“Do you need an intervention?” That’s what one of my friends asked me when I began complaining about not being able to run due to soreness and possible injury. After having stopped running for a single day, following a 30+ mile week, the thought of not being able to run for even one day filled me with despair.
I think I might have a problem. We as runners are often asked what the end game is – why do you run and what are you trying to achieve? For the fast ones, it may be the highly revered “Boston Qualifier”, or placing in your age group, or setting that PR. For the remainder of us, it may be finishing that first (or fiftieth) marathon, or getting off of the couch, or simply trying to be a better and healthier person. We have our reasons, the most noble and the most selfish, for lacing up our shoes and getting out there. To me, all of those reasons are window dressing to the real reason we are out there… We’re addicted to running.We get up early in the morning, brave inclement weather and lack of sunlight and sleep deprivation, to get those miles in. You start off, and getting yourself to a 5K is extremely satisfying. But then that’s not enough… and you start running 10K’s. That keeps you steady for a while, until the craving sets in and you begin to think that a half marathon may not be such a bad thing to try. And then a marathon. And then a 50K. And then a 50-miler. Then, before you know it, you’re running across the country.
Alright, maybe that last one (and a few of them before it) may be a little too extreme, even to the most courageous weekend warrior. But we are out there, getting the miles in and feeling good while we do it. I could get into the specifics, the chemicals that are released when you run and how they alter your mood (I am a scientist, after all), but I will leave that your discretion. Google it. Or, if you are scientifically inclined, look it up the scientific papers… they’re there. They will tell you the same thing – running makes you feel good, and – like most things that make you feel good and cause addiction – you will continue running to keep getting those good feelings. I know I do.
To answer the question (and instigator of this post), do I need an intervention? Maybe I do. Because I am an addict. The good news is that, even though I am injured and in withdrawal, I will be okay. Like many times before, the initial withdrawal shock will pass, my head will clear a little, and I will figure out how to get back to my next fix. Getting on the bike trainer or elliptical or running in the pool may not be the same as the real thing, but they will be enough for a little while. Going to the doctor and the physical therapist will give me the tools I need to get by for now. Soon enough, the injury will pass (or be just manageable enough), and I will be back, looking for my next endorphin rush. It will be glorious.
Adam Langenfeld is a runner who currently lives with his wife and dog in Urbana, IL. In his spare time, he is enrolled in the MD/PhD program at the University of Illinois, which he hopes will lead to some sort of career one day. One time he ran a half marathon dressed as a bee and wound up on the local news.