I watched a TV show yesterday about addictions. One of the four people they followed was a runner. This was a guy who felt compelled to run at all costs. He ran and ran and ran without fail. He talked of how he took up running after a split with his wife and just feels like he has to run now. He entered into a one hundred mile ultra marathon and was able to complete it. During the race he went through all sorts of pains and issues but refused to let himself stop. He runs, and that is what he does. He ran so much that by the end of the show his girlfriend left him over it, and he ran four marathons in four days. This man ran and ran and ran. There are stories out there of people who run ultras and push themselves to the limits of their body’s abilities and this is almost becoming a commonplace thing. With books and DVDs about ultra running along with websites and blogs, the world of ultra running is now becoming what the marathon became a few years ago: normal. The idea of ultra running has not gotten there just yet, but with rising entries to these long races, I would say they are getting close so maybe this tale isn’t that big of deal. However, as I watched this man run during his moments on this show, I noticed a few things, and I did not like what I saw.
First, he knew very little about running. His form was terrible, and he really did not take enough precautions to protect his body in his training. There was no real concern for nutrition or hydration. I never heard him talk about running science or technique for anything in regards to running. All he talked about was his drive to run. His overwhelming compulsion to get out and run was all that he had. It drove me crazy to watch this guy run without any regard to being smart about it. I guess it’s possible that he did talk about health concerns, and perhaps some producer or editor felt it unnecessary to include those things. Still I wanted to see him respect running and running properly more than I wanted to hear how he would just go out and run for hours and hours, feeling as though he could not stop.
Second, and most importantly, I never once heard this man say he received any pleasure from the act of running. In fact it was quite the opposite. All he ever said was how much it hurt and how he did not know why he put himself through it. Everything he said with regards to running was negative, and all his reasons for running were linked to his negative experiences in life. This was a man running from his life, not running to enjoy or celebrate it. It hurt me to watch it. It was sad and painful to watch a man run so much to get no joy from it. Even after completing his ultra he could not say he enjoyed it or was happy he finished. He said he wished he had done better and would run more. For a second, I thought that a breakthrough happened, but when his girlfriend told him to “stop saying that” he answered with “I don’t know why, but I’ll do more”. I was so frustrated that I was glad the show was over. Not only does this man now make ultra runners look crazy, but he also managed to make runners in general appear to be masochists with no reason.
I run because I enjoy it, and it makes me feel good. I have a list of reasons a mile long that range from being told as a child that I would never walk to the sheer happiness I find when I finish a run. I feel accomplished and proud when I complete a run and even more so when I cross a finish line. Every run I go on is a testament to my drive, determination, and sheer will to be more than anyone ever thought I could be. I may never be the fastest man on the planet, but I can get up, and I can run, and I am proud of that. I get to enjoy that pride every time I put my feet on the ground and get a run in. It doesn’t even have to be a good run. A run that I struggle to finish will yield just as much pleasure as any other. I felt bad that this person could not feel these feelings when he ran, and I realized why. He’s sick. This was a show about addictions, and his was running. Sadly, he did not seek out a run for any amount of pleasure; instead he just felt like he had to. He did not know how to live without going on these long runs. I can relate to that, but I cannot imagine doing so for no reason. I could not imagine getting up every day and feeling like I had to run, knowing I would get zero joy from running. I’ve been told I am addicted to running but after this show I know that’s not right. I merely have something in my life that I love doing. The thought of running for no reason just does not compute with me, and I hope it never does. I hope that I never understand this man, as that would mean I lost my love. It would mean I find no pleasure in the thing on this planet that gives me that the most. I hope you too never know this feeling, and I hope that you find the same level of happiness in running that I do. Sure, it hurts at times, and no, it is not the easiest thing to do, but that’s the point. Pushing through those hard times is what makes it so great. It gives you pride, a sense of accomplishment, and I hope for all of you: happiness.