I have an addiction that I feel I have no control over.

No, it's not marijuana, cocaine, meth, sniffing rubber cement or even licking toads...it's running. Lame huh?

Running, for most people, is the hardest thing to get started. Not jogging...running. I reckon there are gateway drugs like cycling or swimming that could draw people in, but most people see running on a regular basis, especially hard running, as extremely difficult to want to do. Who could blame them? I don't enjoy beating myself senseless with a hammer either.

Running, unlike normal drugs, is something you have to put in an effort into actually becoming addicted to it. I started when I was 12 and running two miles basically shot me to crap for the rest of the day. For some odd reason, I kept coming back for more. Maybe it was those tiny victories that kept bringing me back. Like running a 5k without walking, doing it in a "blistering" 28:28. Moving up in my goals and making top 5 on my middle school team and winning a mile race or two in eighth grade. Then in high school it was probably breaking 5 minutes in the mile for the first time freshman year, being on the varsity team in cross country sophomore year and helping the team win state, and continuing to come back the following two years to accomplish (successfully) the same goal. Then making the top seven for my college team, breaking 16 minutes for a 5k for the first time right after running the 1500. Most importantly, trying to help the team compete for Sun Belt conference titles.

These little victories didn't come without a price. My summers were built around training. I sacrificed sleeping in to get up at 5:30 or 6am to run before the heat. I spent countless weekends away from friends and family to go way off somewhere to race. I couldn't do as many risky activities as often like skiing or even playing basketball on certain days because I was afraid of becoming injured and ruining a season. I also had to watch what I ate and refrain from junk food on the night before and the day of races. I did this for ten straight years, with little to no off season.

Running did give me a lot of great things. I was able to be part of four state titles (3 cross country, 1 indoor track) at Daviess County High School. I got to see my name in the sports section every Sunday and was able to become a Division I athlete at Western Kentucky University. At WKU, I was a member of four Sun Belt Conference championship teams in cross country and track and got to travel and run at a lot of different places. Through high school and road racing, I came across a lot of trophies and medals and championship rings. My high school coach wrote a book about our team and so I got to read about my high school friends and I in an actual publication. I gained several of my closest friends through running and had the ability to eat however much I wanted to since I was just going to "run it off later."

Running also gave me a lot of headaches. I suffered through several injuries as a result of running. Heat exhaustion became an annual summertime event for me. I broke my wrist trying to get in the team photo at regionals my senior year of high school. From this I had to have pins put in my arm and run half the summer with a full arm cast. I suffered through several bouts of achilles tendonitis and plantar faciitis through late high school and college. My junior year of college, what was leading up to be my best season yet, I suffered a concussion running the steeplechase due to weather conditions at Vanderbilt. It had been raining prior to the race making the track slick and, from what I've been told, my foot slipped and slammed headfirst into a barrier, knocking me unconscious (kinda like the above picture). This not only messed up the rest of that track season but also knocked me out hard enough to make it hard to even think straight enough to finish school projects. I couldn't walk in a straight line or drive for a week and couldn't run more than a mile without getting sick for a week or two after that incident.

My last cross country race at Wake Forest My last cross country race at Wake Forest

College is over. After a frustrating senior year at Western, I shed no tears after my last race. I felt that after all that I could finally kick this running addiction and just "run for fun." Which meant running if I felt like it, not because I had to. I'm no longer on a team and theoretically shouldn't care what kind of shape I'm in. As long as I'm not rapidly gaining weight, I shouldn't really care.

Why do I still feel guilty when I miss a day? That feeling of slacking still hasn't gone away if I don't run on a designated day. Or, when I do run, feeling guilty that I don't run hard enough. After vowing to not race the whole summer and probably not for at least a year, I am more than likely doing a 5k this Thursday night in Lincoln Park. I reindulged in my addiction last week running a workout with Fleet Feet's racing team and then doing an additional workout with a friend afterward.

Doing two track workouts back to back did hurt. I hadn't touched a track since my last race at MTSU. However, in a weird, slightly masochistic way, I enjoyed it. Racing a 5k this Thursday will probably bring back a lot of painful memories and I'll think during the race like "Why did I choose this sport?" Afterwards, like a guy who drank way too much the night before and thinking "I'm never drinking again," I'll be thinking "I'm never racing again." I have no time goals going into Thursday and tell myself I'll be happy with whatever. One little race won't hurt. The end result is inevitable. I won't be satisfied. I'll just want to run more and get faster for the next race. I'll never be completely satisfied with my conditioning.

I guess a true addict rarely ever is satisfied