being injured and coaching others. You’re always surrounded by running.”

Maybe it’s because I live vicariously through my athletes or maybe it’s because my athletes help me see that I’m living my purpose on a daily basis. But I’m grateful to be able to honestly say I have felt and continue to feel nothing but joy for each of them. It’s talking through the good days, the bad days, the breakthrough workouts, the longest runs they’ve had in years or ever, the moments they help me see I’ve been there for them in a way I never knew, the days they achieve their goal/dreams, the smiles on their faces during our calls, and more… I look at my team (including the coaches), my husband, and a couple close friends all as my tied-for-first biggest support system. They’ve helped me stay more positive, hopeful, and optimistic through these last 2 years more than they even know. 

I’m grateful for everyone who has brought joy and happiness and support into my life over these last 2 years. 

So how can I fully shake this identity crisis - something that’s been a part of me for so long, but is holding me back from moving forward?

Forgiveness to my injuries and to my body…

I understand your purpose wasn’t to inflict pain, or sadness or bitterness. 

I do believe in everything happening for a reason, and I think you were trying to open up time for me to be present and do more in the other areas of my life outside of my own running. 

I see now that during this time you were present I was able to do and achieve some amazing things:

- Marry the love of my life. 

- Grow my business the point of being able to do it full time. 

- Travel to so many new places.

- Work with amazing companies. 

- See my family more. 

- Support my husband during his season(s). 

I know there’s more big things I’m forgetting – but just know that I’m grateful for all of those moments. 

Injuries, I look at this experience you gave me as a way to step back, learn, and regroup, in order to move forward. There are lessons I’ve learned, relationships that have been mended, positive habits formed – and I don’t know if I would have made time for those things otherwise. 

Body, I know you understand how much of an impact this sport has on my life. How I’m still here itching to get back and chase those goals that were left unachieved. You’ve shown me in moments within these last two years that it doesn’t take long to get back there. I almost feel you’ve done that to show me I don’t need to rush, and keep me hungry. Thank you for those lessons, because now as I sit here writing this, I’m not afraid for when you’re ready… but excited. 

And with all of that said, to my identity of being an Injured Runner, I’m ready to let you go. And I’m ready to take on a new identity…

An Evolving Runner.

Toni Kengor