top of page

The Comeback is Always Greater than the Setback

When I caught RSV in December of 2022, I hoped it was only a blip on the radar. Just a small moment in a much bigger timeline of what I was calling my “comeback to running” since August 2022.

Running has the Power to Heal:

I picked up running for several years in my early-to-mid-twenties, and it became a lifeline after the birth of my daughter. I have struggled with depression and anxiety since childhood, but postpartum depression and anxiety raged through me ten times worse than I could have expected. Running steadied me and gave me a community, and I held onto its balancing forces even as both my health and my marriage simultaneously crumbled.

Turn your Wounds into Wisdom:

I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in August 2019 (though I know I had it much longer), and my marriage ended in April 2020 (which you may remember as the height of the pandemic, when we all were stuck together). Running had fallen to the wayside for me a couple years before then.

Fast forward to August 2022 when I put my feet back to pavement for the first time, and I had done so much work to heal. I had gone through many hours of mental health therapy, medical appointments, medication changes, and physical therapy. I met the love of my life, who would soon become my fiancé, and he supported me and loved me in ways I still can’t fully comprehend. I brought my daughter through her own struggles and helped her with her own diagnoses, as we discovered her neurodivergence. It was time to let my feet carry me again.

Feet to the Ground:

That humid August morning as I set out for my first run in years, I could tell I wasn’t the same runner or person I used to be. However, running still recognized me. It was there to welcome me back and give me all the things it used to. Warmth and safety. Peace and strength. A community and a place to feel welcome. Frustration and determination in the tough moments and elation in the victorious ones. I never wanted to lose that feeling again.

In December, when I found myself down and out for a week, then two, then a month after RSV wreaked havoc on my body, the darkness set in again.

How could I be letting go so easily of this thing I vowed to never lose again? How could I be simultaneously scared to lose running but also so easily swayed to stay under the covers during the bleak, early January and February mornings?

It Always seems Impossible until it is Done:

I felt my body getting weaker again, and my disappointment in myself was rising. Anxiety kept me up all night, and depression made me feel comatose during the day. It was a double-edged sword, too; because I wasn’t taking care of myself, the depression and anxiety were getting worse…because the depression and anxiety were getting worse, I wasn’t taking care of myself.

You see, when you are used to beating yourself up for every perceived fault, it’s easy to slink back beneath the covers for one more day and convince yourself you’re not only disappointing yourself, but that you’re disappointing the whole world, too. I had people who would tell me how proud of me they were when I’d post about running or a new victory. What would they think of me now? Probably worse than I think of me now, right? This is wrong.

The Power of Running Communities:

What I need to remember is that just like running, my community is always ready to welcome me back with open arms. To say, “We recognize you and support you, just as you are. You belong here, whether today is a good day or a bad day.” My body and mind needed rest these past few months, but that doesn’t mean I’m any “less than” or not worthy of love and support. I want others to know they can count on me to be one of their biggest cheerleaders on the days they’ve run a PR and on the days they’re stuck in bed…so why shouldn’t I remember the same about myself?

I’m lacing up my running shoes again today. I am trusting that today is a good day, and running is here to welcome me back after we haven’t seen each other for a few months. That we will be like those friends who can pick up again like they haven’t missed a beat. I know I’m welcome here, and so are you.


By Cassandra Gilgenbach

bottom of page