October 13, 2023

MCM Diplomat, Jose Crosby: Why Breaking Up WIth Running Can Be Good

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They say breakups are the worst. I couldn’t agree more. According to Dr. Google, the always trustworthy, semi reliable but free therapist, in a lifetime humans can experience about three major breakups. So far, I have tallied in my head one human, with a girl back in college and one non-binary, an entity of sorts, also in college. Despite his ever so great wisdom, he fails to mention the abstract breakups. Those are the ones you can’t hold hands or touch each other’s lips. Those are the ones you can’t see with your eyes but rather leaves a crater, a crashing Hailey’s comet into your heart once gone. To me, those are the worst.

Some also say breakups come in multiple forms. There is the mutual breakup, the amicable let us still be friends, yet it always fails due to boundaries. Or the growing apart breakup, where over time people realize their partner was not who they once thought they were. And let us not forget my personal favorite; the on again and off again breakup. Sure you tried your best to convince yourself that this time, yes this time, it will work as you say yes to yourself, while at the same time you shake your head no. Some breakups are easier to get over than others. Nowadays, you can swipe right on apps and move on. “Breakup, what breakup,” you tell others to cover the breadcrumbs of insecurities. Other people, such as myself, that feeling of pain can last for a year or more.

And it was during that time of separation, that later I rediscovered my passion and fire to continue to be the runner I am today; a qualifier of the world renowned Boston Marathon, an ultra marathoner and an ambassador of the Marine Corps Marathon Organization. Sometimes breakups are good in order to realize what you missed.

I suppose like any other great breakup story, there is always the good beginning. Those unforgettable indelible moments where it was pure, almost child-like innocence and your friends would ask, “where did you two meet?” But you don’t answer right away because the real story, rather the truth, is not that cute. It is not a Hallmark movie scene of serendipity because actually you met online. But our story was different. I met her, my love of running, where it seemed like it was that one person in school that everyone ignored in the hallways. As others walked past, dreading the infamous one mile run at school, preferring the over popular likes of football or basketball, I rose up to meet the challenge of suffering that she provided. My heart skipped with joy, and my cheeks would grow red as I danced around the track swaying her hips to left and to the right. She made me happy. Those next four years in high school were transformative in my life as we began to share a life together. We would listen to each other. She would speak, I would sit and listen. Or I would speak and she would listen. Early to bed for recovery and early to rise to train harder. Our lives revolved around each other. She was always there for me when I needed her most, especially that time my junior year when my grandma was killed, yet she was still there. I loved her so much that ultimately she gave me a spot on the varsity cross country team, competing in college in the northern plains of Indiana. Finally, we were ready to move in with each other.

Like all relationships, they occur in phases. Our honeymoon phase ended my second year of college. The infatuation, meaty part peeled off leaving a thin layer of bone. It was like any other fall Saturday in southern Michigan where people were getting ready to watch college football or out on their weekend chores that it ended. It was on that particular day that I realized how little running races and competing meant in the grand scheme of things. Racing is overrated. It is a piece of medal. The irony, as I sit here typing this short chapter of my running endeavors, I am currently training for the 2023 Marine Corps Marathon 50k. One of the largest, if not the biggest urban ultramarathon in the country. Remember breakups can be good. If I remember correctly, on that day I had crossed the finish line absolutely exhausted with my arms dangling down the side of my body. The crisp cool Michigan air engulfed my lungs throughout that race and left a taste of copper stuck in the back of my throat. It took time for me to regain my normal breathing pattern. Inhale slowly then deep breath. Count one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi and four. I was deliberate with my breaths and the aroma of sweet oxygen crawled into my respiratory system. Beads of fat sweat bubbles were boiling on my forehead slowly making their way down my face into the far crevices of my mouth. (Sweat tastes like expired lukewarm vinegar.) Along with my overall feelings of discomfort from the race, other deeper feelings crept inside my heart. Feelings of doubt that this is not where I belonged plagued my heart. It left me unable to think logically or to listen to her voice. I ignored her cry. Our relationship did not feel like it did once upon a time. We grew apart. Despite promising myself that I would never break up with her, I did. It happened. At that time, I selfishly chose myself over her.

It took awhile to reconnect. It really did. But one thing is for certain; however, I do not regret my decision to leave her as it only forged a stronger, unassailable bond that we have today. When I left her, I quickly went through a dark season that led to depression. I was caught between the darkness, straddling it one foot over the line in which I lived and the few moments of light that perforated it. But in most cases, it just made the darkness darker, thicker and more dense. As a result of those feelings, I isolated myself like a hermit. I did not sleep. I ignored the calls from my family and friends. At some point during that period of grief, although it took time, I began to see the faults in my own stars. I made a mistake.

So, what did I do? I got up. There was no big bang moment, no antidepressant, but rather it was the sum of many small steps of courage. It takes courage to recommit yourself to someone you once loved but had to let go. One step at a time, I pulled myself out of the chains of misery and planted my feet with firmness on the ground. I laced up my favorite running shoes that had
collected small cobwebs begging me to come back and I began to run. I missed it. I did this in the evenings because I was too embarrassed by how out of shape I was and the darkness put a blanket over my inadequacies. It was winter in South Bend, but despite the cold shock of jack frost nipping at my nose, it felt good. We were together again.

Today, I am reconnected with my once broken relationship with running. I learned that all relationships, either abstract like running or with humans, can be messy. But being messy can be good. I thought I would have stopped running years ago through that mess, as my personality has a way of leaping from one subject of interest to another, but here I am. Nowadays, I routinely compete in marathons, ultras and, most importantly, I help others better themselves within the sport. Running is a relationship of intimacy that tastes sweet and sour. A cocktail blend of euphoric feelings of pleasure but also feelings of pain, hurt and defeat. At the start it feels good. You ask for more of it. Soon enough, however, you notice the flaws. This isn’t what you ordered. It is not perfect, so you stop. You close off the tab and look for something more.

At the end of the day what I learned, in almost twelve years in my relationship, is that breaks can be good. Perhaps, you are like me; the on again and off again person. Love is a marathon, not a race. Remember, that as long as you don’t stop running, you are lapping the dreamers and wannabees on the couch. My hope for you is that you fall in love with running, and stay in love. And after a while, if you don’t like it, is perfectly okay to stop.

Jose Crosby is a MCM Diplomat. He is an active duty Marine who is also a participant on the All-Marine Run Team. In addition to running, Jose is an active volunteer at the United Service Organization (USO), a part time student and a voracious reader. You can follow him on Instagram @crosbyrunswild.

Register for the Marine Corps Marathon Weekend

Recognized for impeccable organization on an iconic course managed by the US Marines in Arlington, VA and the nation’s capital, the Marine Corps Marathon is one of the largest marathons in the US and the world. Known as ‘the best marathon for beginners,’ the MCM is the largest marathon in the world that doesn’t offer prize money, earning its nickname, “The People’s Marathon.” The weekend also offers the MCM10K and MCM50K.