Shante Little's Next Chapter: Choosing Happiness
From the moment that we met Haute Volée, Shante Little, we knew that this woman had determination, integrity and a genuine and joyful spirit. Through her training and her struggles with injuries she has always been honest with herself. She has always been willing to let others into her journey, communicating the highs and lows that come with the sport. We appreciate this about her. She is not afraid to be herself and share that with others. Shante recently filled us in on her new path. We are humbled to share in her journey and excited to support her next steps.
It's taken me a long time to write about my injury. Mostly because I felt, and still feel, that I didn't have permission to. A stress fracture is not career ending. Two stints of 8 weeks off and a slow return to training are almost customary when it comes to professional athletics and the sacrifices that must be made for the sake of getting around the track.
My injury didn't, and doesn't, feel real to me or validated. I've wrestled with myself over the last few months about it: About whether or not I took it laying down, about whether or not I fought hard enough to come back this season.
In truth, this has now been a year-long process. It has been dragged through the mud, left outside by the door to dry until hardened dirt could be smacked off on the side of the porch before being allowed back inside. It made me tired and frustrated. And then it made me shrug. Months of no answers and training through, wondering if it was all in my head, to finally knowing and then months of rest and too much time in my head led me to again finally knowing.
I love everything running has ever given me; Every chance to prove myself to myself. Every time I was scared shitless and every time I didn't think I could run another step. I love every relationship with every mentor, friend and sister in sport.
But I don't love being at war with myself and that is something that I have not yet learned how to avoid in track & field. I turned a lot of great feelings and all of those beautiful moments (that I still sad smile back on) into definitions. In a social media post after learning that I would need to take another 8 weeks off for rest and recovery, I said that for a long time I felt like "Running wasn't for me." To be clear, I felt like I wasn't running for me. And I meant that. I was doing it to define myself and to measure my worth. I was only as good as my last race or my last practice and how good I thought people thought I was. Do you see how this cycle goes?
"Every pose is a test." - @shantelittle
Last year I set a personal best by almost 2 seconds. I can still remember in that moment, after looking at the clock and stagger walking towards the shed to sit down, being so happy and so proud. The work had paid off and I had done well.
And hours later I was thinking about how it still wasn't the standard and I still hadn't done enough. Even at my best, I wasn't happy. I wouldn't allow myself to be.
In some regards, that is the nature of the beast. As athletes, we are hard-wired to want more, to want faster, to want now. To excel in the sport is to be hungry. But not all hunger is good.
When I first started this journey, all I wanted was fast for me: to see how far I could go, to see if I could hang- a DIII girl running with the pros. Along the way I lost sight of the journey and the landmarks that broke up weeks of work like streetlights and telephone poles during neighborhood miles. What happens to the runner only focusing on what's next and next and next, chasing highs that are far and few between and short-lived while they're at it? There is no satiety.
But that is my personal battle.
I have felt guilty. I have amazing opportunities and advantages in this sport and to have it still not be enough bothers me. I have felt like a quitter. I have been mad at myself for not wanting it enough. Trials are in 7 weeks. Could I do it? Could I come back and get ready and race and do it? I believe that I could. Athletes come back from injuries all of the time. There is a part of me that even believes that I should do it. But do I want to?
16 weeks away from the track gave me the space to finally reflect on all of this.
I don't want to.
In many ways, the injury kind of gave me a way out. The same way that it was a slow death, the time away from the track was a slow rebirth. I thought I might miss it. And I do, parts of it. I miss pre-race jitters and fixing my ponytail right before I get into the blocks, the straight fear and adrenaline that sparks all at once when the gun goes off, being out of breath right off the line and for a moment feeling bright and electric and alive. But I don't miss fighting myself.
"If there's one thing that I believe in, wholeheartedly, it's in being brave." Competing at the British Outdoor Champs.
Right now, I run 3x a week with another sprinter who is coming back from an injury and gearing up for her 2016 season, for the Trials and a spot on the Olympic Team. Some days I pace the workouts, other days I'm there just for support (you know what it's like to run intervals by yourself). It might be one of the most humbling experiences I've had.
My first day back I ran 200m intervals with her. I could only do 7 of the 8 intervals. Another day under different circumstances, that would have ruined me. My heart would have hurt and I would have had tears in my eyes.
On that day I had no ego. The work was just work. Nothing about me or (what I imagined to be) my place in the world was going to change because I had a hard time in a workout. It was refreshing to just run and not worry about what it meant. As I've been regaining my strength it's stayed the same, even when I've had to take days off or cut certain runs in half…all of this much to my surprise. But again, there's nothing depending on what I do in a given workout. There's no end goal in sight. Maybe to run more than 2 or 3 times a week. To run faster. To keep up. Hell, maybe to pace an 800m/1500m one day. But not for any reason in particular other than just doing it.
I've found that when it comes to this sport, simplicity is key for me. Years of weird attachment and dependency has awarded me that. I have to scale all the way back with running and let it be exactly what it is: Running and nothing more.
Maybe that's me not being cut out for a career in professional athletics, not being able to hang. But you know what? I'm having fun. And at 23, nearing 24, I'm happier. I smile more. I take things a bit more lightly. I feel good. I've grown up and grown into myself. I made my #womanup2016 vows and I'm living them. I'm making decisions for myself and truly letting go of anything that is not of service to me anymore.
I've shifted my focus. I'm lifting more. With everything that I wrote above, do I question whether or not this is a good idea? A little. But I am at peace with myself right now because right now, I am happy.
And I'm going to choose happiness every time.
Inspiration via @fitnuzz
Transitioning away from the track at first felt like a break up. Who would I be if I wasn't who I've always been? What happens if I change my mind…again?
And the whisper: if I don't run, do I still matter?
That question killed me, but it was exactly the type of question I needed to ask to realize just how much of myself I had lost. I wasn't holding onto running for the sake of running anymore. It was about relevance. Here I was, telling high school girls to remember that they are more than just girls who run track - that they are whole beings with a myriad of other passions and interests, that they are a list of beautiful things where "track athlete" is another bullet point. It took a long time for me to remember that myself.
And it took me a long time to see that the people in my corner were not there because of one bullet point. I have been so fortunate to run for Oiselle, especially in my first year of training post-grad. I was adopted into a family of fierce women with unwavering strength and love for each other. That is why I choose to continue to be a part of O's sisterhood via the Oiselle Volée team. Because of the strength and love they have shown me and because I want to continue to show strength and love to every woman running, lifting, and living with their head up and wings out. Because like Sally said: team is fluid, not final.
So here's to running, for the love of the run.