Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My Strange Addiction

I recently watched a reality show called “My Strange Addiction.” It’s about people and their weird compulsions. There was a lady who eats household cleaner. “What a freak,” I thought. Then it happened…in between the woman who eats chalk and the girl who tans twice a day was a runner. Wait a minute! There’s nothing wrong with running! We’re not obsessive compulsive addicts!!

Troy was an ultra marathoner who ran 20 miles a day. He was training for a 100-mile race. His girlfriend complained that his running left little time for anything else. I thought about how many times I had said to someone “I have to train first.” I figured anyone in my life had to understand how important it was to me.

As Troy struggled through the 100 miles he said he felt sick and was in pain. His girlfriend didn’t understand why he didn’t stop. “I have to finish,” he said. It was scary, but I completely understood. The pain is something we go through, and sometimes savor, because it makes finishing that much sweeter. I’m sure any non-athlete watching the show would see someone like that as obsessed, but I admired Troy.

Troy finished the race in 26-plus hours. He said he was a little disappointed at his time and then he started to cry. He said the emotion was not a result of his time, but because he had to “dig deep.” I could remember races where I became overcome with emotion because I knew all that I had put in and because I had to mentally “dig deep” just to finish.

Troy’s feet were black-and-blue but he was already talking about doing better “next time.” His girlfriend gave him a look and I knew there would be no next time for her.

Troy talked about the need to keep pushing himself and doing more. Again, I got it. Each year when I start planning my schedule I think about what I want to accomplish and how I can take it to the next level. I always feel this need to do more, to reach higher. Did that mean I was an addict?

The show ended with Troy’s girlfriend breaking off their relationship and Troy doing four marathons in four days. Okay, maybe Troy could cut back a little, but I didn’t see anything wrong with setting goals and pushing yourself. Yes, ultra-marathoners and Ironman competitors punish their bodies. They push limits. They go beyond what “normal” people would do. I wasn’t sure that put them in the same category as people who eat chalk.

On an unrelated note, I donated my Hy-Vee Triathlon finisher’s medal to the Medals4Mettle organization. They take marathon, half marathon and triathlon finishers’ medals and give then to children and adults dealing with “chronic or debilitating illnesses who have demonstrated similar mettle, or courage, in bravely facing these challenges.”

As I have talked about in past columns, I didn’t get to finish last year’s Hy-Vee Tri because of the weather so I never felt I deserved the finisher’s medal. I never even took it out of its plastic packet. Each time I saw that medal in a drawer it reminded me of the disappointment of that day. Now I felt a sense of closure. Something positive was coming out of that day. I could look towards 2011 and put the 2010 season behind me.