Addicted to running

Last updated 10:30 05/02/2014

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From couch potato to running bean

Confessions of a running junkie I'm learning to run Overtaking everyone on the couch From binge drinker to Ironwoman Pushing my body forward The reluctant runner After a decade off, I just do it Finding my stride and myself Addicted to running Running's the best 'drug' on the market

Hello. My name is Patrick and I am an addict.

It started like so many other stories: I wanted to impress a girl. So I started doing it. At first I just dabbled in it. I usually did it alone, but every now and then I'd talk a friend into trying it. It was harmless, though, just a way to pass the time.

Then I moved. Some friends talked me into doing it more often. We'd usually go out to the backstreets, out where nobody could see us, or late at night when nobody else was about. We were secretive, answering questions about what we were doing with vague excuses. But it was still under control. I didn't think about it too much. It didn't control me.

I got talked into doing it with a group. I went first and set the standard. What a rush!

Nobody else in the group could keep up. I felt strong and in control. But it laid me low the next day. I had no choice. I had to give it up to fully recover.

The next spring, I moved to Colorado. Life presented its little problems. So I started my habit up again. Just a little bit after work. Sometimes on the roads, often indoors. It picked me up, helped me stay strong, made me believe in myself. The high stuck around for hours.

My habit started to control me that summer. Studying for the bar exam exhausts your mind and, at times, seems to rip your soul from your body. Your spirit sags, your mind dulls. You have to do something to keep going. I needed something, I needed a reason, a light, maybe even hope. So my habit got worse.

I did it every day. Some days for only 30-40 minutes. Some days for over two hours. By the end of the summer, I would run 25 kilometres nonstop in the thin air of Denver.

But all good things must come to an end. I moved back to Texas. One October day, I went out for a run, like I always did. Halfway through, though, I felt a shooting pain in my right knee. I tried all the regular remedies. I yelled, I cajoled, I bargained, and I cursed. Nothing seemed to work. I walked on it for a while before trying to run on it again.

My knee was having none of that. I walked the final 9km home. And I wasn't able to run regularly again until spring.

In August, though, I ran across a flyer for something called The Hottest Half Marathon and 10k. I'd never run a race before. I signed up on August 12. On August 15, at 6.30am, I stood in a park in the 30 degree Celsius heat. I had no idea what to expect. I had never timed my runs - I just ran. All I wanted to do was finish without collapsing and without walking.

The horn blew. Off we ran. I found a group of people I decided should be slower than me and used them as my barometer. By the third kilometre, they were many metres behind. As I ran towards the seventh kilometre, I realised that over two-thirds of the runners were behind me. I could actually run. Imagine it: this nerdy guy who, until the year before refused to run for any reason, could actually hold his own in a race. I decided then that I could finish in under an hour.

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I approached the finish line.

"Here comes Patrick Wilson, finishing in a time of 59:30!" 59:30! I won.

And, as Haruki Murakami said in his book What I Talk about When I Talk about Running, "at least I never walked".

It has been six years since I started running. I love it. It clears my head, brings a smile to my face, and renews my energy after a long day, long week, or to start a week. But until I ran my first race, until I knew I could finish a race and conquer this fear of failure, I didn't realise how much running had become a part of who I am.

I am many things: a human, a lawyer, a sarcastic s.o.b, a sometimes funny guy, someone who moved across the world to follow his dreams. But I'm something else now, too. I am more than just an addict or someone who jogs as a hobby. It is a part of me now, and I feel like I have finally earned the right to say:

"My name is Patrick. And I am a runner." 

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