I am, but I am not

At a staff retreat this week, my boss facilitated an activity to help make us aware of our own biases and stereotypes. On one side of a sheet of paper, we were to list “I am” descriptions – I am a woman, I am a millennial – and on the other side of the page, we would write how we don’t fulfill the stereotype of that description – but I am not emotional, but I am not ruining the world.

I wrote: I am a runner, but I am not holistically healthy.

In fact, that was the only item I could come up with about myself at first. It’s one I find myself confronted with sometimes. There’s an assumption that if you run as much as I do, that you also drink power smoothies for breakfast, eat kale chips and hummus for lunch, and love a salad for dinner. If you run marathons, you must be incredibly healthy, right? Nah.

Running is an addiction.

My relationship with the sport didn’t start that way, but it’s evolved. I run because it wakes me up in the morning or clears my head at night. Running makes me feel good about my body – I’m a big fan of my hamstrings and quads. Most visibly, though, it gives me excuses to eat and drink ALL the things. Sure, I enjoy the health benefits, and I like knowing I can outrun zombies if the occasion presents itself. But mostly, running is a compulsion.

The first step is admitting you have a problem, right?

When I read my statement loud, it needed no explanation for my workers. They’ve seen me raid the office kitchen for mid-morning snacks (peanut butter pie is a brunch food, right?) and midafternoon chocolate. I’m guilty of supplying office donuts on more than one occasion – some for them, some for me. The easiest habit for people to see – second to my enthusiasm for running – is my enthusiasm for good food. It’s harder to see the other unhealthy habits running has fostered in my life.

Sure, I run. But I don’t always take care of my body in other ways.

When you’ve run for so long, you forget what it’s like not to run. Most of my friends are runners; a lot of what I read is about running; my social media feeds are boiling over with running content. Eat, sleep, breathe, run, repeat. Simply running, though, without taking care of your body and mind, isn’t a complete health regimen. I imagine it’s like an unchecked addiction (I’ve never tried other drugs). I have been doing it for a while and feel fine, great even. In the back of my head, though, I know there is a time limit to this kind of running. My body is going to break down, and my head will eventually catch up with my legs.

For the last four years, I’ve been running towards something or away from something. Running lets me escape feeling things I don’t want to feel. It replaces those feelings with accomplishments, adventure, and mission-mind. I can’t say how long you can outrun yourself – I’m still out here, head in the sand, hoping I can dodge clarity a little longer. Running is still my addiction, my sanctuary from self. Someday, maybe soon, I’ll come around and find out the second step to recovery. Until I’m ready for that, I’m going to continue to run all the miles and eat all the office candy bars.

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