I’ve noticed for a long time that runners can be obsessive types. They do some strange things, like—
- Recording “mileage” in journals
- Keeping up running “streaks” (periods of not missing a day of running) even if they have to hobble their daily run in a hospital corridor where they’re recovering from surgery
- Using a Garmin to make sure they run exactly the 13.000 km their training program calls for.
I have a theory that many runners, especially the most serious ones, have “addictive” personalities that could make them susceptible to getting trapped in negative addictive behaviours such as smoking, alcohol abuse, or recreational drug use abuse. These people may use running as a more positive, health-enhancing way of channeling these addictive tendencies in their personalities.
But when taken to the extreme, a running addiction can also be unhealthy. For example, runners often continue to train or race when they have serious injuries. Some runners (particularly women) find that losing weight helps them run faster, and they take this to an extreme and become anorexic. I’ve personally known two international-class runners whose running careers were destroyed by anorexia.
Although I’ve written a previous post about the “dark side” of some runners’ personalities, this post is meant to be a more lighthearted look at the humorous and strange features of runners’ obsessions. I was inspired to write this post in response to comments on Ontario masters runner Doug Smith’s Facebook page. Doug and Jerry Kooymans (one of Canada’s best masters runners and holder of multiple Canadian age-group records) wrote that they have kept running journals that record every mile covered since they started running. That translates to 42 years of journal-keeping for Jerry, and 34 years for Doug! My comment to them was, “You make me feel so normal!”
I thought it would be fun to create a survey to find out just how many runners exhibit obsessive behaviours. What percentage of runners keep journals, follow running streaks, like to run exact distances or repeat the same workouts over and over, follow a rigid procedure in their race warm-ups, insist on eating specific foods before a race, or run when injured, even against medical advice?
I’m inviting all my readers who are runners to complete my “Runners’ Obsessions” survey. It’s a 10-question survey, all multiple choice, that you can easily complete in two or three minutes. Anonymity is guaranteed. Please share the link with your running friends!
Of course, this is not a scientific survey since the respondents are not selected randomly from amongst the running population. But still, it should be informative to see how common some of these obsessive behaviours are. I will keep the survey open for a month or so. Then I will tabulate and analyze the results, and write a follow-up post to report the results.
Please just click “Take Our Survey!” below to get to the PollDaddy survey. Thank you very much for your participation!
A Running Obsession Story: The Black Knight
I could tell many stories about my own addiction to running, but I’ll just relate one example.
In the spring of 2009, I tore my right ACL, causing my knee to become swollen, painful, and wobbly. After about three months of doing strengthening and balancing exercises, I decided I was ready to start running again.
My leg felt unstable, especially when I was running downhill, but otherwise I was able to run quite well. Unfortunately, I was only a couple of weeks into my running comeback when I crashed while doing a test ride on a friend’s mountain bike, dislocating my left shoulder. That was a painful and debilitating injury; I couldn’t move my arm at all.
A few days after my crash, I was eager to run again. I hoped that by immobilizing my arm in a sling, the shoulder wouldn’t hurt too much when I tried to run.
I remember that beautiful, sunny June morning very well. Even though it was early, it was already hot. I dressed to run in shorts, singlet, a knee brace, and my shoulder sling. I certainly felt awkward running with my unstable right leg and my disabled left arm, but I soon got into my own steady rhythm. As I jogged along, I thought about the Black Knight in Monty Python’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Even after King Arthur cuts off both of his arms and one of his legs, he wants to keep fighting. Arthur, exasperated, says, “What are you going to do—bleed on me?”
In reply, the Black Knight shouts, “I am invincible!”
As I jogged down the hill near the lacrosse box in Mundy Park I was thinking about how I was like the Black Knight. I almost bumped into a whole group of early-morning bootcamp participants, who were doing sprints up the hill. I remember their incredulous (and possibly admiring?) looks as they saw me coming.
I love the Black Knight fight scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. You can view the YouTube video here.