Burnout

I have decided to stop running for a while.

Those words are really hard to say, to write, to feel. But I need to say it, to acknowledge it, to do it.

I’m burned out. And it’s not going away.

It’s hard to say for certain when this all started, but I feel like it has been coming on for a while, in one form or another. Between fall 2015 and fall 2016, I raced three marathons. Hard. I took a longish off-season, then jumped into training again early 2017. I ran the race of my life at Glass City that April, ta least for the first 25 miles until vertigo overtook me and wrecked my race, landing me a DNF. I took the fall off from marathons, skipping a half I trained for in November due to a head cold (not wanting to relive my agony at Glass City). Half-heartedly and with a new coach, I trained for the Eugene Marathon in spring 2018. I got fit and strong and fast, but my heart wasn’t in it. I lined up at the tune-up half and the marathon itself without the desire or will to push and suffer and succeed at my stated goal. I decided to shelve the marathon for a while–indefinitely, until the mood struck me again to run one.

I tried a few different things, including shorter distances, and trail racing (which I am bad at, but love). My mileage and motivation fell summer 2018 as I pushed through grief, but I had a spike of motivation and desire to run thanks to new running buddies. I ran a road half in November, a trail half in December, raced a road half in February (2019), and completed another trail half in April.

Putting it all out there like that, it seems obvious I would be experiencing burnout by this point. I’ve been training too much, racing too much. Even with switching back and forth between road and trail, knowing I wasn’t really pushing to “race” at the trail events, it’s too much training. Too much grinding day in and day out, week after week, month after month.

I’ve been wanting to blame the weather, and that is certainly part of it. This summer in Georgia has been miserable, on par with summer 2016 (I still have no idea how I trained for a marathon that summer, but living, breathing motivation was certainly part of it). It’s agonizing and demoralizing to feel like garbage on every single run, even the easy ones, because you can’t keep cool, can’t keep your heart rate reasonable, can’t hit paces you feel you should because the effort in the heat is just too damn high. The weather still hasn’t broken here, not for more than a couple, teasing days at a time, and the extended forecast does not look promising.

I’ve been skipping run after run, opting for more sleep, or fewer miles, or easy runs instead of a workout. I’ve tried running with people or running solo. I’ve been trying to follow along with Shannon’s marathon training plan (within reason — I’m not actually signed up for the marathon) just to have a little structure and reason to get out he door, but it just isn’t working. Every time I have one good run and think, maybe this is it, the end of the slump, the positive feelings evaporate the very next outing.

I’ve thought about changing goals: more trail races; training for something short and fast like a 5K or 10K; exploring ultra running. But none of it feels right. None of it fires me up or makes me want to jump out of bed and into my running shoes. And for me, for this extended of a period of time with so little motivation, it isn’t normal.

So I need to stop. I have to stop banging my head against the wall, my feet against the pavement. Perhaps I’ll do a short run here or there when the weather finally improves. Perhaps I won’t. I’m planning on picking back up on cross training, especially strength training, and I’m going to try out a spin class tomorrow (it’s been years since I’ve taken spin). But until the mood really strikes me, until I wake up or come home thinking, “damn, I REALLY want to go for a run!” with a big grin on my face, I won’t be lacing up my running shoes.

Hopefully this feeling won’t last forever. Hopefully this will all subside and I can enjoy one of my favorite hobbies again. But if I don’t stop now and deal with this, I may destroy my relationship with running forever, and I can’t tolerate that idea. Not unless I find something that makes me so much happier that I find myself never missing running again.

So, running, we need to take a break. It’s not you–it’s me. But I’ll be back. At least I very much hope so.

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I'm a 30-year-old writer and runner. This is my running blog.

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