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My Running Hobby Became an Obsession: A Case Study

By: Scott McBride - Updated: 4 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Running Hobby Health Obsession Club

When her health started to suffer and her boyfriend threatened to leave, Jill Hampton knew her running was no longer a hobby; it had become a dangerous obsession. Jill, a 26-year-old sales assistant from Bristol, was bitten by the running bug while still at school. She began to take the sport a bit more seriously while at college and later joined a local club.

Gradually, the thrill of competition became the main focus of Jill’s life, but when her weight began to plummet and relationships started to be adversely affected, Jill was forced to take a fresh look at her running.

“I became totally obsessed by the number of miles I was running,” explained Jill. “Every week I had to run more miles than the previous week. I was getting up at the crack of dawn to run as many miles as possible before work, and I was going for a long run after work.”

Blinded By Obsession

“At weekends, I would run as far as my body would allow. Of course, looking back now I can see that it had become completely ridiculous, but at the time I was blinded by the obsession. There was just about enough time for me to eat, work and sleep, but the rest of my life was taken up by running. I was spending very little time with my boyfriend and our relationship started to suffer.”

“I was very keen to improve as a runner and I had it in my head that running mile after mile would make me a stronger and better runner. I felt I had to test myself to my limit in order to achieve higher levels of performance, and I still believe there is a lot of truth in that.”

“Unfortunately, I went too far. I started to pick up a lot of niggling injuries and I was fatigued by over training. Rather than take the rest my body was crying out for, I carried on clocking up the miles and so never got the chance to recover from my injuries.”

Losing Weight

Another alarming side effect of Jill’s compulsive running was noticed by work colleagues and friends. “People started to notice that I was losing weight, but as I wasn’t heavy in the first place, people were concerned rather than complimentary. I’m sure there were a few people wondering if I had a serious illness or an eating disorder.”

“I was eating and I was eating healthily. I tend to be careful with my diet and avoid foods with too many preservatives, additives, sugars and bad fats. The problem was that, although I was eating healthy foods, I wasn’t eating enough to replace all the calories I was burning by running mile after mile.”

“The weight loss worried my boyfriend and the whole running obsession came to a head when he threatened to leave me. It was the jolt I needed, because it made me look at my life and take stock. I took a complete break from running and concentrated on fixing the friendships that had suffered because of my obsession.”

“It’s amazing how the body can recover and very quickly I was over my injuries and back to my usual weight. Now I have started to run again – and compete – but there are always strict limits on the amount of time I dedicate to my hobby and if I overstep the mark my boyfriend is quick to point me in the right direction again.”

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