We often hear about the many wonderful mental health benefits of running, from decreasing stress and anxiety to boosting mood and reducing symptoms of depression.
If you are a runner yourself, you likely have experienced the astounding power of running to change your entire mindset, confidence, and outlook on life.
In fact, for many runners, the positive mental health effects of running or what drives them to lace their favorite running shoes and train every day.
Runners are often ecstatic to hear about non-runners or athletes crossing over from other sports who take up running and find the same transformative ability of running to alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression.
If this is true for you, you will likely be excited to hear that tennis star Monica Puig has become a marathon runner herself and is being outspoken about how becoming a marathon runner has saved her from the depths of deep depression.
Monica Puig won over 300 matches during her professional tennis career and won the first Olympic gold medal ever for her country—Puerto Rico—in the 2016 Olympics.
She played with poise, power, finesse, skill, and tremendous sportsmanship, but almost exactly a year ago today, at only age 28, Monica Puig had to retire from her professional tennis career due to a severe shoulder injury.
For almost all professional athletes, as well as the majority of recreational athletes, being forced to give up the sport you love before you voluntarily want to do so is met with feelings of extreme loss and grief.
Facing the reality that she would never be able to safely play tennis at the level she hit during the peak of her professional career was understandably extremely depressing and challenging for Monica Puig.However, Puig didn’t wallow in her grieving process over the loss of the ability to participate not only in her career but also in her passion.
Instead, she opened her mind to the possibility of taking up a new sport that she would be able to practice and enjoy despite her shoulder injury—marathon running.
Indeed, Monica Puig catapulted herself into the world of marathon running with the same enthusiasm and commitment that she always displayed on the tennis court.
In fact, last fall, Puig ran the 2022 New York City Marathon as her marathon debut, and then did an impressive back-to-back marathon showing at the 2023 Boston Marathon in April and the London Marathon just a week later.
Former tennis star Monica Puig said her current big running goal is to finish all six Abbott World Marathon Majors by the end of 2024.
She has already crossed three off of her list (including two of the most difficult ones to get into: the London Marathon in the Boston Marathon), leaving just the Berlin Marathon, Chicago Marathon, and Tokyo Marathon.
In an interview with CNN Sport, Puig detailed the emotionally-evocative experience of finishing a marathon as well as finding herself and running after being forced into an early retirement from tennis.
“Every time I cross the finish line of a marathon and I get a new personal best time, I get emotional, I’ve cried. I’ve just felt in awe of what I’ve been doing because I could easily just be sitting on the couch crying and feeling sorry for myself. But I tried to channel all of that energy that I have towards whatever I had been feeling about my career into something more productive.”
When asked to compare the differences between winning a tennis match and completing a marathon, Monica Puig says that the experiences are simultaneously very similar and very different.
This is largely due to the fact that her professional career and livelihood hinged upon her tennis performance, but the self-satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment carry over into marathon running.
Most importantly, Puig continues to be vocal about how becoming a marathon runner has “saved her“ from the despair brought on by needing to step away from her first love, career, and sense of identity: tennis.
As she told CNN, “It’s more about showing myself that I didn’t let myself fall into this big black hole of depression and sadness when I had to finish my career so early. I was able to pick myself back up and find something else that motivates me to get out of bed every day, that motivates me to continue to be strong, fit, and have fun at the same time.”
In addition to the other three Marathon Majors on her slate of running goals for the next year and a half, Puig is also signed up and in training for her first half Ironman triathlon in Augusta, Georgia this coming September.
You can stay up-to-date on Monica Puig’s journey as a newfound marathon runner and her pursuit to become a six-star finisher by the end of 2024 by following her on Instagram here.
If you want to get started on your own running journey, check out our Couch to 5K running plan for beginners here.