The reality of running is that the process is rarely linear. Not for people finding their way into the sport for the first time, not for those that enjoy it as a dedicated hobby, or even for elites. Our mid-distance specialist, Rebecca Mehra, shares her thoughts about a trying two years battling sickness and injury, and the strategies that have helped her heal and slowly regain forward momentum.


We hope her story resonates with you if you find yourself in a similar running slump. Bad days, and even bad seasons, are bound to happen but hope can be found in sharing our experiences with each other. So for that, we thank you, Rebecca.

Sometimes you have a shit day. Other times a shit week, or maybe a shit month. Well, lately I have just been “feeling like a nasty sack of shit” to quote one of my favorite comedians, Bo Burnham. And I am simultaneously on a journey of rediscovering my faith in myself to be the athlete I know I can be.


From 2018-2021 I went on a journey of self-discovery in my running. I ran so many personal bests, qualified for the US Championship finals, tried a new event on the track, won races all around the world, and found a future version of myself that could make US national teams possible. I was on top of the world winning a race at the Pre Classic in August of 2021, outkicking athletes who were much more highly touted than I was. I will never forget Des Linden’s words commentating at the end of the race: “She’s got momentum, momentum, momentum.” The running world was my oyster.


Over the last 2 years that self-belief has come in waves and dwindled. Since early 2022, I have hit hurdle after hurdle. With each new injury, niggle, and sickness, I slowly lost my faith in my body to run. I stopped trusting my instincts. I considered leaving the sport altogether. I have realized that there is only so much adversity one can face head-on, without it beginning to take a heavy toll. I pushed forward each time, confident that eventually I would catch a break.

I am simultaneously on a journey of rediscovering my faith in myself to be the athlete I know I can be.

Last summer my track season was over before it started. I overtrained while at training camp in April, only to get back in shape in time to get knocked down by covid last June. I continued to struggle with post-covid symptoms, so ultimately shut down my 2022 season after USATF Championships. After a few months, and a bout with the swine flu, my long covid symptoms subsided, and I was able to return to training in the Fall. I went to a high school training camp in Mammoth, CA, one of my favorite places in the world, desperate to find some joy in my running again in the place I first fell in love with it. I coached high school cross country in the fall and relished the chance to help other young runners find the same lifelong love of the sport that I developed at that age. I had a blast, and my own training chugged along in a positive direction.


I came into this spring feeling refreshed, excited, and possibly in the best shape of my life. I ran sub-60 quarters in practice effortlessly and felt the most ready I had been in a while heading into a 1500 race at Sound Running in the beginning of May. I stumbled during the final meters of a physical race. Though I had believed I came out of the scuffle scot-free, I was anything but.


I am a stubborn goat—maybe some of you can relate. In many circumstances, this trait has served me well. I stubbornly go after big goals, even when on paper they don’t seem achievable. I have come back from injuries seemingly out of shape, only to will myself to big performances and even personal bests. For the next several weeks after my fall, I fought through a lot of hip pain, downing 4 Advils a day to keep me running and training. After several mediocre races, I finally woke up one morning unable to walk. My stubbornness backfired. After seeing various physical therapists, an ortho doc, and getting an MRI and an ultrasound, I found out I have a tear in my hip labrum. Given the pain I was experiencing, the injury made sense, but it was one I was incredibly unfamiliar with. Through college I sustained 4(!) femoral stress injuries, but bones heal with time. Do labrums?


Well, kind of. I took a few weeks off and worked hard on my physical therapy. The week before USAs in early July I started jogging again. I had a secret thought that maybe just maybe I could sneak into USAs. The last day to enter I remember having a stabbing headache most of the day- I thought maybe it was too much sun or the stress of dealing with my injury. The next day I got a fever, realized I was unable to taste jelly beans, and tested positive for covid. That put an end to my USAs pipe dream and nailed the coffin on my 2023 track season.

I am a stubborn goat—maybe some of you can relate. In many circumstances, this trait has served me well.

The last 5 weeks have been a little up and down, but I am starting to make some progress in my recovery. I completely lost my sense of taste and smell, which for those of you who have also experienced this, it is very odd and disconcerting. I love food, and being unable to taste even the spiciest of Indian curries was a little bit shocking. At one point on a walk, I got desperate to smell something, anything. I walked into a disgusting porta potty, opened the toilet, and took a deep breath in. Nothing, other than my utter disgust for what I had just done.


I have since seen a pelvic floor PT for the first time, and through weeks more of rest my hip has improved immensely. I am jogging again, and pain-free! I have begun to allow myself to dream about next year, and how I can chase my goals at the 2024 Olympic Trials. What will I do differently than in years past? How I will keep myself more accountable and protective of my body? I am working through answers to those questions at the moment. I need to keep my stubbornness more in check, and really listen to my body when it says no. Though this is a skill I have improved over time, I am far from having my 10,000 hours at it. I plan to inject more joy into my training as well and say yes to the fun race opportunities when they arise, even if I have said no in the past to protect my training. Arnold Palmer once said when speaking of golf inches “The most important are the 6 inches between your ears.” The more I can feel like I am making my training and racing a fun endeavor, the better I will feel, and the better I will compete.

I plan to inject more joy into my training as well and say yes to the fun race opportunities when they arise

I am still dealing with some post-covid issues (headaches and high heart rate when exercising) but I am remaining positive that this will subside given time. In the meantime I am taking lots of breaks and days off, walking frequently, and always stopping to eat the blackberries off of bushes. I am looking forward to a couple of fun trips this month, including to Switzerland to see fam, and Birdcamp in a few weeks. I am also getting married in October, so I have plenty on my plate to keep me busy.


I have my partner, friends, and family to thank for getting me through a really rough last couple of months. I still have bad days, but I have employed a few coping mechanisms that have gotten me through the worst. I hope some of these resonate with those of you also going through a slump or rough patch.

Prioritize Time With People Who Love You

In the last few weeks I have gone for so many walks with friends, and had dinners and brunches galore. My sister came to visit me in Seattle, and I took a weekend trip with one of my closest and oldest friends. I’ve been honest with them about how I am doing, which although hasn’t been fun to be honest about, has helped lift my spirits to unload the burden.


I am a big fan of the injury journal, so much so I have talked about it both with the high school cross country team I coach and with middle and high school runners across the country. Through nearly all of my injuries since college I have kept an injury journal, both as a way to alleviate my frustration and a great way to look back on my progress back to health.

Treat Yo-self

Is anyone else a Parks and Rec fan? I am a big believer in giving your body and mind what they want, and so lately I have been saying yes to all of my favorite treats. I had boba 3 times in one day a couple of weeks ago, no regrets.


I learned that I liked to bake a few years ago, mostly because I enjoy eating baked goods. I made some delicious almond flour banana chocolate chip muffins recently that I delivered to a couple of friends going through it in medical residency programs. It felt good to help others also going through tough life phases.

Water Floating

I am lucky to have access to plenty of bodies of water in Seattle. There is something both cathartic and relaxing to me about being in or on the water. Highly recommend this as solo time.

Garbage Television

Lately, I have been subjecting Jordan to Netflix’s “Too Hot to Handle.” Though it is incredibly cringy, it’s a nice chance to completely turn off my wandering mind. Also, I love the World Cup, and despite the recent USWNT loss, it has been a wonderfully fun thing to watch (though it is anything but garbage tv!).

I wish I could say that my story has a fairytale ending, but I just don’t know yet, and that’s ok. Running is both magical and really hard.

I wish I could say that my story has a fairytale ending, but I just don’t know yet, and that’s ok. Running is both magical and really hard. Being successful, even when you work hard and want it so badly, is never a guarantee. I was taught in high school that with running “you get out what you put in,” and sometimes that just isn’t the case. I still want it, and I still want to work hard toward this 2024 season, so with some new tools in my toolbox, a heightened level of self-awareness and a touch of joy, time will tell how it pans out.


For now, I am trying to be patient with myself, and get a little better every day. There’s no time like the present.


August 16, 2023 — Rebecca Mehra

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