Running Helps Runner RecoverDecember 27, 2011
By Noel Paine
A former addict finds more than sweat and fitness from running.
It’s the holiday season and a time of hope. This seems like a good time for a running story that fits right into the season as well. Barry is a runner from Ottawa, who not that long ago, probably would never have imagined that he might be able to run a half-marathon. Most of Barry’s goals were simple and short term: where and how to get drugs and repeat.
For eight hard years, Barry was fueled by crack. Crack was Barry’s evil master that once gripped his shoulders, watched him go for 17 days straight and drained him until he weighed only 135 pounds. Barry’s addiction cost him a good job and a house, but it hasn’t yet won.
I found running as a youngster was something that let me get a handle on a bad temper that was leading me into bigger and bigger holes I was having trouble climbing out of. Running allowed me to learn patience, perseverance and kept me on an even keel emotionally. Running has accompanied me through the good and bad times of life. I’m thankful that I found the sport. I was interested to hear what Barry thought of running.
Barry is 44 and discovered running in July when he joined a five-month addiction treatment program run by the Ottawa Mission. This was not Barry’s first attempt at getting clean but this was another real attempt to turn his life around. The Mission also had a running group that met on Saturdays. It wasn’t a big group and for many, it was a walk, not a run. For some reason, Barry chose to try running.
The first race
To keep this blog to a reasonable length and to allow me to share some of Barry’s words and thoughts I will jump ahead. In November, Barry lined up for a half-marathon organized by the Running Room just outside Ottawa. Exceeding all expectations Barry ran his first half-marathon in 1:37. His name was mentioned in a newspaper article. Barry and I made contact and I asked him about his story and his running.
Why did running interest you?
I arrived in Ottawa, July 16, 2011 in pretty rough shape emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I hadn’t any idea what was before me but knew I needed help and was willing to make big changes in my life. Once I was settled in at Ottawa Mission’s ‘Lifehouse,’ someone told me about the Mission’s running program and decided to give it a try. I had quit smoking cigarettes the week before so my first run on July 30th was a 5K walk/run. Needless to say I could have never imagined that I would be running in a half marathon three and a half months later.
Why did you keep running?
At first I enjoyed the camaraderie and new friendships that came with participating in the running program. I would run with Chris and Roberto every Saturday morning and they would encourage me to ‘ramp up’ and concentrate on proper form. I also had a running buddy that was in the Mission’s ‘Stabilization’ wing and we ran together but such is with the nature of addiction he left and I found myself having to run alone if I wanted to continue. I donned my MP3 player and found a reprieve from everyday stress. I noticed that I was much less anxious, my mood was more stable, and I my self-esteem increased. I recognized the benefits immediately.
How has running changed you?
Running has given me the ability to dream and set goals again. With Chris and Roberto’s coaching, they helped me achieve a goal I never thought possible. Today I know that as long as I keep my recovery first and do the work, I can achieve almost anything. I am much more easy going and my mind doesn’t race like it used too.
After your first race, what are your goals now?
My number one goal is to stay clean obviously. I have committed to stay in Ottawa for at least one year. I really love this city and all its beauty. I intend to join “The Running Room” Sunday morning run as the Missions running program has shut down for the winter. I am going to run the Ottawa Race Week-end half-marathon on the May 24th weekend. I am also considering the Army Run and a race in Montreal. I still run about five days a week and enjoy every minute of it. Winter running brings on new challenges but I think it just makes us runners tougher and stronger!
What would you say to others struggling with an addiction or problem, how does running help?
Ultimately everyone’s struggles and journey is unique. I encourage anyone who may be in the disease of addiction, dealing with depression or what have you, to give running a try. Reach out to a group like I did. If it turns out running is not your thing, find something that you can be passionate about. To quote Winston Churchill “Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, give in. Never give in. Never give in. Never give in.” Happy running everyone!
Barry says he is not a crack-addict. One is never the drug or addiction that owns them, they are a person dealing with something that has gotten out of control. Barry is now a runner, a label that doesn’t need removing and may lead him down roads he never thought possible.
I ran with Barry a few weeks before the holidays and I think that half-marathon PB will be destroyed in May.
See you on the roads Barry, we are all cheering for you, welcome to the Canadian running family.
If you are someone interesting or if you know someone I should profile — write me, love to hear back from you!