Running Addiction – Is It Real?

If you’ve been running for any length of time, you have probably been the recipient of negative feedback.  People may be questioning your running habits.  This may come from some of your closest peers.  I have recently been plagued with the word “addiction.”  People have begun to notice, not only my increased running distance, but my weight loss from a completely vegan diet.  I have trimmed off all excess fat and feel better than I ever have.  My performance has boosted and recovery time is phenomenal.  My mind is more alert, skin more radiant, and eyes whiter.   For this new-found health, I receive comments like,

“You need to eat more.”
“How much weight have you lost?”
“Don’t lose anymore!”
“Are you addicted to running?”
Wow! what support?  The truth is, this made me question what running meant to me.  Was it just an addiction?  Would I eventually need to seek help?   I certainly don’t feel like I have to have it.  In fact, many days I just don’t feel like running at all.  I have seen many addictions in action, and running doesn’t seem to be a likely candidate for making my life unmanageable.  In fact, running has opened up new windows of opportunity for me; meeting new people, raising money for causes, becoming environmentally conscious, increasing my spiritual life, and cutting my chances for disease from a healthy diet (which I learned as a result of running).  Running is an outlet for me to search deep within myself.  It gives me freedom.  I decided to let this be an opportunity to reflect on my journey towards a healthier lifestyle.  And it ismy journey, no one else’s.  It’s not fair to assume that anyone else will get it.
In recent weeks I’ve ramped up my training in preparation for the New River Marathon.  I am tallying anywhere from 40-60 miles a week, with my long runs topping off at 25 miles.  I wouldn’t normally peak at 25, but I am accounting for the elevation of the rolling hills from North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains.  I figure, if I can conquer the distance, I will have knocked out one of two factors I’ll be up against on race day.  I track my runs with an app called Runkeeper.  Runkeeper posts my runs to Facebook, Twitter, and this blog.  It can be beneficial to share your accomplishments with others.  Friends will often cheer you on.  With all of my recent running, people have started in with their addiction inquiries,
“You ran 25 miles today?”
“Yep”
“That’s crazy”
“Well, I’m training for my next race”
“Sounds to me like you’re addicted!”
Everyone’s a professional all of a sudden.  This sort of criticism can put a damper on one’s momentum. I thought I would check with the real professionals at [addictions.about.com] to see what they had to say about addictive behaviors.
 [Although the precise symptoms vary from one addiction to another, in clarifying what is an addiction, there are two aspects that all addictions have in common.
Firstly, the addictive behavior is maladaptive or counter-productive to the individual. So instead of helping the person adapt to situations or overcome problems, it tends to undermine these abilities.
Secondly, the behavior is persistent. When someone is addicted, they will continue to engage in the addictive behavior, despite it causing them trouble.]
Whew (wiping my brow)!  Looks like I’m in the clear.  While I truly enjoy running, it’s not the center of my life.  It certainly doesn’t cause me problems.  Actually, running has provided me with more than I ever imagined.  It has granted me the ability to connect with many people and organizations.  It’s allowed me to make a difference in my community through charities.  For me, it is a means of connecting with the Earth and with God.
Training can sometimes be punishing.  Often times I drag myself out of bed at 4am, forcing myself to get out there and just do it.  I’m not always easily motivated either.  It usually requires some deep meditation, sitting in the floor in complete silence, before I’m ready to hit the streets.  I don’t go until I’ve had my time with God.  I ask him to keep me safe and to support me through anything I may face.  So far, He hasn’t let me down.  So, does that sound like an addiction?  Does an addict say his/her prayers right before hitting up a dealer in a dark alley.  They probably should, but I’m guessing not.  Their drive is more instinctual.
I’ve found that the term addiction is being used entirely too loosely these days.  People find it far too easy to label others and their behaviors, especially if it’s something healthy that they know they should probably be doing as well.  People feel intimidated or threatened by others’ success.  My lifestyle today revolves around good health.  My diet, too, has been put under the addiction magnifying glass.  What’s funny is, we are learning now that some major food companies have been using labs to make processed foods as addictive as possible.  They have America completely addicted to their junk food.  Not only am I off of that, but my nutrition is regulating my depression and anxiety as well.  I am almost completely off of the medication that I once had to have to make it through the day.
One thing I have learned is that we must practice tolerance with other people.  Being spiritual is about more than prayer and meditation.  It involves loving others and being of service to them.  If we wish to live with others and be of help, we must be able to accept their criticism.    Everyone has a right to their opinion.  Besides, I was once a skeptic myself.  I thought it would be insane to run this far without a dog chasing me.  And eating kale?  Yeah right!  Once I gained some knowledge and became aware of the ongoing epidemic of our country, I became very teachable.  I now have an ongoing thirst for more and more knowledge.
I will leave you with this tidbit of information.   In 2009, only about 0.5% of Americans were vegan.  And in 2012, about .05% of America’s population had ever run a marathon.  If you can do either, you are quite the rarity.  You should not expect others to get you or your way of life.  Don’t waste your time trying to persuade them either.  Simply lead by example and some will follow.  There is an excellent amount of support for us too.  I have never seen such a strong and welcoming community of people, like I’ve seen in the vegan running world.  If you aren’t sure where to start, I have listed some sites right here on my blog.  If you’re still concerned about your exercise habits or a loved one’s, please check out some other blogs.  It seems to be a common concern.  Research can be beneficial.  Just stay focused on what it is you’re doing.  It is okay to question your motives from time to time.  We need to be sure that we are doing things for the right reasons.  Just be sure to not let others’ limitations become your own.

Has anyone ever told you you were addicted to running?  Leave a comment and let us know how you handled it.

 

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