WARNING: This is gonna be a MONSTER long post, I am literally sharing my biggest secret, the one I have kept from you this whole time. If you do not want to read the whole thing, I have made a video, which will be at the bottom. You can watch that instead.
Ever since this blog really started getting traction, I have always thought about this day.
Wondered how I would approach it.
How you would handle it.
At the time, I didn’t imagine that it would involve me choosing to stop running.
I thought I would just naturally reach a point where I wanted to focus on a family, and that the desire would be so strong that I would be prepared to give it all up to try.
But things don’t work out how we expect.
It’s hard to believe that I am giving up the opportunity of a lifetime, two actually. Not only am I not pacing the London Marathon, but I am not racing Gold Coast Marathon either; a race I was SO excited about.
Still am actually.
Yet here I am, telling you that I am done running…at least for now.
I havent run in 2 weeks, and the scary part is, I havent missed it.
No, I am not injured. No there was nothing wrong with my blood work that Inside Tracker were kind enough to get done for me.
My heart just wasn’t in it any more, and once I finally admitted it out loud, I felt relief, not fear.
You know I am an intuitive person, but this decision did not come easy. I couldn’t hear my internal voice, and that was scary.
It has been the hardest decision of my life, giving up something that I have given my entire life to for 14 years. I was in a cycle of Train-Race-Rest, Train-Race-Rest, over and over again.
I loved it, and I have said countless times that this is the primary reason I do love to run; what you put in is what you get out.
I am extremely thankful that I havent had any injuries requiring more than 2 weeks off. Sure, I have had a few big injuries that needed 3-4 weeks of no running, but I could cross train, and cross train I did, probably harder than my regular training, certainly not a break.
However, it seems all those years of intensity have finally burned me out.
I always told you the 2 weeks I think everyone should take after a goal race is usually enough for an emotional reset, but this time, it just didn’t work.
It has been five months since I raced, five months since California International Marathon, and in that time, I could probably count on two hands the amount of runs I have actually enjoyed.
The rest have been one big struggle, a case of just getting through the run, dreading the next run, and trying to convince my mind that it would be worth it, all I needed to do was persevere, my heart would come back, my excitement would come back.
But I didn’t.
And that is why I was struggling.
Of course the travel, emotions, and stress over the last few months from other areas of my life also play a part in feeling this way, but this has been going on way longer than that. I would even trace this back to Falmouth last year, where I first felt that burnout feeling, questioning why I was even doing this anymore.
So yes, running and I are on a break.
Not the kinda break where you take a few weeks and get back into it.
The kind of break that doesn’t guarantee you will ever come back. This might be the end of my competitive days.
I do believe I will come back, in fact, I think that coming back will someday be my next big goal. Since I achieved my lifetime goal of running for Great Britain and Northern Ireland in a World Championship I have lacked that drive to go chase something BIG. Yeah, there is the sub 2:30 marathon, but it just didn’t feel realistic to me, at least not now.
I believe deep in my heart, that someday, hopefully after children, I will make it my mission to come back, stronger and faster than ever. A new sense of appreciation and love for the sport.
Over the past few months, running has become a source of frustration and dread, not joy, and that is when you know it is time to try something new. The lure of running a PR can be enough to keep training, keep fighting, and it was, but I noticed that the London Marathon pacing was making my life miserable.
I was freaking out about not being able to hit the times, my workouts kept getting worse and worse. I was back to running 90 miles a week, doing everything Steve and I usually would; getting the strength training in, cross training in, eating the right foods, but I kept getting slower.
The slower I got, the more I tried to force it.
Even though I didn’t look at my GPS watch in my workouts (and lucky I didn’t, or I would have had a lot of DNF workouts), when I would get home and look at the workout on my Strava account, I would be in complete disbelief that I could feel so exhausted running a pace for a few miles that I could usually hold for a long run.
Enough was enough. It was making me miserable. I decided it was time to tell the London Marathon Elite Coordinator that things were not going well, and the last thing I would want would be to sabotage the GB girls chances of running a London 2017 World Championship time by not being able to hold the pace. I would never forgive myself for that.
I thought would get the relief that way, I would feel better after I told him how I was feeling.
Appreciating my honesty, he told me to report back in a weeks time, it would be a shame to lose me as a pacer.
Giving my body another week to catch up.
I clung onto hope that it would click together at some point, it had to. How could I be doing all my training, yet getting slower?
Except it didn’t.
A week came and went, and I still didn’t feel any better.
Time to tell him, and I did, thinking this would give me the relief I needed to take the stress off and start to enjoy running again.
Except it didn’t.
I felt just as bad for the next week, and found myself thinking “I’m done, I’m done, I need a break, I don’t want to do this anymore” in my workouts. It made it almost impossible to use Evie’s Be Kind to Yourself suggestions, as they do not work as well against a mind that is already defeated and doesn’t want to be saved.
I kept trying, kept desperately blowing that little fire burning in my heart that believed it would all come together, I would get back into it, and I had plenty of time to get ready for Gold Coast Marathon,
Until the breaking point came.
The day I was headed back to the US, I had a track workout, and once again, those toxic thoughts poisoned my mind from the first step of the hard interval.
Only 1/3 of the way through my workout, someone working for my local track, the place where my running had all began, came out onto the track, and told me I needed to leave the track as it was a private track.
Usually, I would have gone off the track, frustrated, but determined to finish what I started, and somehow made it work on the 1.5 mile loop around Verulanium.
But I didn’t. This time, I was given an out, and I took it.
I never stop workouts like that, not early in the workout before the tough part even begins.
That’s all I kept thinking, over and over again.
I had no desire to restart the workout, or even start my watch.
So I ran home, crying the whole way.
Fell into the hallway of my parents house, and lost it.
Crying my eyes out, as Charlotte and Jess came around the corner, wondering what could be so wrong. They had come over early this morning to say goodbye.
Jess knew that I had been struggling with this lately, but I could see in her eyes that she knew this was for real.
I really was done.
My parents rushed out to the hallway, helpless, speechless as to what they could say to make the pain go away.
But I couldn’t be helped.
We all knew the answer.
Running and I had grown apart and it was time to say goodbye.
Not forever, I really believe that. I will come back to it someday, but I just felt like if I kept going, I would end up despising running, everything about it.
We decided I would take five days to think about it. Decide if it was what I really wanted, or if I really did just need a reset.
The emotional turmoil during these few days was horrible. I felt as though there was no right answer, all the what if’s poisoned my mind:
What if I am wasting my talent? Will I regret quitting? What if I can’t ever stop and suddenly I am 40 years old and can’t have kids? What if people are not interested in what I have to offer because I am not an elite runner? What if I can’t find another job?
What if, what if, what if.
That is all I thought about for five days. Allowing my mind to be open, and talking to many of my close friends and family about my thoughts, but in reality, there was only one person whose opinion could really decide what was best for me.
Or so I thought.
Steve made it very clear that he was not going to decide this for me. He was not going to say anything really because it had to be my choice. He would support and be happy with either decision, but I had to be the one to make it. He just wanted me to be happy.
I wanted him to make it for me. Take the burden off my heart, but at the same time, I knew he was right. Only I could decide what I wanted.
My intuition seemed confused, I pleaded with it, give me a sign, tell me what you want.
Five days came and went, and although I didn’t have a definite answer, I could hear a quiet whisper I could only hear when I really sat and listened.
I knew that was my decision.
I just needed to say it aloud.
I think the moment I told Steve my decision will be one of those photograph moments you remember forever. I can remember every detail of that moment, and I think I always will.
But once I said it to him, I felt relief.
As I told my close friends and family, they sent back kind loving words of support. The peace in my heart continued to grow.
I had made the right choice.
How long will I stop running for?
Well, it has been two weeks, and I have had absolutely zero desire to run, and zero desire to exercise. I am going to give myself some time to embrace that, do nothing, and enjoy doing nothing…other than a few leisurely walks, which I am surprised to say I have actually enjoyed.
I know I want health to be the priority here, and so after 3-4 weeks of rest, I will begin to exercise. Maybe a few runs here and there, but nothing structured, and I will do whatever exercise I feel like.
Now is the time for me to have fun exploring new things, go to a Barre class, a trampoline class, and best of all, get back in the saddle and go horse riding. Something I gave up for my running 12 years ago.
It seems like too much of a coincidence that we live in the Horse capital of the world.
I am sure you noticed that other than my Facebook live chats on the Running for Real page, I have been pretty quiet on social media. Partly because I have been working so hard getting Running for Real ready (Podcast launches April 14!!), and partly because I have felt guilty, like I was living a double life.
My best friends and family knew that I was feeling a little lost, had a little identity crisis going on, but I hated showing a different face to you guys.
I felt like a fraud. It felt deceptive, like I was not doing the one thing I had promised I would always do; be real.
I wasn’t quite ready to reveal it to the world, and I hadn’t informed my sponsors or even GCAM about what was happening.
Those were some hard phone calls, but after each one was supportive and kind, I felt better.
So pretty big bombshell, right.
But wait, there’s more.
I have not yet revealed my biggest secret of all.
The one that I have been hiding from you all this time, terrified that if it came out, I would be the center of an internet attack.
I still am terrified, but at the same time, I am not going to listen to that fear anymore.
I am going to be brave and share it with you.
There is another part of this story, another reason I wanted to step away from running.
You may have noticed over the past year I have mentioned how much I wanted to focus on my health. I changed my diet. I tried to relax more, I take probiotics, I eat organic, grass fed, quality foods.
There is a reason for that.
I am 28 years old, and although I have not yet reached the point of it being all I wanted, I knew the time was coming where I wanted to focus on starting a family.
But I can’t.
I have amenorrhea.
I have not had a period in 9 years.
For those of you who think, “Wow! Wish I was so lucky”, it may sound great, and sure, it certainly has its perks, but its a natural human thing to do, and we all know that without ovulating, you cannot get pregnant.
I have always had a fear that it would make me infertile, or that I would stop running at age 35, it would take me 5 years to get it back, and by that time, Steve and I are too late.
So I started making changes, seeing specialists, digging deeper into the topic. I wanted to do everything I could to get my body ready for it and find out what the heck was wrong with me.
And so I did.
But they all came to one conclusion. The more tests I did. The more specialists I saw, confirmed that all my numbers were great, I was healthy and normal.
My weight was good. My nutrition was good. My health was good.
There was only one way I could get my period back:
All the while I held a little beacon of hope that adding more fat and protein to my diet, eating more, gaining a little weight, focusing on relaxing, all the other stuff, would help it come back on its own.
So I wouldn’t have to give up the running.
But it never did.
Until one day my heart gave me the solution. Gave me the out I had been looking for.
And so I have.
Which means now, the focus of my life, my next big goal is to get my period back.
Now you might be thinking, why the heck would you hide this? It is nothing to be ashamed of, it happens to a lot of people.
Well, you probably also know that people associate amenorrhea with calorie deficit and too low body fat percentage.
I have spoken to nutritionists, consultants, all kinds of experts over the years, and EVERY SINGLE ONE has told me that calories are not the issue with me. Diet quality is not the issue with me. Even the naturopath told me that my health is very very good, a result she very rarely sees.
So I was a coward.
I feared people would assume it was my diet, assume I was lying about all the sweets I eat, all the food I enjoy.
That I had an eating disorder.
My friends and family know the truth, they know that I eat A LOT, and that I really do get enough.
But I did not want to be the victim of attacks, people patronizing me, telling me that maybe I just needed to eat more or eat better.
So I kept it secret.
And that secret ate away at me for all these years. I hated telling you that I am honest and real, yet I couldn’t admit the one thing that I knew I could really make a difference with.
I know I am not the only one.
There are SO MANY people out there who lose their cycles, yet no one talks about it.
It is such a taboo subject, not because of the nature of what happens in a period, but because everyone feels ashamed like me.
Well no more.
Now I have stopped running, I am on a mission to change that.
I am going to shout about this from the rooftops if I have to. I am going to bring awareness to this topic of amenorrhea and I am going to get my period back.
I know this will involve little to no exercise to allow my body to come out of panic mode.
I know this will involve weight gain. I certainly do not intend on giving up all the food I enjoy to stay skinny.
I know this will involve lots of negative talk in my brain I will have to deal with as I lose my muscle definition and shape.
And I know I will probably get criticized for this.
But why should this be a taboo topic? This is literally the thing women’s bodies need to have a child, to do the one thing that we were brought on this earth to do.
So I hope you will support me, join me, and help spread the word about this.
If I can learn to love my body as my muscles fade away, my weight increases, and my identity as an elite runner disappears, then hopefully you can learn to love your body too.
I am building a 5* baby hotel (love that quote from Nicole Rinaldi!) and I am prepared to do whatever I need to for it to be ready.
So, in conclusion of this MONSTER post, I can step back, knowing I have made the right decision. No matter what happens, I can reflect on my running career and know that I gave it my very best. I dedicated myself in a way that allowed me to achieve my potential, allowed me to accomplish my number one goal of representing Great Britain and Northern Ireland in a World Championship. I ran 16:08 in the 5k, 33:24 in the 10k, 1:13 in the half marathon, and 2:36 in the marathon. Times I can forever be proud of.
I don’t know if I will ever “get back” there. All I do know is that it is my time to be a leader for something else, to help other with their running and to pass my knowledge on to you.
I am so thankful for all the opportunities I had as a runner, and if I had not been a runner, I would never have met my husband (or 99% of you, actually), so I will reflect on this period with pride, happiness, and love.
But sometimes we have to take a leap of faith.
Something told me this was the right thing to do.
I just have to let my path unfold to show me what is next.
*NOTE* Now, I just want to say, that I am NOT encouraging you to stop running. I am not suggesting that if you are struggling, you take the same extreme measures I have. I have been talking for over a year (even before I ran for GB), that you can put your health first, and still give running your very best. Running does include a lot of ups and downs, and we know that. It is making it through those downs that makes us achieve those ups.
If you are going through this emotional or physical burnout, try taking 1-2 weeks off for a reset, do other things, see how you feel. I would hate to see you give up on your dreams because of me. The time off will most likely be enough to get your head back in the right place, and give it another try.
Finally, this does not mean I am going anywhere. Quite the opposite in fact, I will be building Running for Real, and dedicating more time, energy, and love into helping others, be it with bringing awareness to what I talked about today, or by helping you with your training, this is not the end of Tina Muir. Please enter your email above (the box below the video), to stay updated.
UPDATE: Since writing this article, I have taken EVERYTHING I learned in my journey to get my period back, and wrote a book on the topic, so you have everything I know about amenorrhea in one place. This book is written for runners who have lost their period, but regardless of what sport you do, if you don’t get your period, Overcoming Amenorrhea: Get Your Period Back. Get Your Life Back will help. I have since fallen back in love with running, and would love for you to follow my story on Facebook or Instagram.[bctt tweet=”Taking a leap of faith. Why @tinamuir is hanging up her running shoes at the peak of her career.” username=””]
If you think someone you know could benefit from reading this, PLEASE share it with them, if they are going through what I am, knowing you are not alone is the best thing for you.