Walk the Line


A few months ago, the editor of a major running magazine spent a long time interviewing me for an article about addiction in running. I poured my heart out, but never saw it published.

So I battled back and forth for awhile, torn between letting the story go, if I wanted to go there, yada yada, until I finally just said …ya know what? Screw it…. nobody can tell my thoughts better than me…. So here we go. Prepare yourselves.

In my opinion, an addict will always be addicted. Whether its to something..someone.. or someplace.. they’ll be hooked on something. And you see, I have a whole history behind me covering that spectrum. But the past is the past, and constantly bringing it up makes it what…?yup. the present. So past addictions aside, why not talk about the here and now? I’m an open book.

And if that rubs you the wrong way, well click that little x at the top of your screen, buttercup.

Okay. Now we can talk. 😉

This little running and addiction topic has become taboo amongst runners. But I want to address it from an addict’s standpoint.

Does running addiction exist?

You betcha. Why wouldn’t it??

Have I experienced it?

I’ll let you decide….

Scratching the surface.

Roughly two years ago, I ran a 12 hour with no real target or specified training. I threw down 70.5 miles that day–coming in 2nd place overall– almost effortlessly. I went home and started plotting. If I trained hard enough, I could try to run 120 miles to qualify for the world’s 24 hour team at a race that fall. It was a long shot, but I had a ton of crappy stuff going on in my life, and God knows I needed something to focus on.

So I started to pour myself into my training before the sun came up. Every freaking day I would wake up between 3-4am for 20 miles. If I missed mileage throughout the week, I would cram it all into an overnight run. Nothing could derail me. Even a stint in the ICU. I was a woman on a mission. Completely driven and locked hard into my goal.

Addicted?…others saw it that way. [Remember that interview when I was attacked by raging normal runners offended by my “psychotic tendencies”?]…. But I saw it as nothing but pure dedication.

I trained so hard for that race and did what?? …. Well, I ran 80 miles in tremendous pain to complete failure — later learning that during the race, I had torn my gluteus minimus, illiacus, & had a stress fracture in my hip. All of which pain I somehow ignored. …Good times.

But I still wasn’t “addicted”. I got back up from that spill. Stayed off my feet for 12 weeks, then BAM, up and ran a 100 and slayed the heck out of it.

Nope. That wasn’t addiction either. That was all heart.

But running, man it was everything I thought about, everything I dreamed about. Everything I TALKED about. It was what I sacrificed for. What I cared for.. but it wasn’t an “addiction”. I’d felt addiction before.

It wasn’t until the following year, while I was training for a MARATHON, that I started to fear that the tell tale signs of an actual addiction were, once again, taking hold of my strange little life.

I had a coach’s plan to follow. Speedy. Structured. Every day, I would go out with a specific workout planned, but no matter what that was, I would leave with a raw and rugged speed session. All I wanted was to run fast. For weeks it was an obsession. Every day, a harder effort than the day before it. I literally could not save my best effort for race day. I didn’t want to wait that long to feel it.

Why do I crave it so much? Why can’t I hold off for race day?

Less than a week out from my target half marathon, I went out and ran 10 miles at a 6:50 pace…the hardest I could run, because I simply wanted to feel it. I knew I destroyed my hopes for the race, but I didn’t care. That adrenaline– the rush of it surging through my veins– I had to feel it. Always.

That next week, I ran a half and struggled hard to hold 6:50s for more than 4 miles. My tired wrecked body crashed and I jogged it in for a crappy finish.

I have wreaked havoc on my body yet again. I lack control… I noticed.

And that right there sent me over the edge. I fell into an awful pit of burnout, sadness, fatigue to the point of not being able to take a step, and full on clinical depression.

But that wasn’t addiction, that was stupidity….right?

My gut tells me “wrong”

Hindsight is 20/20

Fast forward to a few months down the road and I was on my way to a full recovery.

I began to open my eyes to the big, giant, gorgeous world around me that had absolutely nothing to do with running. I began to find little fragments of ME again that I had lost somewhere in the miles.

I started painting again.

I called up old non running friends for coffee.

I started hiking mountains instead of running them.

And my kids–gosh my kids–I poured myself into them more than ever. More than I thought I could.

My weekends weren’t dominated by long runs, or race plans. And my nights weren’t spent on the trails.

I was nonrunner Ash again, and I liked her.

And to be quite honest with you all, a year later and the latter Ash is still hanging around. I love her more than the old one.

Looking back, I remember saying “I’m not gonna waste my life sitting around.” -and crap like that- to justify the insane amount of training I was doing. But sometimes JUST SITTING AROUND is good.

I can see now that life shouldn’t be dominated by just one thing. That would be wasting it. Because there’s so much more to life than one hobby.

I mean, after all, I got into running to have fun and get healthy, and if the outcome was a grumpier, sleepier, injured me– well then what the frick did I accomplish?

Now dont get me wrong, I’m never gonna write ultras off. I’m running 81 miles next week for crying out loud. I just approach things differently from now on.

No incessant schedules.
No over the top training.
No super goals.
No sleep deprivation.
No missing out on bedtime stories, late nights, and morning cuddling.



Now-I’m 100 percent lined up in the right order: God. Husband. Kids. Me. Family. Friends. Happiness. SLEEP. Running.

But I only see it this way now, because I can tell I wasn’t healthy THEN. It took me awhile to realize that, but I know it now, and I won’t let myself get lost in that running pit again.

And just like with other battles I’ve gone through, I have to have people keeping me in check with my running.. accountability. If my husband says “baby you’re training way to much..” I don’t shut him out, I listen. If my friends say “hey you’re gonna overdo it with a back to back” I consider their opinions.

And also, I really only ended up writing about this, because if I had to guess, I’d bet some of you have experienced this too. I mean, I see it on social media — comments like “Wife says I race too much, but she doesn’t understand.” — or– “Dont ever let people get between you and your dreams, even friends and family!” — blah blah blah– hey buddy- I gotta tell ya.. If your wife says “back off the running”, she’s saying it for a reason. And your marriage better be a heck of a lot more important than some stupid hobby you have, so check yourself. It ain’t curing cancer here, man…

Walk the Line

So when it comes down to it. It’s tricky. But I think a fine line exists, and I think certain people can and will cross it.

Did I cross it?

Looking back, I hate to say it, but yeah..probably.

Running alone in the dark from midnight to 8am when I should’ve been in bed with my husband? …yeah. I’m an idiot.

Screwing up expensive races because I wanna taste adrenaline?… uncalled for.

Letting a sport completely dominate my adult life when I have about a billion other things that should’ve come before it? ….FAIL.

But it can’t be all bad..had I not found my love for running, who knows where I would be right now?!

But I’m an addict after all–even if I’m a healthy one–and this is just how I work. I have to learn things the stupid hard way. Because when it’s all said and done: I NEED IT. It all makes me ME. It
is my story! Just like all the other Hell I’ve put myself through during these crazy short 26 years. The puzzle pieces all fit together in the end.

And I’ll struggle with it again, I’m not stupid. The miles, the dirt, the mountains — like I wrote yesterday — it calls to me like a siren. But I will have to wait. Wait until it fits into my life again. When I’m older and free to be a healthy addict.

Anyways… I talk too much. [And write too much.] but all of that to say…

Addiction is ugly. But running? Running is beautiful. So a running addiction? Well that’s just tricky.

But if I can walk that line between beautiful disaster and complete and utter chaos… I’m right where I want to be…. Happy.

As always, thanks for reading, guys & hey, can do me a huge favor? If you clicked over to this blog from Facebook or Twitter- leave your comments HERE! It sucks when people talk about my posts and I cant even be a part of the conversation. I LOVE and appreciate the feedback. It helps a lot. Happy running:) -ash.

63 Replies to “Walk the Line”

  1. I’ve been having running issues lately and the main advice I can give any runner is not to vent or complain about running issues to a non-runner. I was only advised to quit running. They don’t get it.

    1. Yeah that’s typical. And I agree with you. Vent to someone who understands your training load – most people think anything over an hour is madness. So I just keep my mouth shut. Ha

  2. Excellent Ash… Excellent. Loved the “hit the x at the top right buttercup” seriously good stuff. I lost almost everything to stupidity and the consistency of a sane running routine gives the me the stable platform to work from. People find a solid spot to stand in a lot of different places but I find I stand the strongest when I am on the run. Hmmmm that sounds pretty cool. Love the tweets. See ya in november at sky to summit

    1. Thank you. Yeah running provides that clarity for me too. I think that’s why it’s so easy for me to let it get out of hand. A lot of times I want nothing more than to just keep running .. And running.. And running.. Lol regardless of what I have going on. Great at the right time & place, not so much, otherwise. Sky to summit is going to be a fun event. Looking forward to seeing ya!!!!

  3. I have been listening/reading your ups & downs of your journey and have to admit I have been almost in parallel with you. So I find it very reassuring that some else is going through it and that it is okay. I decided to take 2013 completely off from ultras and after missing my first couple races this Spring, considering taking the whole year off from racing. I am enjoying training in different ways and for shorter durations (while still doing some running) and not having the pressure of “having” to “get in big miles” every weekend. Like you, I know it will come around again and going through this is a GOOD thing.Thanks for sharing your journey…

    1. I loved this so much, I read it to my husband. Thanks. It makes me feel better good to know others relate!!!! You’re smart to listen to your body & take control. I’m happy I took 2012 off, and definitely came back stronger. Nothing but major PR’s since! Good luck.

  4. Excellent read, Ash! Being relatively new to the sport of running and ultra marathons, I struggle with the whole addiction thing. This really helps put it in perspective for me.

  5. Pertinent read as I step back into the world of ultras (after a 10 year break). As an ex-drunk myself, I can get caught up in “More”, “Next”, and “Faster” to the exclusion of everything else including my kids.

    Thank you for reminding me to take time to appreciate all of the journeys right in front of, and surrounding me instead of missing them because of my seeming laser-focused need for numbers, PRs, and singular ambitions.

  6. Thanks for your candor..As Recovering Addict I loved your Line “because I simply wanted to feel it. I knew I destroyed my hopes for the race, but I didn’t care…” It sent a chill through me. I can relate (from my past ..as well as my present) I know too, that what is my passion, can turn into a truly selfish action. Thanks for reminding me about “BIG Picture.”

    1. Hey Thanks for sharing! I think realizing when it becomes selfish, dropping it, and saving it for later— that is where u discover genuine passion for LIFE. Thanks for this comment

  7. Read this for sure. Lots of thoughts. First off, you’re awesome. Second off: Addicts always need some edge. Sure you crossed the line at times. If it interferes with your more important values, if you swear it off but then go back to it, or continue to run despite it causing significant consequences: well, these are all in the addiction diagnosis of all substances. Great that you have self-awareness to explore these questions. Also, even if not using substances, we always need ways to get high. (I’ve been sober for 20 years, but still getting high) My full thoughts on the subject are here: http://markmatthewsauthor.blogspot.com/p/addiction-related-posts.html Sorry for the apparent self-promo, but if I wanted to say all I could, I’d have to write all this down.

    1. No no I definitely will read & I’m glad you shared! Thanks! The psychology of it all has always fascinated me. I love hearing other’s perspective & learning more ….& Thanks for reading mine!:)

  8. I’m so happy for you! Learning where our priorities should be is, I think, something everyone goes through at one time or another. Clinging to those priorities and enjoying ALL of them as much as whatever it was that had its hold on us is the constant challenge. Lord bless you and the family Ash. I think you’ll be a far better runner because of this. Crave the run!

    1. Aw Kent!!! Thanks so much!!! I agree. I am positive I’m a better runner- bc I stopped caring. God’s got a sense of humor.:) thanks again Kent- you’re always so supportive

  9. Careful Ash, you might burst my bubble of denial!

    Sounds like your soul searching has put things into the proper perspective. I look forward to seeing how your balance plays out in the future. I still struggle with the notion of training=selfishness.

    1. It’s been about a year and a half since I got everything under control…. I’ve been so happy since I haven’t felt the need for things to get out of wack! Ha! But the future is the future….. Who knows:)

  10. I’m with you. I can’t get back into training because I just want my life back. Tired of being in pain and tired of saying no I can’t go out because I have a training run in the morning. Hoping to get an entry fee back then I am will HAPPILY not be racing this year. Timely post loved it.

    1. Gawd yes I understand. It’s fun for a SEASON, but then I need a break from it!!!! endurance athletes are supposed to cycle training anyway, not sure when we all got out of that habit

  11. The most enlightening part of this was, “Addiction is ugly. But running? Running is beautiful. So a running addiction? Well that’s just tricky.”

    I too had my own struggles in the past, and running was ultimately what helped me regain my life and health. That said, last year I noticed running taking priority over things it should not have, primarily family. Since then, I’ve tried to focus on running for me, when I can. I haven’t been focusing life around running, and it feels free. I run without worries anymore. I guess I was blind to the fact that addictions can also seem outwardly healthy, while still negatively impacting your life. A big part of the change was trying to use it as something I could include and influence my family with. My 4 year old son loves to run because he sees the positivity coming from me when I do. So the compromise? Running around playing with him. It’s a win-win.

    I’m about to sign up for my first ultra. It’s something that will take discipline, but not necessarily obsession, or addictive tendencies. This post exemplifies that. Thank you for sharing. It’s nice to be able to see others view things in a similar light.

    1. And thank YOU for sharing! I think you will love ultrarunning. Especially if you can just keep it under control. I used to think that bigger distance required bigger amounts of training, but I no longer believe that. Marathon training with a few longer runs thrown in is perfect! Enjoy. Thanks for commenting

  12. I loved this so much I had to tweet it…you really have come so far Ash…you’re a true inspiration!! I really do mean that. I could relate to a lot of what you said 😉

  13. I totally get this. I get into that, “Can’t miss one of my Crossfit WODs or one of my running sessions.” But lately I’ve started to recognize when body says, “this is a recovery day” and then its either cycling with friends or nothing. I can’t wait to be married (11MAY to be exact). She is so supportive, even signed up for the half marathon version of a 50k on 18MAY to do with me. But at the same time I realize that my whole training world is about to change and I just need to learn to embrace it. This may turn into a blog post, guess I owe you a thanks. Love reading your posts and sharing them.

    1. Haha thanks for commenting. And congrats on getting married soon!! Not that you asked but — The most important thing that I’ve found in the sport is to support your spouse’s hobbies equally, and not get carried away with racing. i stick to one or two races a year now. My husband spends hours crewing me or watching the kids for me to run or race. I try to make sure he gets as much time to himself & for his sports as well….. Annnnnd I just gave unsolicited advice. I am now my mother in law…. Fail. Ha have a great weekend and good luck!

      1. Thanks for the tips. I’m all about supporting her. She was in bowling and track in college and I was her number 1 fan.

        WordPress.com Ashley Ringo Walsh commented: “Haha thanks for commenting. And congrats on getting married soon!! Not that you asked but — The most important thing that I’ve found in the sport is to support your spouse’s hobbies equally, and not get carried away with racing. i stick to one or two rac”

  14. While you’re on a totally different (higher) plane of running than me, I can relate in this way — I took it back up against when life was really going down the tubes. And just for an hour, or two, or three, it made me feel better. Consequently, you get this desire to make the bad stuff go away for a time, and you go back to the thing that salves the wounds or soothes the mind. Some folks it’s booze, or drugs, or whatever. For some, it *used* to be those things, then gets replaced with something else. Like running. The accomplishments of running, the endorphins, the sense of community — all those things can build on that and turn a wonderful thing into something destructive.

    Fortunately, I know when to turn it off. It’s taken me some time to learn that, and to repress a few urges to go nuts with it. But I think I’m finding that balance.

    Good word, Ashley. I look forward to hearing about how your next race goes!

  15. You are a wise 26 year old and have put things into great perspective for those of us who have children and need to remember that they need us there not out on the trail all the time. But we also need to remember that being out on the trail does allow us to “be there” for them more fully. The key is finding the balance. Sounds like you have and when we do it is does lead to us being more happy and are family as well. In the end that is what makes a life more truly lived not a well run race. Although that can be a nice side product:) Keep running! But also keeps those priorities in place. It is a constant battle! Good luck on your running and racing this year!

    1. Thanks Dawn!!! I so agree! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve just needed a good run in the woods to come back and feel like tackling motherhood again. I have been “happily balanced” (sober??? Haha) for a year and a half now. And it feels good this way. I can’t see myself going back into my crazy training ways again, but I won’t let my guard down to find out. Thanks for reading & for your comment. Have a great weekend!!!! 🙂

  16. I can identify with this more than I would really like to admit, but am happy to say I’ve come out the other side. Thanks for putting it out there, it will help way more people than you know.

  17. I can’t tell you how much I love this post.
    I am a life long addict who found running, then marathons, then triathlons, then Ironman…. That’s just how I work and I am accepting of it but it is a constant struggle. It’s easy to lose sight of what’s important but feel that I make more progress each year. It helps that my wife has been through some pretty dark times with me and we both know we don’t want to go back to that. Fitness helped save my life. It’s tricky, right!

  18. I’d agree with you – someone who has an “addictive” personality will always be addicted to something. Thankfully, running is a better addiction than plenty of other things, and family is an even BETTER addiction than running. Life is an adventure, we all have to find our way through. I’d venture to say that you’re heading in the right direction. 😉

  19. Ash,
    Thank you for this post. I recently wrote about running ‘addiction’ and it is nice to hear similar thoughts. I appreciate your honesty and your thoughts. I recently realize just how addicted i had become to my running. It was my passion, my love and my ONLY joy! I had placed everything into it and so when i got injured and couldn’t run, i not only lost my running, i lost my joy. Life was empty. And it was at this moment that i realized something needed to change. I will ALWAYS love running, but i need to learn to love other things as well. I need to prove to myself that i can find joy in life without running. I have suffered a string of injuries that has gone on for a year and a half. As soon as i get better i get injured again. I have to realize that my body is saying “STOP”. I am not unbreakable. I long for the day when i can run free, but i also know that sometimes God has to take away something we love in order to reveal to us something better. I am trying to use this time to discover my joy in life aside from running. I thank you for your post and showing me that 1). you have overcome injury to run again and 2). that you have learned to put running in its proper place to complement your life, not rule it! Thank you for your honesty and inspiration.

    1. Thanks for your heart felt and sincere reply!!!!!!! I agree 100% that God takes things away that need to be put in their proper place… I am pretty sure that’s what happened to my “idol” but once it all fell in line I was able to enjoy it again. Thx again for sharing your story too.

  20. I’m running my second ultra this Saturday and reading your post has helped me to realize that I have been so obsessed with my training I may have been neglecting other things in my life. Before I read your post I didn’t see the sings of addiction in my behavior. I’ve been saying during this training schedule ” if I can just get through this race then ill back off a little and slow down”, but that’s what I said after my first marathon, and after the first ultra. But now I realize the beginnings of addiction stirring in my life so thanks and here’s to running with balance putting the most important things first! Thanks Ash and good job at salton sea badwater. Look forward to your next post

  21. Although I’m nowhere near the mileage of one who does ultras, I have to say your post struck a chord with me. Running is often a sore spot when it comes to me and my wife. She’s not a runner, and so I love to use that “she just doesn’t understand” mentality. But you’re absolutely right, I can’t put some hobby in front of my marriage.

    So here I am, squeezing quick 3-4 milers during my lunch breaks and waking up early on the weekends, just so I can get 10 miles in before the kid wakes up. And in my down time, reading and commenting on runners’ blogs or DailyMile entries, or writing my own.

    Running addiction definitely exists.

    By the way, I randomly stumbled across your Instagram one day a few months back and it took until now to realize you have a blog with all those amazing photos.

  22. Thanks for writing this. I haven’t struggled with this, yet, because I indulge my love of cooking, gardening, spending time with friends. But sometimes, I get in that groove of running and racing and all I want to do is think about/sign up for the next one.

    Many times I’ve thought “if only I’d be more dedicated to my running, what could I accomplish … ” Maybe I’m doing just fine with my lazy work ethic. 🙂

  23. such great writing, soul searching, and courage. Good stuff. Keep it up and keep it simple.
    great to meet you and hear your story on the plane from SF.

  24. Hey lady,

    This post hit me. I have read your stuff over the past year, and at many times thought you were “mean”. To be honest I don’t know you personally, so who cares? But this post is real & raw and draws a lot of respect and I appreciate you for writing it. Thank you…Keep doing what you’re doing.

    1. Thanks for the kind words! My intentions are never to be mean to anyone in particular, and usually, I’m just making fun of myself or being overly sarcastic, but sometimes I let my guard down and write more like this. That’s how I am IRL as well. 😉 Thanks for reading..glad you enjoyed it! Have a nice weekend!

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