Learning to Choose Joy

by Megan Llewellyn

Joy is resting when your muscles are too sore to move. Joy is happy hour drinks with friends. Joy is being able to eat pizza late at night with girlfriends. Joy is enjoying takeout with your partner.

“No days off. I’m the girl who takes no days off”. This is the mantra I repeated in my head as I rounded the curve to complete my long run in the pouring rain. I was exhausted, but slogged through another high mileage week anyway. After the run, I’d go home and load up on chicken, vegetables, nuts and fruits, so-called “healthy” foods, when in reality all I really wanted was to go to a restaurant and order anything I craved. Caught up in my rigid eating and running routine, I was a prisoner in my own game, on a train I couldn’t get off of.

My love of running started when I ran high school track and it continued post-collegiately as I got into competitive half marathon racing. Ever since I was 15 I’ve run what most people consider relatively high mileage. Running and being thin were my identity. I was once in a bar in college and a stranger spotted me and called out “Hey look! It’s the runner girl!” That was me. The “runner girl.” I only ate “clean” foods and I ran every day. But the joy was slowly being squeezed out of my life. Countless invites to dinners and parties were turned down because I knew the food wouldn’t fit my rigid diet or I wouldn’t have ample time beforehand to get my run in. 

Relationships suffered because, quite frankly, I wasn’t always the most fun to be around. I was in exceptional racing shape and winning my age group for every race I ran but, I would have given up all the medals I won in exchange for being able to guiltlessly down a slice of birthday cake. 

I was winning my age group for every race I ran but, I would have given up all the medals I won in exchange for being able to guiltlessly down a slice of birthday cake. 

Now in my early thirties, I walked past a mirror in a lobby this past year and did a double take. “Is that really me?” I wondered. I could see every bone in my body and was frightened for myself. Where exactly had “no days off” gotten me? To a weight that only a child should be. “I have to change”, I vowed and slowly started to take rest days and eat dessert nightly. While uncomfortable at first, I began to see an increase of joy creep back into my life. 

Long distance runners are so often viewed as being extremely disciplined and loyal. However, those seemingly great qualities can get the best of us sometimes. I fought for so long to get off the crazy ride that I myself had created. I’m not fully there yet but have managed to make great strides towards it. 

My hope for everyone still struggling is that you too can learn to choose joy. Joy is resting when your muscles are too sore to move. Joy is happy hour drinks with friends. Joy is being able to eat pizza late at night with girlfriends. Joy is enjoying takeout with your partner. Running will always be there but people may not. Embrace the freedom of being more carefree. Let go of the schedule and routine that has enslaved you. You are so much stronger than the voice in your head that says you’ve failed if you miss a day of running.


National Eating Disorder Association 24/7 Hotline: 1-800-931-2237

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