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April 09, 2018

The Run Struggle Is Real

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BY: ANDIE COZZARELLI

In the last few years I have been struggling to see the potential that I know is within me. I’ve shared my experiences and worked at being better for myself. I’ve expressed my vulnerability and laid it all out. Through it all I have always tried to spin each situation in a positive light. To label it as a learning experience, proclaiming to bounce back in an epic fashion. But what do you do when you don’t bounce back? When you’ve taken the steps to become better and it falls short? When you think you are being your best self but you're feeling worse than you ever have? You put away your pride and reach out for help.

About a week ago I was hitting a low point. Running, no matter what pace I was going, felt hard. My muscles were in a constant state of soreness. My legs felt stiff and heavy. Some days were okay, and some days were just awful. Recovering from long runs and workouts kept getting harder. I had been gaining weight and our team was talking with sponsors, organizing photo shoots, meetings, and the like. I didn’t want people to see me and as crazy as that may sound, I felt very inadequate. I didn’t feel fast. I felt like I was out of control. I was worried about another year of frustration, but this time much worse. And to make matters worse I felt like time was running out. If didn’t perform this year, people would give up on me. I wouldn’t have any entry times to get into the races I wanted to run. And worst of all, I would lose my sponsorship. As my worry of recovering from whatever was happening deepened, so did the pressure. So, after reaching out to Allie Bigelow, the person who gave me the confidence to keep going back in 2014 when I first joined Oiselle, I emailed Sarah Lesko. My options were to hold on to how I was feeling and let it drag me further down, or express that I was having trouble. It is natural to go through these kinds of periods and feel alone. But really your only alone if you choose to be.

Prior to emailing Lesko, I had several instances of feeling helpless, unhappy with myself, and scared of never finding an answer. The first weekend in March I had planned to run a 10k but in the week of the race every run felt bad. The easy way out would have been to drop out of the race because once again I wasn’t happy with my body or how I was feeling, and I didn’t want to run poorly. My confidence has always been a struggle for me and I didn’t want it to sink further. But I chose to do it. Although it didn’t go well, I'm happy I chose to race. I put myself out there the day before the race and I felt supported. I felt the same way when I emailed Lesko.

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Her words as I read them sunk in relieving me of the stress I was putting on myself. There are times when no matter how hard you try to keep positive, you can’t will the worries away. You must address them. Her opening line, “One of my rules in life is: don’t worry alone” reminded me why I joined this team in the first place. The unconditional love and support of this team is what keeps the dream alive. She also made a point that so many of us forget when roadblocks intercept our path, health is far more important than anything else. As I read her email I even started to feel better about my situation. I am not just a runner. Oiselle doesn’t care for me just because I run. They care because I am a person. Because I don’t want to bounce back for myself, I want to be back for those that follow me. The people who believe in me. More than anything, I love the connections I made through this team and when I hear from others that my story makes a difference, I know I am doing what I was meant to do.

It is always going to be hard to handle these kinds of situations, but it doesn’t get any better when you try to handle them yourself. As runners, we are so in tune with how we feel. Small changes in our health can be evident to us but in comparison to most of the population these things could seem insignificant. Through the issues I have been having, I haven’t been able to determine what is happening. I have been torn between who and what to trust. I have felt crazy and isolated but there has got to be an answer out there. For now I will focus on what I can, and I will have to remind myself of that every day, because it is easy to write a blog post on such a mindset and much harder to reinforce it. Sharing my struggle can only help me move forward and I hope in writing this my words will impact others. In times when I can’t be a role model for others through my achievements out on the roads, I hope to at least be a role model in how to navigate the road of uncertainty. The road where things don’t work out as you hope, but you still keep that hope. 

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