My diminishing miles this year and impending surgery have given me lots to think about. There are some consequences to the decreased miles: my legs are a little softer, I don’t feel my oblique muscles quite as well, and I take a breath every four strides instead of six. It is starting to cause some concern, since although I’ve scaled back, I am still running. What is going to happen when I stop running altogether for the winter? How will I cope? My friends warn me to find another hobby to fill the void, because addicts need to get their fix. What? I am not an addict.
Friends, do-gooders, those that mean well, and cynics all sneer at me for continuing to run on a heavily damaged hip. (Except for Scott, who encourages me to keep running no-matter-what. I’m pretty sure this is either because he lives in Missouri and can’t see me limping, or…) When people question why I would continue to punish my body and I try to justify, they quip: You’re an addict. I am not an addict.
Although I know I’m not an addict, I decided to lay it all out on the line and demonstrate how my behavior is in no way similar to an addict. I researched addiction behavior at About.com, and then inserted my actual behavior.
Symptoms of addiction
“Tolerance – the need to engage in the addictive behavior more and more to get the desired effect”.
My behavior: When I first started running, it was a quarter mile at a time. I eventually worked up to running 20 minutes in a row. Then I started 10k races. When I conquered the 10k I moved up to 15k. Since I can do a 15k, might as well do a half marathon. With three half marathons under my belt this year, I had my sights set on the Boston Marathon next Spring, until this injury sidelined me.
“Withdrawal – when a person does not…engage in the activity, and they experience unpleasant symptoms, which are often the opposite of the effects of the addictive behavior”.
My behavior: When I run often my muscles are solid, my mood is positive, my sleep is sound. When I don’t run as often I feel lumpy, which makes me feel grouchy, which makes for a lousy night’s sleep.
“Difficulty cutting down or controlling the addictive behavior”.
My behavior: Cutting down running is difficult indeed, since it would jeopardize my upcoming races! I also find that I sometimes can’t control my running very well. For instance, sometimes I dream of running a 7:30 pace, but my body only gives me a 9:00.
“Social, occupational or recreational activities becoming more focused around the addiction, and important social and occupational roles being jeopardized”
My behavior: A lot of my friends are running buddies, which keeps things pretty social. I also belong to a running club, which keeps me motivated. My lunch hour at work is almost never spent eating or socializing with non-runners. It is used to sneak in a few miles with my running pals. On rare occasion we may sneak in a couple extra miles, making me a tad bit late returning to work. I have also been known to blow off important social events due to running. I couldn’t go out New Year’s Eve because of the New Year’s Day 5k. Same with Thanksgiving Eve. Last Saturday I blew off my cousin’s summer bash in New Hampshire so I could kill myself in a 10k race.
“The person becoming preoccupied with the addiction, spending a lot of time planning, engaging in, and recovering from the addictive behavior”
My behavior: Last year I put together a running log, in lieu of using Nike+ or Daily Mile or any of those applications. I listed out all of my race accomplishments, and started tracking miles, time, pace, weather conditions, etc. Towards the end of the year I put together a new one for this year. At that time I also planned out all of my 2011 races (with wiggle room to add more if exciting ones popped up). And finally, I mapped out all of this information, along with my wild and crazy thoughts, into this silly blog. When I’m not planning my runs I’m engaging in them, and when I engage in hard effort runs, I spend a lot of time recovering from them.
The article goes on to describe some of the specific signs of addiction.
· Extreme mood changes: Yessss! I’m leading! Shit!!!! I got passed!
· Sleeping a lot more or less than usual: The night before a half marathon = less sleep due to anxiety. The night after a half marathon = coma
· Changes in energy: Really, need I explain this one?
· Weight loss or weight gain: Again… self explanatory
· Seeming unwell at certain times: “Jill, you can barely walk. Are you okay?” Yup, terrific! This is my normal gait.
· Pupils of the eyes seeming smaller or larger than usual: This usually comes right after I exit a trail run onto the road
· Secretiveness: Telling nay-sayers I ran only 4 miles when I really ran 7
· Changes in social groups (my running club) new and unusual friends (Todd is both new and unusual) and odd cell-phone conversations: Sample of average text message: WANNA MEET AT NOON? Yes, did you bring soap? YES, BUT I NEED TO BORROW YOUR TOWEL.
· Repeated unexplained outings, often with a sense of urgency: When the lunch runners hit the pavement, we are generally running before the door closes behind us.
· Stashes of drugs, often in small plastic, paper, or foil packages: I have been known to stash sports beans, GU, and Hammer Nutrition packets discretely in my pocket.
I AM NOT AN ADDICT.