By: Kara Goucher (Nuun Elite Athlete)
Running has been one of the central focuses of my life since I was 12 years old. I ran races in the summertime with my Grandpa for fun starting at age 6, but at 12 I joined the cross country team at my junior high school. Running came easy for me. Once I figured out a little bit of pacing, more often than not, I found myself crossing the line first. I loved that running felt so natural. After playing, and struggling, with so many other sports, running was the first sport I did that felt familial. I didn’t have to think about where the soccer ball was hitting my shoe or the angle of my tennis racket in my hand. I just ran. It was freeing and exhilarating.
After years of running fast, loving my teammates, and winning state titles, running suddenly became hard. I was a junior in high school and my body was changing. I was breathing so much harder, my body didn’t seem to respond when I told it to push. I didn’t recognize my body. It was taller, thicker, and I felt out of sync with it. I felt devastated. The sport I loved so much now felt like it was playing a cruel trick on me. The sport which once came so naturally now felt so awkward and difficult. My teammates kept me in running. They supported me and we fought for team victories together. But inside I worried that I would never feel the same. I’d never feel that freedom running along a cross country course. I worried it would feel hard and foreign forever.
Over time I did adjust to my new body. I learned to adapt to it and to treat it well. And low and behold, the love of running and competing came back. It took a while, and a few frustrating seasons, but in college it all started to click again. I adjusted to the new me, and I felt totally connected to myself.
When I look back, I wish someone had told me, “Kara, it will be ok. You are just going through a bump in the road. There will be many more, but you will get through it. Lean on your friends, but keep believing. Keep loving running, it is still there for you.” Hearing from someone who had gone through what I went through would have helped so much. Hearing someone say that they were also plagued with self-doubt, anger, shame, and frustration. To know that I wasn’t the first girl to go through and experience like this.
Now that I am a mother, I think about this more and more. If I had a daughter who was struggling with her running, what would I do? Who would I want her to speak with to know that she wasn’t alone? After giving it lots of thought, I’ve decided that I should help be that voice. I host a women’s running retreat every year where we focus on self love and worth. Why not give the same experience to young women? Last year I set the goal to host my first every girls running retreat day. It’s still in the planning stages, but I am excited to spread my message with other young women. Maybe, I can help someone have a little less confusion and pain. Maybe I can be the woman I needed when I was struggling. Who knows? I might just inspire the next great runner of her generation. But at the very least, I’ll help a lot of girls know that they are not alone.