They call running the “positive addiction”, and those who get hooked understand why. The feelings of contentment and well-being, the sense of communion with all else beneath the sun and stars, the conscience-free eating and drinking are just a few of the inducements that provoke a powerful enticement to daily dosing.
In 2008 the journal Cerebral Cortex confirmed the anecdotal evidence: Running does indeed elicit a flood of endorphins in the brain, and those endorphins are associated with mood changes, and the more endorphins a runner’s body pumps out, the greater the effect.
Frightening evidence, indeed, because no matter how you gussy it up, addiction is addiction, and it’s a slippery slope one steps onto. Even one seemingly harmless dependence can easily lead to other, more disruptive forms. Therefore, the time to blunt any addiction’s hold is now. But to do so alone is difficult. Every addiction is best broken by a support system. Running’s hold must be, as well.
Runners Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem, and help others to recover from running as well. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop, to walk, and finally to sit, patient and content. There are no dues or fees for Runner’s Anonymous membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. RA is not allied with any sect, denomination, political organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay still and help other runners to achieve stasis.
(Scene: Inside a Runners Anonymous meeting. A man stands.)
“Hi, my name is Ted, and I’m a runner.”
Assembly: “Hello, Ted.”
Ted: “It began when I was around 30 years old, and saw myself in the three-way mirror at Macy’s Department store while trying on a new pair of khaki pants. ’God Almighty,’ I said, ‘where did that ass come from?’ And it went from there. Before I knew it I was scheduling my meals and appointments around my runs, traveling away from the family to races on other continents, avoiding red meat in order to reduce the transit time of waste management. It got so bad that I was completely ignoring my gluton intolerance, and wolfing down pasta like a Burmese rope-climber. I don’t know where to go, or how to stop. The only thing slow on me these days is my resting pulse rate. I need help.”
Announcer voice over:
“They say it’s the endorphins, those opiate-like chemicals released by the brain into the blood stream during prolonged exercise that runners get hooked.”
“Why do I run? It lifts me out of the everyday, and gives me a real sense of accomplishment.”
“The feeling when I finish? It’s just a feeling I can’t seem to generate in any other way.”
“Be on the lookout for the signs of running addiction:
– running shoes worn to weddings,
– pasta sauce stains on thinly-threaded, over-laundered, logo-splashed tee shirts,
– endomorphic body design,
– a pronounced caving of the cheeks,
– bleeding male nipples,
– blackened toe-nails,
– 8:30 p.m. bed times,
– 80 year-old gait on 50 year-old body.
These are some of the signs, then, of a running addict. If you know of one, or are one yourself, call us at 1-800-HALTNOW. The first step to quitting is always the hardest. So stop and think. Then just stop and call. We will help bring you fully to rest.”
(Toni Reavis has been a recovering running addict since 2004)