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My Experience Falling Out of (and back in) Love with Running

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Wisconsin chapter.

it’s been quite a rollercoaster!

I very clearly remember the moment during my sophomore year of high school when my orthopedic doctor told me I’d have to stop running. After three months of running through constant pain, I knew it was only a matter of time before I received the news on the condition of my shins. But I certainly never expected a diagnosis of stress fractures in both my left and right tibias, and a recovery time of six months. In that plain, cold, white room, I felt more empty than I had ever felt. Maybe for some people, having a legitimate reason to avoid running would have been an excitable thing, but for me, a varsity cross-country athlete whose sport was her whole world, it was a devastating blow. 

I’ve had my ups and downs with running. The fracture diagnosis was just the beginning, believe it or not. It’s been my whole life but it’s also been the reason why I felt like my life was falling apart. It gave me some of my best memories but it also gave me more body issues than a teenage girl should ever have to go through. It is part of who I am, but it isn’t all of who I am like I used to believe. I won’t pretend that my relationship with running now is a perfect one; in fact, I’d say it’s far from it. But I can say that it’s significantly better than how it was just a few years ago. 

While I may have thought the middle of my injury was tough, I had no idea just how much discipline I would need to come back to running after that substantial break. The quality I learned about myself most from that time, and the months that followed, was that I’m extremely persistent. I had to essentially teach myself how to be a successful runner again, after not running for over half a year. 

And of course, it would be extremely false to claim that there was never a time I thought about quitting, and giving up on the sport I had loved for so long. Things were different after my fractures; my times weren’t as fast as they once were, my workouts had to have a different pace, and the six- or seven-mile runs I used to consider easy mileage were now runs I dreamed of completing again. I certainly shed a lot of tears comparing myself to the runner I was just a year prior. But while it took almost a year of getting back into shape, I eventually was able to race a meet for the first time in March of my junior year. There was nothing glamorous or spectacular about that three-mile race. But it was a race. And if you had told me a year earlier that I would one day be able to race again, I’m not sure I would have believed you.

But then, a year later, I graduated high school, and I came here, to UW-Madison. Here, I found myself at a crossroads. See, as much as I do truly have a love for running, it had been buried for a while by the obligation of it. I went to practice every day in high school because I made a commitment to my team and my coaches. As cliche as it sounds, I lost track of my love for it. I wasn’t running for myself, I was running because I believed it was what I was supposed to do. But I didn’t have that obligation here. It was just me. So I stopped. I couldn’t find it in me to continue doing something I couldn’t genuinely claim I wanted to do. 

And I would argue that this was extremely necessary for me to do, just for my own well-being. I recently reached a point where I found myself missing running—not because I felt guilty for not running, but because I truly, honestly missed the way it made me feel. I needed that break to really realize that it wasn’t running that was my enemy, as dramatic as that sounds.  Instead, my enemy was my constant comparison to a younger me. I still struggle with it on some days, as I’m sure every individual struggles occasionally with a sport, a hobby, or a lifestyle they chose. But I know now that stopping running isn’t the solution. If anything, I find it’s the one time I can step away and focus on something solely for myself. Running makes me a better person, and the runs I’ve done in recent weeks, just for fun, have reminded me of why I started. I was eight years old the first time I ran a local 5K, and I didn’t care about time or place or anything then. I just knew I loved to run and I loved to move; 11 years later, I think I’m finally starting to reteach myself that. 

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Sophia Ross

Wisconsin '26

Sophia is currently a freshman at University of Wisconsin-Madison, and she is planning on majoring in Journalism! In her free time Sophia loves running, taking pictures on her film camera, and going to as many concerts as her wallet allows!