On passion and self-destruction

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Passions, although extreme in the feelings they evoke, are often-times transitory. I have been racing since middle school and running for even longer. From the moment I began, I felt con-sumed and obsessed with it in that beautiful and cheesy way that is reminiscent of a first love. I still feel this way. My heart switches sporadically between fluttering and sinking in the hours before workouts and in the days before races. However, I have accepted that these feelings may not last forever. I have made an internal resolution: when I begin to lose my love for running, I will stop. If it begins to hinder the growth of my identity rather than enhance it, I will stop.

However, runners have begun to embrace self-destruction as an inherent part of the running community. I’ll momentarily push aside our sometimes excessive ibuprofen use and our tendencies to run through injuries saying boldly, fearlessly and stupidly, “I’m fine!” Instead, let’s talk about food. I understand that my focus on running is limiting but I would like to view it as a lens through which I can challenge a larger problem. This is not just about, or for, runners specifically. It’s about a cultural problem. A famous Bukowski quote reads, “Find what you love and let it kill you.” Here’s the thing: I don’t want to do that.

We begin to form causal relationships between the food we consume, the way our bodies look and our performances (as athletes and people in general). Passions, like running, may be temporary, but our relationships with our bodies and food last the duration of our lives. If I begin to loathe running, I can stop. But I am tied to my body and my relationship with food. To use something I love as a means to control these relationships seems at best silly, and at worst, reckless and dangerous. We have begun to stop viewing food as fuel, but rather as a manipulation device. We need control over our lives and we often turn to food to find it. We’ve let our passions kill us in the worst way possible. It isn’t poetic and it isn’t beautiful.

Instead of nourishing our passions and allowing them to help us grow, we’ve let them destroy us. To want to become the best version of yourself is not foolish or silly, it’s admirable and inspiring. However, to become so absorbed in, and obsessed with, a singular aspect of yourself — to attempt to make that one aspect of yourself the best it can be by sacrificing the rest — definitely is.

We’ve let our passions kill us in the worst way possible. It isn’t poetic and it isn’t beautiful.

Everyone has different ways of healing and I’m sure I won’t be able to heal anyone with this article. Nevertheless, we can and should open a dialogue. It is a problem that we shouldn’t just brush aside because of societal acceptance or apathy. Thinness has been equated to speed and beauty and success. But that’s simply not the case. If anything is the reason for speed and beauty and success, I would argue that it’s happiness and contentment in your pursuits.

One of the most exhilarating aspects of racing is the complete dissolution of the world around you. People cheer; sometimes you hear them and sometimes you don’t. You’re so absorbed in the race: the pain, each aching and powerful step, the jersey in front of you and the steps following close behind. It’s utterly your own experience; it’s freeing. You aren’t concentrating on the people watching you or how your leg muscles are jiggling or the sweat drenching your body. The unflattering aspects of yourself don’t matter because you aren’t running to look good or to please other people. It’s just you; you’re running for yourself. You’re not letting what you love kill you, you’re letting it intoxicate you — you’re allowing it to help you love yourself.

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