Community: Exchange advice in the forums and read running commentary Resources: Personal running log, calculators, links and other tools for runners News: Running news from around the world Training: Articles and advice about fitness, race training and injury prevention Races/Results: Find upcoming races and past results Home: The Cool Running homepage

Cool Running Races & Tips
Community
Discussion Forums
Viewpoint

Got a viewpoint?
Contact us to pitch a viewpoint article for Cool Running

Free e-mail newsletter
Get training news, tips and links free via e-mail.

Free Running Log
Free online running log and tools to keep your training on track. (Partnered with ACTIVETrainer.)
home > community > viewpoint > the end of the perfect myth

The End of the Perfect Myth
This was not supposed to be how it turned out. Despite all of the idiotic warnings we were given back in the day by those who just didn't know, that "running will ruin your knees" and that "marathons can give you a heart attack, " who would have thought those admonitions we so easily sloughed off like so much extra sweat might actually turn out to be true?

  
The End of the Perfect Myth

e-mail E-mail this page
print Printer-friendly page
 

By Don Allison
Posted Wednesday, 6 March, 2002

This was not supposed to be how it turned out. Despite all of the idiotic warnings we were given back in the day by those who just didn't know, that "running will ruin your knees" and that "marathons can give you a heart attack, " who would have thought those admonitions we so easily sloughed off like so much extra sweat might actually turn out to be true?

One of the strong attractions to running, one that lured us to the sport like bees to honey, was the myth it created in our minds. Somewhere inside all of us was the ideal of the "perfect runner," a body and mind so pure it would go on forever and ever, untouched by the endless list of maladies that would befall lesser mortals.

Injuries? Well, yes, they were part of the sport. We accepted them, because we had to. Sometimes the machine breaks down. But still, as George Sheehan so aptly described them, injuries were "diseases of excellence," brief interruptions in our never-ending quest for fitness. But heart trouble? Cancer? Those were for other people, those who did not have the discipline and desire to purchase the hard-earned life insurance we called health and fitness. After all, it was hard work that would lead us to that Promised Land. Hard work, in the form of hours and hours on the roads and track, that others were unable or unwilling to put in. But not us-we would do whatever it took. They even gave it a name: positive addiction.

But now, despite years of having it drummed into our craniums that the pursuit of the fitness ideal would result in superior health, we are beginning to learn that maybe the two do not go together like we thought they did. Maybe superior fitness does not automatically correlate to superior health. Maybe funneling our addictive tendencies into endurance sports was leading us down the wrong road after all.

The studies are coming with increasing frequency: that long distance running (and other ultra endurance sports) suppresses the immune system, while creating "free radicals," nasty byproducts of the oxidative process accelerated by long distance running that leave behind all sorts of potential health hazards. That underlying genetic heart conditions will be exacerbated by excessive running, not cured.

How could it be true? Running long makes us feel good, not bad. Sure, it leaves us a little sore afterwards, and sometimes it takes a few days for our tendons and connective tissue to quiet down, so that we can walk like normal human beings, but the pure sense of achievement, coupled with the rush of endorphins, makes it feel so right. How could it possibly be wrong? That would throw the whole equation-which we have spent a lifetime believing-out of whack. It's as basic as two plus two equals four: running plus effort equals good health.

But the evidence is there, whether we choose to believe it or not. And it sure is getting harder and harder to ignore. However you frame it, the fact is that some runners actually do die young, despite a lifetime spent in pursuit of fitness and health. Those of us that go back in New England running were stunned to learn of Andy Palmer's death at 48, way too young for anyone, let alone a guy that lived the runner's ideal. It made us feel sad, upset, and confused. It was chink the armor of our own vulnerability, but not a fatal one. We still have to hold on to the belief in the ideal. Or else.

Or else what? Good question. What if the evidence turns out to be incontrovertible? What if we could look into our own futures and learn that the same fate awaits us too? What if all of this running is really taking years off of our lives, rather than adding them on. Would it still be worth it then? What if running turns out not to be a positive addition, but a negative one too, like drugs, alcohol, and dare we say it-tobacco? Maybe not on the same scale, but a negative addiction nonetheless.

Can we still feel good about our running then? I mean hell, are they going to leave anything for us to feel good about? We already have been chastised for funneling too much time and effort into this black hole called running, for getting in the way of the cars on the road, for generally acting superior. Now we have to accept that our fun is killing us too?

Perhaps the ideal was too good to be true. Maybe we should have realized from the get-go that we are human, just like everyone else. That too much of a supposed good thing really can be bad in the end. Even so, our individual journeys have indeed been imbued with meaning. Those times when running made us feel on top of the world really were when we've felt most alive, no matter what the long-term implications. The scientists, with their genetic codes and dire warnings, can and will have an impact. They can tell us we won't live forever, but they can't stop us from trying to do what makes us feel most alive while we are still around.

 

 

My ACTIVE
Help
Recent Results
Upcoming Events
Forums
Post a Race
Submit Results
Advertise
Online Registration
Sponsored By


Couch-to-5K Google play Couch-to-5K App Store

© 2017 Active Network, LLC and/or its affiliates and licensors. All rights reserved.

About Us | Advertising | Terms of Use| Copyright Policy | Cookie Policy | Security | Your Privacy Rights | Support

Cool Running Facebook Facebook | Cool Running Twitter Twitter | Newsletter Subscription

Race Directors | Running Events | Race Results | Running Tips | Pace Calculator | Couch to 5K | Running Forum | Running News