I was asked recently while stumbling around my local Parkrun a question that made me stop. I won’t say I was floored by it, but it certainly kicked my brain into gear. “Did I develop my ocd before or after I started running?” At first I thought the whole question was completely unfair, I don’t have any kind of ocd do I? Then as I began to think on it more I realised that the questioner may have had a point. I am a little obsessive (you may have noticed), so then I had to work out if it was running that made me that way or, if there was a compulsive side to me unnoticed with nothing to throw it into sharp relief until I pulled on my trainers.
I confirmed my compulsive status to myself by thinking back over a series of messages I had sent to people over the previous weeks, they were almost entirely related to running and really, really, really specific in a lot of ways. For example, one evening I was explaining my plan for a run the next day. I could have said, ‘yeah we start at about 10 mins and then get quicker over 6 miles and then do a mile cool down.’ Or more specifically ‘ we start just slower than 10’s and get quicker trying to get 6 miles done in under 50 mins’. What I actually messaged was a list of time targets for each mile, starting at 10:00 and finishing at
7:15 gradually getting faster with bigger leaps in pace at the beginning until the last 2 miles were run within 15 seconds of each other. It had taken me an hour of number crunching and calculating to come up with that pacing plan. Now that is not what you call casual, I also spent half the run speeding up and slowing down to try and stay within those ranges. Of course I couldn’t quite manage it, I started way too quickly and finished just a few seconds under the pace I had set. Not bad, it’s actually tricky to run slowly, but I still felt guilty about not managing to stick with my plan.
I do in fact I have a bit of a reputation amongst my support team for being a pacing pedant. Sunday morning, lovely long run, everyone taking it easy bimbling along at a comfortable chatting pace. “Hold on, this is a bit quick we need to be doing 10 min miles” come my dulcet tones from the rear. It gets worse. On our 18 mile run the other week I ended up having to do the last 8 on my own, I had reached the 10 mile point and from there on in it was marathon pace all the way back. Off I went, leaving the rest of the crew behind while I belted over the horizon. Worked though, not easy but I kept the pace up till the end and actually felt smug about managing this time to stick to the plan.
Now I am not the only runner with ocd tendencies, especially when in a proper training season and, we are right in the middle of spring marathon training now. We have all seen them, or even been them, running round the carpark getting the last few 100 metres in so you can reach your weekly mileage. It does get compulsive, and reaches that point where the rest of your life has to be put on hold to some degree. If you are going to run a marathon you soon discover that a large part of your life will be given over to running and other things will have to wait. If you need to do 7 miles on a Wednesday you need to do it, which is why you see those deranged lunatics on the streets lit up like christmas trees around this time of the year. Couldn’t get your miles in after work so you get up before you can see, and run. Can’t get your miles in before work, you’ll still be out grinding the miles at midnight to make sure your log looks like it should. Whatever it takes to satisfy that niggly OCD itch.
The question remains though, was I like this before I started running? I think the answer has to be a no. I think the OCD grew from the training, I had never had to work quite so hard to get anything before. Actually succeeding made me want more, and then get the kit to help me work out how to train better. The process is never ending and like gambling the rewards are just enough to keep you engaged and, not too much to make the whole thing to casual and easy. Yes running gave me OCD (though in a very narrow and restricted field), so why do I like it so much, even though it has left me with borderline mental health issues? Oh yes that’s right I’m a running junkie, but that is a whole other blog.