Running and Identity

Running and Identity

I’m a runner.

If you know me, you probably already know that. I have been running for over twelve years, including nine seasons of running competitively on a cross-country team. I love to run. I love to learn about running. I love meeting other runners. I love to talk about running. I do not like resting.

I considered not getting to run a punishment. For the learning schedule I wrote about a couple of weeks ago Sam and I have both a reward and a punishment system. If we complete the week’s schedule we get to go on a date, but if we do not complete it we have to take off two days of running the next week.

But now I’m injured and I haven’t really run in almost a month.

Resting was necessary at first, since I could barely walk, but it was still extremely hard. I had no patience. I was constantly restless and wanting to run, and about four days after I injured myself (at the Brasov marathon) I tried to run, but I only made it half a mile before the pain forced me to stop. I attempted to run a few more times after that, and I even managed to do a couple six mile runs, but not completely without pain. Finally, after I came back from a run and was limping around the house Sam advised for me to take off running until I was completely healed.

At first, as I was resting and struggling with not being able to run I kept asking myself why it was so hard for me. I probably could use a break, as I haven’t taken a real break from running since my sophomore year of high school. But I didn’t want to take a break. One day I just asked Sam what was wrong with me, why it was so hard for me.

“Maybe it is hard for you because running is such a part of your life,” he said. “Maybe when you don’t run you feel a little less ‘Julie’.” I just pondered that, trying to be patient and content with resting.

Even before I was injured I was struggling with my reasons for running. Unlike Sam, I hadn’t pinpointed my reason for running to my satisfaction. Ever since I finished my last season of cross-country I wasn’t sure what to do, what to train for, how to run. After running cross-country for so many years and centering my training around it, once my last season ended I felt a bit lost. I still had the desire to push myself and run competitively, but I also thought I had the desire to run long distance like Sam. But then I wasn’t sure that was for me either. I was having an “identity crisis,” all because I had to take a break from running.

The question of “who am I as a runner?” led me to ponder the bigger question of “who am I?” This is nothing new; I have both pondered and answered this question before, and I even led a study on the topic, but this time it struck me in a different way due to my circumstances and caused me to examine my recent attitude.

I have been studying Galatians with the Peters family on Google Communities (which may deserve its own post someday!) and last week a point was brought up that really stuck with me. The section we were studying was Galatians 3.26-4.7, and the question raised was how much race, gender, and social status must one give up to identify with Christ? We all came to the conclusion that we must give up everything to identify with Christ. We must die to our own identity and let Christ be the identity through which we do everything.

This made me think again about my identity and examine how I really thought of myself. In high school my cross-country coach did a devo for the girls’ team one day and she asked us all, “Who are you?” Were we girls? Were we runners? Were we the “cool” one, or the good student? The first thought that should come to our minds, if it is true, she told us, is that we are Christ’s. That has stuck with me through the years, and my recent injury and this Bible study brought it back to my attention once again and caused me to examine myself.

Is my identity in Christ? Yes. Am I still trying to hold on to some of my own identity? Maybe. So, if my identity is completely in Christ, then it is okay if I never run again. If my identity is in Christ, then I am a Christian, and I happen to be one who likes to run.

I am still a runner. I still can’t wait to run when my injury heals. But I’m okay with waiting a little longer. I pray I will glorify Christ through all that I do, including running. Running is not my identity; Christ is.

~ Julie Peters

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