Running is hard! Especially if you have injuries. Especially if you try to ignore them. An important lesson I learned from my years of running is to find a balance — yes, push yourself, but also find your limit and take your recovery days.
I learned this the hard way at the start of freshman year. With an increased competitive streak, I started running longer and harder outside of the team practices. I pushed myself to run more than I was prepared for every single day… and continued to ignore the worsening pain of my shin splints. I ran through my aching legs, in constant agony, because I thought I was still helping myself get stronger. But eventually, my doctor had to tell me to stop.
The following weeks were just as hard, but for a different reason. For a while, I was upset that I had to sit out of the morning practices and watch my teammates continue to make progress with their endurance and at meets. However, it was within this break I finally realized I was being way too hard on myself. I had to realize that whatever my goals, my health should always come first. As a result, I started running with a lot more care. I had a more lenient schedule where I made sure to take breaks in between running days. I knew I would eventually get back to where I was, but healthier.
Although this was both physically and emotionally challenging to endure, I am stronger because of it. I learned a lot about my determination to do my best but to also recognize the line between pushing myself and hurting myself.
Now, I definitely appreciate the days I run pain-free of shin splints. I am excited to go into my final year of Cross Country a healthier runner than before.