How to Survive a (Heart)Break from Running

Here are ways you can avoid letting burnout or injuries from getting you down

Running isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. I wish it were. If you don’t know this already, running can break your heart. Usually, it breaks your body first. It might be a stress fracture. It might be a nasty bout of plantar fasciitis that takes forever to heal. Maybe you run a poor race despite months of training and preparation. Or you might just get burned out and find yourself lacking motivation.

You can’t get through life (or running) without heartbreak of some kind. There’s no way to avoid it. You just have to find a way through it.

Below are the best ways to get through the inevitable (heart)breaks running hands you.

1. Dive deeply into other passions.

When I had a stress fracture it did much more than break my leg. It broke all of me. I got home from the doctor’s office, and the floodgates opened.

I wallowed in self-pity. I drank (however, this isn’t recommended). I cried a bit more.

Something I loved dearly was gone. But, it wasn’t gone forever. It would come back, but it would take some time. In the interim, I had to find another passion. Fortunately, I had a few at my disposal.

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I love movies. I love reading. I love writing. I indulged all of these passions shamelessly.

I burned through countless flicks in my Netflix queue. I read voraciously. I wrote every day.

None of these passions took the place of running. But, they kept me afloat while my body healed.

Dive deeply into your other passions. If you have no passions aside from running, get creative.

2. Meditate.

I was an anxious, high-strung kid when running discovered me. Prior to running, my mind never stopped bouncing around and chattering incessantly. It drove me nuts.

I could never get my mind to shut up. It could not be silenced. It refused to be quieted.

Then, I ran. The chattering dissipated. The quiet descended. The anxiety faded. I lost myself in the act of running.

Years later, I was face-to-face with a case of Achilles tendinitis. Unlike my stress fracture, this was the wound that wouldn’t heal. It was a break that didn’t end. I’d take a stress fracture any day of the week over the pernicious, chronic stuff that just lingers.

Without running, the voices from my distant adolescence returned. They were as unproductive as they’d been all those years ago. The anxiety accompanied them.

I had to find silence elsewhere. Indulging in one of my other passions led me to the quiet.

I wandered into my favorite bookstore. It was directly in front of me. ‘Quiet the Mind, A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation’. It was what I was seeking.

“Quiet the mind” was my meditation mantra. I did 10-15 minutes a day. It was a far cry from the 45-60 minutes of meditation I preferred on the road or trail, but it helped me find the silence I craved.

The act of meditating enabled me to experience a part of running, if not the actual act itself.

3. Do whatever your body allows you to do.

I hate cross-training. I hate yoga. I hate strength training. I would take running of any kind over the aforementioned activities any day of the week.

I only want to run. On the right day, it feels like flying. Why do anything else?

No amount of elliptical training, squatting, lunging or planking makes me feel like I am flying. I don’t find any of these acts meditative (what I love most about running). None of these acts catalyze the runner’s high (the second thing I love most about running).

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But, I’m not good at being slothful for extended periods of time. My overactive mind goes awol. My nerves fray.

Running is a drug. I am an addict. Withdrawal is inevitable when I don’t get my fix.

Non-alcoholic beer is never as good as the real thing. But, if you have no other option? An O’doul’s can at least provide the vague suggestion of beer.

Similarly, breaking a sweat doing these things (that you really should be doing anyway) can at least remind you of running. These things may help expedite the return of running to your life. They may help abbreviate the heartbreak.

Running may not be an option. But, there are other options. Do whatever your body allows you to do.

4. Stay away from social media.

I am not the biggest fan of social media in general. But, I think social media can be a veritable house of horrors if you’ve been felled by an injury. It makes you feel like a ghost.

You see the runner’s high-induced smiles of your friends enjoying their long runs. You see the epic view at the top of the hill you used to charge up aggressively. You see all the things you used to be able to do. You see it all, but you can’t be a part of it.

Seeing these things can lead to dark places. It can suck you into a quagmire of self-pity and wallowing. I’m not saying don’t feel sorry for yourself. Wallow a bit and do some grieving. But, don’t get sucked in.

READ MORE: Stop Making Comparisons and Celebrate You!

If you can’t abstain from social media, control your consumption. Minimize it. Don’t let yourself fall down the rabbit hole.

5. Remember, this too shall pass …

I vaguely recall the most brutal stage of the first (and likely only) 50-miler I’ve done. It started around mile 35 and lasted for ten miles. I ventured deep into the dark recesses of the unforgiving pain cave.

Tunnel vision descended. Hope faded. Basic motor skills sputtered or simply stalled entirely.

I stumbled. I staggered. It got uglier.

My stomach rebelled. I was staring down catastrophic system failure and there was no escape pod to be had.

As I found myself hovering near the precipice of doom, I fell back on something that has always gotten me to the finish line. I reflected on the past. I allowed faded memories of other traumas I’d survived bubble to the surface.

I’ll spare the details of these moments, but not the point. I’d survived all of these tough moments. I’d battled through despair, fatigue, pain, fear, and all the rest and I was still standing.

Don’t forget all the tough moments you’ve endured. Remind yourself of the ordeals you’ve overcome. You’ve survived every battle.

You’ll survive this (heart)break.

Matt Forsman

San Francisco-based Matt Forsman is a coach, race director and the co-founder of Sasquatch Racing and the CEO of the Marathon Matt running club (marathonmatt.com)