It’s real ….. but I can still run??

It’s been three days. No sympathy, no help and ridiculed by all close relations. They don’t understand the
savageness.  No, the dinner hasn’t been cooked, the bin is full, Pampers 5+ micro pearls really can soak up 30 times their weight and children can survive on one bath a week. The origins of this can be traced back to Sunday, a blocked nose after a long run. But I martyred on and ran again on Monday evening, waking on Tuesday morning with all the tell tale symptoms. My wife was fortunate, being a woman she  has a not runningnatural immunity, but she gave me the diagnosis.  Now the pain behind my eyes has eased, my fever has broken, the contrariness has passed and the green mucous has dried up.  I am a man flu survivor! But in the depths of the sickness, it was the guilt and anxiety of missing runs which was most difficult to deal with, and this now makes me wonder – am I addicted to running?? Is that even possible?

When I first started running, a three mile route out and back from the house was enough but then that crept up to a 5 mile loop. Now it’s not unusual to have a 15 mile run finished before the rest of the house is out of pyjamas. This isn’t a issue because running helps prevent depression, promotes good sleep and reduces stress (Dietrich & McDaniel, 2004). But then there are times (like last Monday evening) when I clearly shouldn’t have run, I was sick. Not man flu sick – that came later, but I was too unwell to run.   My better judgement was clearly clouded by an increasingly obvious addiction. Like many runners, I need to run longer and faster to get the same fix…….the similarities to substance abuse are hard to ignore (Egorov & Szabo, 2013). It is estimated roughly 3% of the general population experience exercise dependence (Griffiths et al., 2005). Unfortunately at some stage every running career is likely to be hit by injury (Videbaek et al., 2015). You see, the toughest aspect of running is not the hill reps or the mile repetitions. It is not the pyramid track sessions that leaves you slightly dizzy and sore. No, the hardest facet of running is not training at all. It’s being injured or sick. An injured runner is intolerable to live with. Wives, husbands, friends and colleagues of injured runners suffer. Runners are forced to go cold turkey. The typical reaction to injury tends to be denial; athletes regularly continue to follow training with no adjustment. The next is a feeling of anger at a body that has betrayed its user, and the athlete may even try to train harder. The following state is often depression, a realisation that the injury is not improving. And finally, acceptance.

Running injuries are rarely an act of God. The cause is seldom external in origin; it’s not a contact sport. They usually have an intrinsic cause, be it genetic, biomechanical, environmental, equipment failure or training methods. The presence of an injury generally indicates a breakdown in one of these areas, and the starting point in addressing any injury is an assessment of the reasons it has happened. Each runner has a threshold for injury, and this can vary widely from 10 miles/week to massive 150 miles/week. The complex interaction of training volume, intensity and frequency appears to be an accurate predictor of injury in most runners(Nielsen et al., 2012). With the choice of running surfaces and running shoes also potentially having a small influence (Nigg, 2001). But the good news for runners and even better for their relations is that most injured runners will be pain free in 8 weeks (Pinshaw et al., 1984), provided they do the right work! It is important to address the cause rather than just treat the symptoms. Rest is rarely required. Runners can continue to run with most injuries, granted not at the intensity they may be accustomed to. But this is important, because runners will experience withdrawal symptoms (Lichtenstein et al., 2014). Unfortunately continuing to run is not possible with some injuries, like stress fractures. However there are still options available – swimming, cycling. Runners won’t break out in a rash if they go to the gym, it may even be enjoyable. Strengthening work will make you a better and more efficient runner (Storen et al., 2008)! So even when injured, running offers opportunities. Now That I am fully recovered, I realise that my worry of addiction to running must have been at a moment of a particularly high temperature. Yes I squeeze miles in whenever I can. I like to suffer rather than face the guilt and mood swings of not running. So, rather than being thought of as crazed addicts suffering from and “exercise addiction” runners are just acting instinctively, using their bodies for what it is designed.


Dietrich A & McDaniel WF. (2004). Endocannabinoids and exercise. Br J Sports Med 38, 536-541.


Egorov AY & Szabo A. (2013). The exercise paradox: An interactional model for a clearer conceptualization of exercise addiction. J Behav Addict 2, 199-208.


Griffiths MD, Szabo A & Terry A. (2005). The exercise addiction inventory: a quick and easy screening tool for health practitioners. Br J Sports Med 39, e30.


Lichtenstein MB, Christiansen E, Bilenberg N & Stoving RK. (2014). Validation of the exercise addiction inventory in a Danish sport context. Scand J Med Sci Sports 24, 447-453.


Nielsen RO, Buist I, Sorensen H, Lind M & Rasmussen S. (2012). Training errors and running related injuries: a systematic review. Int J Sports Phys Ther 7, 58-75.


Nigg BM. (2001). The role of impact forces and foot pronation: a new paradigm. Clin J Sport Med 11, 2-9.


Pinshaw R, Atlas V & Noakes TD. (1984). The nature and response to therapy of 196 consecutive injuries seen at a runners’ clinic. S Afr Med J 65, 291-298.


Storen O, Helgerud J, Stoa EM & Hoff J. (2008). Maximal strength training improves running economy in distance runners. Med Sci Sports Exerc 40, 1087-1092.


Videbaek S, Bueno AM, Nielsen RO & Rasmussen S. (2015). Incidence of Running-Related Injuries Per 1000 h of running in Different Types of Runners: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med 45, 1017-1026.


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I qualified with an Honours degree in Physiotherapy from Trinity College Dublin in 2004. Since graduating I have worked in St. James Hospital Dublin and have worked in all the areas of speciality within the hospital including cardiorespiratory, orthopaedics, rheumatology, care of the elderly, neurology, burns and plastic surgery among others . I have also completed a post graduate certificate in acupuncture in UCD 2009. The Physiotherapy Department in SJH has strong links with Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and I have supervised undergraduate and postgraduate physiotherapy students on practice placements and also delivered lectures on the undergraduate academic programme in TCD. I have a keen interest in all sports and currently plays with Cill Dara RFC 1st team squad, and Milltown GAA. I have previously worked as Physiotherapist to Co. Carlow Senior GAA Team, Milltown GAA, Leinster Junior Rugby Team and Cill Dara RFC. I am an experienced runner and competed in the Dublin City Marathon in 2002. I continue to participate in running events and multisport disciplines such as Gaelforce West, Gaelforce North and the Motivate Challenge. I have a particular interest in strength and conditioning. I utilise this knowledge of resistance training in the treatment of his clients. I am committed to continuous learning and development in order to ensure the optimal level of care is offered to my clients, and with this in mind I am currently undertaking a certification in Strength and Conditioning (CSCS) with the NSCA.

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