Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Substance Abuse

Hi. I’m Michael and I have a running problem ...

Well, it’s not so much a problem, as it is an obsession - really. It all started when I was an out-of-shape 28-year old who desperately needed a lifestyle change. “Why not start running again?” I thought. “It couldn’t possibly be any worse then when I was in High School, right?” Come to find out it takes significantly more effort to propel a 240lb. body than it does a 140lb. one!

When I started running, I decided I needed a goal to take my mind off the pain that my body was feeling. So, once I could go a mile without stopping, I started training for the Boston Marathon. For some reason this seemed like a very logical progression to me. Little did I know that my decision would mark the beginning of an odyssey filled with stunning disappointment and profound joy. The likes of which can only be found in the world of long distance running.

16 years, 20 marathons and numerous ultra-marathons later, I’m still at it. These days, I still run quite a bit - about 60-70 miles a week. I run short 1 mile races and I run ultra-long 50 mile races. I run in groups and I run by myself. I run on roads, trails and mountains. I run in summer, winter, spring, fall and every other season in between. I always run outside - never on a tread mill. So, I run in the sun, rain, snow, sleet and sometimes hail!

Why do I run? I run because I LOVE it. And, I also run because I NEED it. If I go more than a day without running my body starts to break down – both physically and emotionally. My muscles become tight and sore. And, my mood becomes dark and irritable. My wife says that it’s almost like I’m going through some sort of chemical withdrawal. And, in a way, I guess I am.
Endorphins are chemicals released into your body when you exercise. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain and trigger a positive feeling, or “runner’s high”, a feeling that has been described as one which is similar to that of morphine. There are other ways to release your body’s endorphins, but running is my preferred method of delivery. And I’m not ashamed to say that with it, I am “high” nearly all of the time!

With my rather “addictive” personality, I’d hate to think where I’d be without running. I know that my family history, like that of many others, is strewn with case after case of substance abuse. If I had chosen drugs, alcohol, gambling or food as my addiction of choice I would probably look (and feel) a whole lot different about myself, right now. Thankfully, I found a much more positive addiction in running.

Although running sometimes makes me tired and cranky, I think overall it gives me the strength to fight though whatever obstacles come my way. It gives me the energy to keep up with my perpetual-motion kids. And, it gives me the confidence to know that I can do anything, literally anything, I put my mind to. I‘d like to see any of those other so-called addictions do that!

Hopefully, I’ll be able to continue to run as I age - adding years to my life and life to my years.

If not, well, I guess there’s always crack!


  1. cheers to that! [toasts with full goblet of trail race]

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