Saturday, November 19, 2011
I was much too busy to do any running the last two days. I did a lot of thinking about running, though, especially the fact that running, like almost any enjoyable activity, can become addictive.
It may not even be the running itself that's addictive in some cases, but rather the feelings of success that comes with winning races. I hear of people who go from one race to the next without regard to recovery and they know better. This reminds me of the addictive quality of video games. You win (or at least you feel you won) and you move up to the next level. Winning or improving one's time can be all-consuming to the point where people neglect their job, their friends and their families. When running and/or racing becomes addictive it hurts everyone, the runner and people around him/her.
Now that I'm a runner I wonder at what point passion for a hobby ends and obsession or addiction starts. Are there cases where I want to discourage people from running even if I know they want me to cheer them on? Can my running a certain number of miles or my participation in races be seen as encouragement by some people to give in to their addictive behaviors in the same way that I might influence an alcoholic by drinking alcohol in front of them? Of course everyone is responsible for their own choices but I still want to encourage others to do things that are good for their health.
I feel the same about eating. If someone is normal weight but maintains their weight through abnormal eating patterns I don't want to cheer them on, I want to help them get healthier.
Some people are reluctant to start an exercise program because they associate it with pain or at least discomfort. There is a lot of language among runners that justifies that expectation. Just read a couple of race reports and there will be more talk about pain, struggle, exhaustion and fear of bonking than the joy of running, the exhilaration of feeling one's body move smoothly over the ground. Usually these race reports end on a good note, but sometimes barely so. They almost remind me more of some stories I've read of people who beat cancer (and the treatment that goes with it) than of stories of adventurers who found something beautiful they want to share with people. There are quite a few exceptions of course but I'm talking about the typical experience. There is no question that we can learn a lot from adversity in our lives, but to create that adversity ourselves, in our free time?
Maybe most runners don't enter races, maybe they just go out and enjoy nature. Some of them run because of the beneficial effect running has on weight reduction and weight maintenance. I personally use races more as markers that give me feedback on my running ability from time to time. I also enjoy seeing other people run and can learn from watching them.
I guess I'm wondering if we are truly "Born to Run", benefitting physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually from moving forward at a faster pace than walking. If we are, then it seems to me that many people who have covered a lot of miles have not learned yet what joys running has to offer. But maybe I'm just an addict in the making.