I am not sure running addiction is the right term. Addiction is such a harsh word, conjuring images of a young man slumped over on a dirty bathroom floor with a needle in his arm, a mom pulling a bottle out of the very back of the cabinet, drinking straight from the bottle while her children play in the other room, an older man leaving a bar, stumbling to the car, driving off and putting everybody on the road at risk. Addiction means lives falling apart. Addiction ends in either recovery or death. But still we talk about running addictions. Because our love of the run is that strong. Our love of running is, in less offensive terms an obsession. Something we can live without but cannot imagine how.
I am always amazed at how quickly my love for running can move from dread, to like to love to passion to obsession. After taking months off, working through our family issues and letting my fitness slide, I have come back to running. The first few weeks were tough. Part of me believed that maybe I had lost the love for the sport, that I would have to look for something else to light the fire running had always ignited. But soon, before I had time to give up, I realized I was looking forward to my runs again. I began to not just plan for them but to long for them.
And in the past few weeks, as an injury began to show its ugly head, I realized that I had moved past love and passion into obsession. I need my run. Although my foot had become almost too painful to stand I continued to run. I complained about the pain but was not willing to stop running to let it get better.
Then this past weekend, the foot screamed loud enough to break through the running obsession. I was reminded of the advice I give to others, “Take a week off now and you will avoid having to take 8 weeks off later. “ And in the first two miles of my long run I stopped. I walked back home and hopped on my bike, giving my foot the chance to begin healing.
But here, in what has happened since, is the true reason we call running an addiction. Two days later and I have had moments when the foot is not painful. By moments I mean actual moments. I will be sitting down to dinner and realize that I am not in pain. I will wake up in the middle of the night and not feel that burning sensation in the heel of my foot. And I will think, “Oh, maybe I can run.” This morning I had to remind myself that those are moments. They are not the truth. The pain has been almost constant; going back too soon will only prolong the pain.
So, this morning I put on my padded shorts and biking shoes and climbed on my bike. I resisted the call of the run. I resisted the desire to ignore the pain, to push through and get my run in.
Running is an obsession, maybe it can become an addiction but I believe the difference lies in this decision I am making right now. I can choose to run until the wheels fall off or I can rest, recover and live to run another day. So, yes I am obsessed with the sport. It brings a joy into my life that is hard to find elsewhere so I fight for it. I will rest. I will let my foot heal and I will come back to running with the same love I have had for over twenty years.