I love to run. More specifically, I love to run on trails. Abandoning the pavement in order to enjoy exercise surrounded by God’s beautiful creation, complete with all of the sounds and smells only He can make, is a great diversion. It’s a perfect combination of enjoyment and exercise, in my opinion.
Long distance trail running has much in common with recovery from sexual addiction. Each time I lace up my Inov8’s or Newton’s, and as I venture into the woods, I think of these parallels.
First of all, these distance races are made to be challenging. It is not in the DNA of race creators to find flat, soft terrain so everyone can run as fast as they can and finish without breaking a sweat. Not at all. In fact, most trail runs have areas of different sized rocks, roots, mud, gravel, hills, descents, ledges, water, essentially only creating a path through natural terrain. To finish a race is an accomplishment, a real physical challenge of endurance and fitness.
Long distance trail running is treacherous. Any trail runner knows that every step is a potential sprained ankle, fall, scrape, or more serious injury. As a matter of fact, it’s almost guaranteed that during the course of any race, there will be mishaps. Despite the mis-steps, the race goes on. Other racers pass. Stopping is not an option. Deep into thewoods, there’s no one there to rescue you or carry you out. During my last race, I twisted my ankle 3 or 4 times and had a severe leg cramp 3 miles before completion of the race. Fortunately, I was able to finish after a brief rest. There are dangers around every turn..
Trail running of any distance requires an acceptance of the terrain. Some races are more challenging than others. Steep climbs demand slower pace. Sometimes you must hike. Water and mud must be dealt with. The thinking that you’ll finish with a certain “per mile” pace common to road racing is entirely course-dependent. You go into the race having trained, in the best shape possible, aware of the topography of the course, but with the mindset that you’re going to keep as constant a pace for the distance as possible. I once heard an Everest mountain climber state that he had “beaten the mountain”, to which a Sherpa guide replied, “no one beats the mountain..the mountain simply allowed you to survive”. The voluntary participation in a race, once the woods are entered, is an “all-in” phenomenon–you’re there to finish, even if you have to crawl, even if it takes all night.
Trail runners enjoy community. Anyone who has run any number of races knows what I mean. The numbers are lower than road races, usually in the hundreds, rather than thousands. If you’re injured, those running behind you will ask “are you o.k.?”, and offer to help, if needed. It is not good to run on trails alone over long distances, no matter what your fitness level, due to the remoteness of the location. It could be hours or days before you could be found. There have been many cases of elite runners who likely had cardiac arrythmic events while running, only to be found dead many hours of days later…it is not good to be alone. It is always better to run around others because I, for one, never run with anything except clothing and a watch. Who wants to carry extra weight when trying to be as light as possible?
Sexual addiction is not unlike long distance trail racing. The terrain is difficult. It is exhausting. There are times when we feel like we’re walking, rather than running. Sometimes the climb seems too difficult. We’re often injured deeply, whether from our past experiences, current circumstances, or shaping influences as we grew up. We turn our ankles, so to speak, acknowledging our weaknesses, but we keep moving forward until the end, which we cannot fully experience this side of Glory. We must accept the terrain, acknowledging the pitfalls all around us. We must embrace community and not attempt recovery alone. We are created to be interdependent, not independent. We need each other. We’re there to listen, encourage, admonish, and empathize. Our mentality must be one of determination, that, no matter what, we’ll finish the race, for any future joy outweighs any temporary pleasure.