“What Are You Training For?”

socal runners

the question is short-lived when none of your running pals have races coming up. shockingly we found other things to talk about at dinner the other night.

“What are you training for” is the running world’s version of, “Have you picked a major?” “How’s business?” or “Is the baby sleeping for you?” Most times it’s used out of genuine interest, sometimes politeness, and other times out of not having anything else to say. I’ve asked it a million times and have been asked it a million more, and each time it feels different, somehow. It’s a very ambiguous question for being so seemingly clear-cut.

In my case, the feelings are determined by my current situation:

1) training is going great but I don’t want to brag too obnoxiously

2) training is meh and I don’t know why/want to make an excuse why

3) training fucking sucks and I now immediately need 10 drinks to wash away its memory

4) not training but feel like I should be/haven’t committed to race yet

5) not training and don’t give a flying bat shit in hell about it

The problem is that for the last two years or so literally every single one of those situations has spawned a feeling of guilt. (Self-inflicted, obviously, no fault at all to the inquirer.) Guilt for appearing boastful, guilt for “wasting my time” not working towards a goal, guilt for failure, guilt for traveling to a race and leaving Brian at home, guilt for running healthy when others can’t, guilt for being a buzzkill when I was the injured one not running… So much undue, bullshit guilt!

It’s maddening because this is MY hobby, yet somehow I’ve let – the people around me? the pressure? the internet? – unknowingly shame me into running too little, too much, too fast, too slow. The fuck! This was NOT what I signed up for when I ran my first non-mandatory mile ten years ago.

Yes, I openly share my stories and talk endlessly about running to anyone who will listen (or doesn’t want to but is forced to…), so there’s no one to blame but myself. I’m just mad that I fun-sucked the joy out of running by letting something that was so purely MINE get tangled up in everyone else’s crap. (ahem, I mean, everyone else’s ‘special journeys’…) There’s a difference between being a supportive comrade enjoying the road together, and picking a fight over something that’s not yours.

I was so wrapped up in the pandemonium around me I didn’t realize I’d completely laid down and given up on my own battle.


when you find yourself wanting to ninja kick running in the face every run… or feeling like you got kicked… or not caring about kicking at all… something needs to change

I daydreamed about the early days running laps around the indoor track between classes just because I had a free 30 minutes to kill. Of early mornings sucking in the brisk air of the metroparks thinking “I can run one more!” instead of “I have to run one more.” Of days I’d grin with pride at someone calling me a “crazy runner” instead of slinking away, deferring it with a story of a skipped run or DNF. I missed those days of running for athleticism, fitness, and just because I wanted to so damn bad. When I’d say I “needed” a run it was because I needed the release that came from it, not because a schedule was telling me I did.

I needed to rid the guilt. Get back to why I started running in the first place.


hi, self! what do you feel like doing today? running? cool! nothing? ok well how bout at least a walk so we don’t keep getting fat. alright cool, let’s go.

After months of easing back into ‘fun running’, I was starting to feel like my old self again. Running when I wanted, how far I wanted, and shocking everybody that even kind of knows me by long running “just because.”

(Ok, that’s only kind of true. I was bribed with brunch and long-lost friends and you’re damned right those two things can convince me to run 10 miles for fun.)

I was finally seeing running again for what it used to be – a healthy habit, a satisfying release, something to look forward to. But yesterday I had a reunion with a side of running I’d forgotten about.

After a particularly trying day, undoubtedly the culmination of a few stressful weeks I’ve been stifling, a wave of anxiety finally bubbled over. I hastily grabbed my shoes and headphones, storming out the door, hoping that a walk and some fresh air would clear my head and set me back straight.

I started angrily punching buttons on my phone trying to get some distracting music to play, and before I knew it I was running. Hard. I really hadn’t intended to – I was wearing old shoes I don’t run in anymore and a bra not up to the challenge a sprint down the boardwalk requires – but my brain said go, so I went.

Minutes flew by as I let all the things that were bothering me just waft around in my head. Not trying to shove them out or force a fix, I just listened as I let them roll around my mucky brain. A mile past, and then another, and before I knew it I was out of worries to sort through and out of pavement. I sat on a rock on the jetty catching my breath, a proverbial suitcase full of neglected problems finally airing out next to me, and let a few silent tears stream down my face.


I didn’t come up with any solutions when I finally stood up and jogged back home, but I felt a million times better having at least let myself consider all the things that had been weighing on me.

So welcome back, therapy running. Thanks for being such a supportive and guiltless listener. Next time I’ll wear a proper bra and maybe we can hang out a little longer.

Sarah OUaL


11 thoughts on ““What Are You Training For?”

  1. Says grandmother Emily: I believe you are on a fine track despite many curves to come and, believe me or not (I could be wrong, I know)….some day it won’t be much about running per se and more about living life’s journey as fully as possible regardless of the scenery, the condition of your shoes, or the uplifting quality of your bra.



  2. Oh boy….this post is the first one I read in months….of any blogs….I have been so disconnected….not reading blogs….not writing mine….not much running….
    This post….
    I reached me….that guilt part…. That list….well ok maybe minus 1…
    I relate to all that you wrote….
    I am not at peace with my current running state….I am still in the frustrated place trying to get to the reunion you had…. Now I have hope i too will get there.


  3. i’ve fallen back in love with the easy, “run as much as you want” days. It took a long time and blogging/racing/goal setting really does put pressure on “training” constantly. Just slowing down and running a little less has helped me out greatly. And whether you’re training for a race or not, your blog is so much fun to read because you’re a great writer. Also, i’m a fangirl of the fangirl so keep posting about your oiselle experiences :)


  4. I love this post! The last few months I have been feeling the same. Guilty for not running and not knowing why I felt so bad for not running. I had to try and find those “fun runs” and stop running because I “had” to. I’m glad you’re finding your happy running place!


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