Most Americans would consider running to be a form of masochism. I run, and especially when I’m really pushing myself, that’s what I often think. But curiously, others really love it. They say that it releases endorphins to produce a “runner’s high” – although I’ve never been so fortunate as to experience that. People actually can get addicted to running. But it’s a healthy addiction, right? Nope, not necessarily.
I just found out that running addiction killed a college friend of mine: Dave Terry, who was my fraternity pledge dad. I remember him as cheerful, helpful, kind, funny, generous, and one of the nicest guys in the frat. Plus I had a special affinity for Dave because he was a ski racer. So was I up through high school. He was on the Colorado College ski team – and to make that cut you had to be damn good.
I think I never had the heart to tell him that upon my return from junior year abroad, I deactivated. (When you first join a frat you’re a pledge, and if you decide to drop you de-pledge. After you go through the initiation you’re an active. And then if you decide to quit you deactivate.)
We didn’t keep in touch after college, but I learned that he went to medical school and became a radiologist. Lived in Portland.
Then a couple of years ago I read in the CC alumni bulletin that he passed away. A friend of mine thought it was because of an aneurism, but wasn’t sure. I did some digging on the Internet and found tributes to him, mostly by his running buddies. Turned out that he was an ultrarunner. He ran ultramarathons – 100 mile races. At least two dozen of them.
Prior to knowing the cause of death, I assumed that too much exercise may have killed him – especially after I read about a recent study that ultrarunning can actually be bad for your heart. (According to another study, the optimal amount of running is just 1 to 2.5 hours per week, and not too fast.)
The other day, though, I finally found out the exact cause of Dave’s death: suicide.
Since the initial reports of his death on the Internet, which never mentioned the cause of death, people have opened up about that. And from what I gather, it seems an injury made him cut back on his running. Apparently he couldn’t handle it and took his own life.
I find it bizarre that one can be driven to suicide by not being able to run, but apparently it’s true. Who knows – maybe there were other factors involved. I’m sure there are a lot more details that I’m missing.
I did some research on running addiction and found that “Intense, high-achieving perfectionist individuals are particularly vulnerable to this addiction.” That no doubt described Dave. May he rest in peace.