I would imagine that emerging from over-training syndrome feels akin to a bear coming out of hibernation. I haven’t run normally for two and a half months on account of a stress fracture and it’s only in the last couple of weeks that I’ve started to emerge from what I can only describe as a deep fog of fatigue and soreness.
For two and a half years prior to the injury, it seemed like I could do no wrong when it came to running. Distances, conditions, shoes – it seemed like nothing could stop me or slow me down and I was riding high on the perilous ego train to destruction that every alcoholic knows all too well. My biggest mistake was coming off a successful 125 km Ultra last summer and not taking any real time off of running thereafter. Looking back, I intended to and should have taken one to three months off with cross-training activities, but I was blindly “drinking” in the success and elation of yesterday’s “high.” Come Fall and into Winter, I was running faster and longer than ever, but I was suffering from a chronic fatigue and muscle soreness that could and often did put me to sleep at any given moment if I put my head down. In stubborn and delusional alcoholic fashion, I began to depend on my daily runs, morning and night. In many ways, it was like diving headlong into the bottle again, knowing that it was destroying me, but dependent on its temporary relief and assurance that there would be more stored up for me in wait. Writing this, it sounds pretty sick and scary and the truth is, it is. It goes to show that this disease has the potential to rear its ugly head even when we’re not drinking and we think we’re doing fine.
So the question now is this: how do I re-develop a healthy relationship with my running and my ambitions? Our Twelve and Twelve reminds us that, “True ambition is not what we thought it was. True ambition is the profound desire to live usefully and walk humbly under the grace of God” (124). In my estimation, the only way to “live usefully” and “walk humbly” is to start with the essentials: my relationship with my Higher Power and how I can take actions to change myself for today, “to be of maximum service to God and the people about us” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 77). This means slowing down and being gentle with myself- often a difficult task for an alcoholic of any type. The more gentle I can be with myself and the more I can flow like water through the natural paths before me, the more and better I can serve my loved ones and the God of my understanding.
It almost sounds to me like I’m giving up my ambitions and surrendering, and I am – but just as when I surrender in AA, it creates a fire in me that burns hot and long and can sustain me when the chips are down and I’m suffering on a run or in the rooms – we have a “host of friends” who have gone before us and we have this program of action that we can practice and though this disease can run rampant in other parts of our lives at times, we now share in a Power that helps us to learn from our mistakes and helps us to choose an “easier, softer way” that’s more lasting and meaningful than what we could only achieve on our own.
So I’m making a commitment, like a bear out of hibernation, to stretch, to sniff and take in the fresh air and my surroundings and seek out my “fellow travelers” who keep their “heads in the clouds with Him,” but have their “feet firmly planted on earth” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 130).