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Dr. J. on Running

Runners Anonymous

Addicts Share Stories

Published June 28, 1999 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

The facilitator waited for the right time. I sat in the circle for almost half an hour. It was my third visit. For months, my parents urged me to come. I knew it was my turn to speak. There was a pause in the conversation. I heard my name. "Bob, how about you? Are you ready to share with the group?"

My hands were sweaty. I had butterflies in my stomach. I had not felt like this since the Utica Boilermaker Road Race starting line. I sighed. I took a deep breath for what seemed like 10.4 seconds. "Hello. My name is Bob. I am a running addict." There! I said it.

"Hello, Bob," chanted the group. I looked down, ashamed to meet their eyes. I saw three pairs of Nike, one pair of Reebock, two Addidas and five Saucony. All had seen better days.

Having come to terms with my addiction, what came next? I had listened to the others' stories the past few weeks. On my turn, I could not remember what to say next.

"Tell us how it started, Bob. It's OK. We are all friends here," she smiled. She was right. I could trust her. She had been in charge of the finish line at the Human Race the previous weekend. Short course. Great times. Fast results.

"OK. I am a little nervous. Please bear with me," I croaked. I had trouble breathing. This was not a hill workout. I was among friends here. I glanced around and saw nothing but lean, toned bodies. We were all here for the same reason. We were all addicts. We all ran to get that elusive runner's high - and our daily endorphin. The 15-minute 5K speedsters, the aerobics dropouts, and the marathoner wanna-bees. We were here because we needed to share our stories.

"I remember my first time. I was in middle school. A couple of my friends had tried it. You know, after school, behind the gym, on the track. Sometimes they ran around the field house where they stored the lawn mowers. Sometimes they ran with high school kids."

"My friends talked me into it. There was a really cool coach who used to come running with us. Can you imagine that? A grown-up who did the same thing the kids did instead of just yelling at us from the sidelines. Who could resist that kind of pressure?"

"So, I joined the cross country team. Then the track team. I saved my allowance to buy a good pair of running shoes. I ran before school, before my parents got up. I ran extra during gym class. On weekends, I told my parents I was going to the movies. Instead, I went off to track meets. I was hooked."

One day, I was doing a five-mile loop. I heard a sound behind me. It was them! My parents! They were running on the same trail! Dad was all red-faced. They caught me. For God's sake! What was I going to do?"

Dad admitted that he had run in high school. He and my mom had been running after work for years. I guess the addiction runs in the family. Oh, sorry, I didn't mean to say it that way. I guess it's funny, but still, my parents?"

I paused. I was near my limit. The facilitator nodded my way. "Bob. You've shared a lot with us today. I know this has been difficult. I know you will feel better. That's it group! We're done for today. See you all next week," she beamed.

I was exhausted from the experience. I needed to relax. I drifted with the group towards the park. We were all wearing running shoes. It was dark. No one could see us. With smiles on our faces and sweat on our brows, we ran. And it felt really good!

Kamal Jabbour is honorary chair of Runners Anonymous. The group meets Wednesday mornings at Highland Forest for bagels, juice and a therapeutic 8-mile run. Jabbour's RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains The Syracuse Running Page and receives email at jabbour@syr.edu.


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