Permission to Quit

It’s 10K Season in Richmond. In about a week more than 40,000 runners will descend on the city and make their way up Monument Avenue and back. For the last four years, I have been one of those runners. This year I am not.

Last year I woke up on the day of the race and didn’t feel great. Not horrible, but not great. Marginal. But I had signed up and trained. I had to do it; surely I would always wish I had run. Always regret not doing it. So I ran and then that afternoon curled up in bed and shivered while my head throbbed. Clearly, running had been a bad idea.

Reflecting on it a year later, I’m sure that I would not have regretted staying home; but I do sort of regret pushing my body to run six miles, when what it needed most was to rest. I loved the feeling of finishing the 10K for the first time at age 30. I also love the feeling of walking to work and going to the gym most days. I love that I can run a mile pretty much anytime I want (something I couldn’t do pre-10K training four years ago). Choosing not to train for and run the 10K this year hasn’t made me love any of these things less.

I can be stubborn. And this coupled with the persistent societal message that “quitting is bad” makes it hard for me to walk away from things. But sometimes we need to, right? Is not running that race, or turning down that meeting request really so terrible? I say no. Not if I’m not passionate about it. And certainly not if it frees up time and space for the people and things that I love.

In fact, perhaps the thing we most need to quit, is being hard on ourselves about all those little things we feel we shouldn’t quit.

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