Runtrails' Rocky Mountain Journal
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"Exercise is for people who can't handle drugs and alcohol."  - Lily Tomlin

Hello. My name is Sue and I'm a runner.

It actually is worse than that. I'm an ULTRA runner. I love to run and walk very long distances. < the audience gasps >

I've joked about my "addiction" almost since I began running 'way back in 1980 at the age of thirty, when I had the life-altering realization that I had become overweight and needed to lose some pounds. Iíd always been this skinny person, but less exercise and more fattening foods (ice cream!!) in my late twenties had robbed me of my energy and dignity.

Iím proud to say I started to run and havenít looked back. Those extra twenty-plus pounds of fat came off pretty fast at that young(er) age, and Iíve done a consistent job of keeping fit into my late fifties because of the running and other physical activity Iíve done. Self-control with food helps a lot, too, of course.

Although I started running to lose weight, this activity has taken on significantly greater meaning with time. Iíve been through many stages of road and trail running and have pretty much come full circle back to health and enjoyment reasons, as opposed to the competitive aspects of the sport. Jim began running in 1978, two years before I did. Heís gone through various stages, too, but is still more competitive than I am. Iíve really lost that ďedge.Ē 

Jim (middle) and Sue (front) at 2004 Bull Run Run 50-miler in Virginia

Now I'm more interested in adventure and journey runs in beautiful places. My Appalachian Trail trek was extremely satisfying to me on various levels. Although I wouldn't ask Jim to sacrifice to that extent to crew for me again (almost five months), he's happy to help me run whatever other long trails I want to tackle piece by piece. I'm really looking forward to finishing the Colorado Trail this summer and finding more segments of the Continental Divide Trail. I love the solitude, scenery, and lack of pressure to run a certain pace.


Running truly is addictive for many people, partly because of the endorphin ďhighsĒ it can produce. And if we canít run for several days or weeks, we get cranky. But unlike nicotine, alcohol, and other addictive substances that can ruin a personís health and ability to cope with life, running is usually a positive habit because it can significantly enhance health and enrich our lives. 

Of course, anything done to excess can have negative consequences. Running can also drain your wallet, damage your health, and ruin relationships if you donít keep it in perspective with the rest of your life - as can any other sport or hobby taken to extremes. There is a fine line between passion for an activity and obsession with it.

Running has been a big part of my life for twenty-eight years. It has been mostly positive, although my passion for physical activity, travel, and good health was a major factor in my divorce from a non-athlete. Our goals and dreams diverged through the years to the extent that the marriage no longer met the needs of either one of us. Jim went through much the same thing. He and I subsequently met at a race and have been sharing our love for running, life, and each other since 1999.  

Several years after I began running, when I was in the most competitive stage of my running ďcareer,Ē my ex-husband and I were talking about people who smoke, drink, and/or use recreational drugs. I canít remember now the exact context of our discussion, but I clearly recall saying smugly, ďIím sure glad Iíve never been addicted to anything!Ē and his immediate, succinct response: ďHA! Youíre addicted to running!!Ē 

He nailed me. It was one of those ďah-haĒ moments in my life. I still joke about it, but he was dead right. I am a runner, and doggone proud of it. I rank it right up there with any other title Iíve held throughout my life - daughter, sister, aunt, wife, friend, student, career woman, boss, volunteer, etc. Even though at age 58 Iím slowing down and walking more and more, I will always consider myself a runner. Once a runner, always a runner.


This spring our Roanoke running club, The Striders, had an essay contest for a $100 gift certificate to the Fleet Feet running store. Iíll close this entry with my essay, which didnít win the random drawing but will be published in the club newsletter sometime this year:


Believe me, there are days when I wonder! Itís usually when my Granny Knees are complaining. Or when I just have no ďget up and go.Ē Or when I do a face-plant on my favorite trail after tripping over yet another root or rock. Or when I DNF an ultra because Iím no longer fast enough to always make the cut-offs. <sigh> 

Why not just admit Iím ďnot 35 any moreĒ and find another sport where I can excel like I did in running 15-20 years ago? 

Itís probably because no other physical activity ďdoesĒ for me what running doesóthat indescribable sensation of floating through the woods; the feelings of peace, freedom, and empowerment; the spectacular panoramas from mountain ridges that I can see in one day, views that 99% of the population of this country will never see in their entire lifetime; and the wonderful camaraderie with other runners who know exactly what I mean. 

Whenever Iím injured and canít run for several days or weeks I am painfully reminded of just how important running is to me Ė and why I will continue to remain involved with the sport even when I am no longer able to run.

Gotta run,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

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© 2007 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil