Alcoholic runners

I’m an alcoholic and drug addict.

I usually don’t tell people I meet because it seems that most people have negative stereotypes of alcoholics. I think that mostly stems from people’s misunderstanding of what alcoholism really is. I have also abused prescription drugs. So I find it highly disturbing that medical doctors prescribe drugs like Percocet and Vicodin without asking any questions of the patient.

Anyway, in the words of Robin Williams (an alcoholic) in the movie Aladdin, “Enough about you, Casanova. Talk about her. She’s smart, fun. The hair, the eyes. Anything. Pick a feature.” She’s punctual.

Why post about substance dependence on a running blog? Because the two are highly related, and I was reminded of that in a recent blog post by Phil Torcivia where he describes other places besides the bar “that (insensible) people suggest as preferable places to meet a mate”. Still not relevant until you read the article and find that one is marathons. Had I known, I would have been getting my groove on during the Tucson Marathon yesterday. At mile 24 I was tempted to stop and break out the iPod (no I don’t actually own one), select some disco, crank up the volume, and start dancing. No. I was delirious, but not not delirious.

Actually, there’s something very primal about running while chasing down a prey. It usually ends with something dead and being eaten though, which is probably why they feed us at the end of marathons. Just think if they had big juicy steaks at the finish instead of nasty PB&J roll-ups, bananas, and bagals. Everyone would be setting PRs every race. Off topic. (Also, I don’t know the last time I ate beef, but it was a long time ago.)

The real similarity between alcoholism and running is that both are highly compulsive. The difference is the end result of the activities: one is seen as negative while the other is seen as positive, or at least non-negative. The English language actually has a word to describe positive compulsiveness: perfectionism. I’ve been told that in grade school I was described by teachers as a perfectionist. I wasn’t even in high school yet and was exhibiting the signs of addiction. Well, later in life I was a perfectionist drinker too. Running generally isn’t seen as a positive influence on society, but neither is it seen as a negative influence. It’s neutral. People think runners are just weird; why else would someone get up at 3AM to run 26.2 miles starting when the temperature is 30 degrees Fahrenheit. But we’re not hurting anyone else, so they ignore us. Other marathoners understand. Just like alcoholics understand one another.

Whatever is causing someone to be compulsive is the same whether they are described as perfectionists, workaholics, or alcoholics. In fact, one of the reasons that I think I’ve stayed sober for so long is that I have simply replaced one compulsion with a different one. Some alcoholics go to meetings; I run. So it was with distress that searching the Internet, I came across this story of an alcoholic who stopped drinking and subsequently ran a sub-3 hour marathon. On his first attempt.

My first marathon was finished in 3:50 after 18 weeks of training. My second marathon was completed in 3:31 after someone 10 weeks ago when a random person in a coffee shop asked if I was running the Tucson Marathon. At the time I was not planning on it and had not been training for about four months. I’m not sure what my third, fourth, fifth, or sixth marathon times will be, but I know that by the end of next year I will have run a marathon in under 3 hours. How do I know that?

I’m an addict.






Filed under goals, life, marathon, running

6 responses to “Alcoholic runners

  1. Adrienne

    On the 10th I rolled my car and recieved my first DUI arrest. My life is in chaos. I ran my first half last year and remember it helped me to stay away from my vice. I want to train for my first marathon, it keeps me balanced. Do you know of any to training for in spring that is for alcohol awareness? I want to turn some of the negative of my current life into a future positive.

    • jim

      Great story, I am an alcoholic who is sober, running has helped me get that way. I am running my first marathon in 4 weeks, started running a year ago and have lost 50lbs. Running settles my brain down and gets me into my “happy” spot. I understand what you wrote! thanks! ( I just did a 5k race in under 20 minutes!

  2. Mike

    i am an alcoholic, and a runner.. i ran my first half after a DUI as well, and am now training for a marathon but still drinking heavily. you should be proud of your achievement and don’t think running is keeping you balanced – you are doing that yourself.

  3. Heather

    I was sober for a couple years and then relapsed. Have not ran my first half yet. The farthest I have gone is 8miles in an hour and 20min. Where is everyone from?

  4. Bobo

    I’ve been a distance runner for thirty years. I ran a 4:20 mile, 2:00 half, and was on pace to run a 2:30 marathon at 19. I never drank as a teenager and rarely drank in college. I didn’t finish that marathon because I got drunk the night before. Could’ve ran at Boston but tossed away months of hard training for beer. Here I am 24 years later, an alcoholic. Until last year I’d only been beaten one time on my Air Force fitness test runs. Now I’m injured and Ill and can’t run at the moment. I believe there are many things that cause alcoholism but with runners, I believe the “runners high” can contribute significantly especially when the endorphins aren’t generated by running. I tend to binge drink when not running regularly. A friend of mine has a saying, “runners make for great drinkers”. He’s right. Now I am considering rehab, and what to replace my daily drinking activities with. Wish me luck.

  5. Katie

    Please help me.
    I’m a marathon runner but I’m falling into the alcoholic trap that I always feared. Both my parents were drug and alcohol addicted and I found safety in running. Now I’m drinking instead of training for my next 2 mArathons.

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