Anyone who knows me might say I eat, sleep, and breathe running. And yes, it’s totally true. However, my life as a professional distance runner and running coach reaches far beyond the seemingly apparent expectation that all I do is run, fuel, recover, and teach others how to then run, fuel and recover!
Running has become so much more than my profession; it’s my lifelong passion and vehicle for exploring the Earth’s incredible landscapes and fascinating cultures. Because of my international racing experiences and success on the trails, not only have I been blessed to see some beautiful places, but I’ve also gained a wealth of knowledge about how important it is to balance competing with living a satisfying and diversified life.
I’ve never really thought I fit into the “professional runner mold.” Not only do I not have the leg-speed Shalane Flanagan throws down—nor the salary to go along with that much-deserving kick—but I don’t possess the sheer intensity and monotonously linear mentality when it comes to running outside of, well, running. I’ve spent too many anxiety-inducing nights before road races listening to my fellow elite female roommates-for-the-weekend yak about their latest injury, all the food they ate that day that they shouldn’t have, and their PRs (personal records) that are insanely fast (and they know it) that they proceeded to tell me are slow. It was exhausting listening to these incredibly talented young women—who I was already intimidated by—talk about nothing but running and how it permeates and dictates every action of their lives. I found myself desperately clinging to my seemingly one standout stat of being the 2007 #1 USA-ranked female marathoner under the age of 25, trying to convince myself that yes, I was legitimately good enough to go head-to-head with these women.
These championship road-race experiences prompted me to question my approach to training and racing … maybe I wasn’t committed enough to running? Was that why my quads were bigger than everyone else’s? Because I wasn’t committed to running and living in a robotic-like way? Maybe if I really did eat, sleep, breathe running I’d be faster … and able to give Shalane a run for her money. I love running, but just because it’s what I spend the majority of my time doing, doesn’t make me just a runner. Don’t get me wrong, I take training and racing very seriously, and am willing to push myself beyond my capabilities, but verbally one-upping my competitors before the gun even goes off isn’t a race I care much about winning.
Over the last few successfully competitive years of my running career, I’ve decided that running truly is incredibly individual and my prior efforts of trying to squeeze myself into the professional runner mold were only holding me back from succeeding in the area I was really cut out for: mountain and trail running. It was off-road and in the uphill direction where I found my niche; my “happy pace.” Those bigger quads of mine were actually beneficial all along.
Traveling to race in countries such as Switzerland, France, Albania, Italy, and others exposed me to so many different types of people—yes, people, not just runners. My competitors actually live lives outside of training and racing: they drink wine, eat chocolate cake, read magazines other than Runner’s World, and have real relationships and meaningful experiences outside of their successes in the competitive running sphere. I’m by no means pegging USA distance runners as misguided in their approach to training, but for me it took some international trail racing to realize that winning races and living a fulfilling life weren’t mutually exclusive concepts.
I’ve come to realize that becoming a great runner is a journey, but it doesn’t mean I pack my bags and leave the rest of my life at home. It just took me a handful of nerve-wracking road races to realize that my personal life and passion for running can and should share the same course. A healthy balance between the two is achievable and necessary; as I want to pursue a long-lasting, legacy-leaving running career, yet at the same time make time for intentionality. It’s important to me to explore my other interests: world cuisine, design, gardening and most importantly making quality time for meaningful relationships, specifically, my husband and our baby-on-the-way.
So while outwardly it might appear as though I eat, sleep, and breathe running, I’m also obsessed with real French macaroons, I’d like to someday stay in a treehouse in the tropics, and I can’t wait to be completely speechless when I meet my first-born this fall.
Megan Lizotte is a decorated elite distance runner and online running coach at www.hgrunning.com. She is a three-time World Mountain Running Championships competitor, two-time Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier, 2011 USA Trail Marathon Champion and 2011 USATF Trail Series Champion. She also became the first American woman to win the prestigious Sierre Zinal Mountain Race in Switzerland. Lizotte is sponsored by Montrail and Mountain Hardwear.