The Seduction of Addiction: A Runner’s Confession

Another interesting article on a subject I have thought about a bit. On January 1, 2008, I had never run a mile by choice. I hated running, and I believed I was not capable of doing it due to knee issues I’ve had in the past. But none of that was true. This week, I am running more than 40 miles with a 16 mile run yesterday in which I looked for hills to climb and I ended up adding an extra mile on the end. It felt good. I was done by 10:30am. But this article resonates with the trend that got me here. Could it be addiction?

Just as the author did (also a runner), I find problems with calling a regular runner an “addict”. Some goals require time to achieve. Some of them require years to achieve. I want to run a 50 mile race someday, but that is taking years of building my foundation and mind. It would be stupid for me to finish my first marathon only to start training for a 50 miler. It would result in injury, for me, for sure. Yes, that requires almost daily training, and that might be a major focus of your life. It might take you away from family or friends sometime. Is it also an addiction when an Olympic gold medalist gymnast is training? If the training is missed or the run is cut short for some reason, I would feel like I might be compromising my chances for a successful finish. But the point is that it is mapped out and executed training that can have minor adjustments to account for real life. An addiction is not planned and executed.

I find it interesting that we live in a country that is sedentary for the most part, yet hear we are talking about running as if it’s a problem. 95% of everyone I talk to tells me the same thing at one point, “My body was not designed to run. I have never enjoyed running.” And they don’t do anything else either. I have one friend that keeps asking me why he is not getting his endorphin rush after 45 minutes of low-intensity cardio. But repeatedly, I have seen articles on the “addiction” of running. It’s as if we need to find a problem with everything we do, even if it is one of the best things we have ever done for ourselves. I’m not buying it.

Running is one of the best things I have ever done. It is a lifestyle, not a hobby. It could be that years have past and I’m forgetting, but I have never experienced the joy I get from running in any other sport I have done. I surfed, biked, mountain biked, climbed peaks, etc. I’ve had some great times, but running gives me the best out of all of those things (especially trail running). Personally, my wife, pets, and job comes first. Running doesn’t trump that, but it is a balance, and that still leaves a lot of space for running. I could spend that time watching TV or playing video games (I do, sometimes), but I most often choose to run. I am not saying that exercise addition can not be a real problem, but I think we need to think twice before we start labeling this kind of thing an addiction. Personally, I’m not buying it.

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