Running chases demons away

AMANDA McCLELLAN, shown running in Mission Possible’s 2012 Run 4 Haiti, is among the top 50 contestants in Runner’s World magazine’s cover contest. Runners were invited to tell their stories about what inspires them to run. Readers can cast votes online for their favorite, with the top vote-getter getting his or her photo on the cover of the December issue. In her entry, McClellan tells the story of how running allowed her to overcome her addictions. (Photo provided to The Courier)

AMANDA McCLELLAN, shown running in Mission Possible’s 2012 Run 4 Haiti, is among the top 50 contestants in Runner’s World magazine’s cover contest. Runners were invited to tell their stories about what inspires them to run. Readers can cast votes online for their favorite, with the top vote-getter getting his or her photo on the cover of the December issue. In her entry, McClellan tells the story of how running allowed her to overcome her addictions. (Photo provided to The Courier)

By MARGARET DWIGGINS
FAMILY EDITOR

Amanda McClellan admits that she has battled addictions most of her adult life.

In college, she battled a drug addiction. Although she overcame that, she fell into similar bad behaviors by eating too much and consuming too much alcohol. It wasn’t until a new addiction developed — to running — that she was able to put previous bad behaviors behind her and understand what had drawn her to them in the first place.

“I started feeling,” McClellan said. “When I run I can feel things. I can manage those stressful things that every human being has. Every one of us goes through life … and we have to tackle our problems. My way of tackling problems was to have a glass of wine, or three. … If I didn’t drink then I was eating a bag of chips,” she said.

McClellan, of Findlay, is one of many runners throughout the country who has shared her story with Runner’s World magazine, in the hopes of being voted onto the cover of the December issue of the magazine.

In her entry essay, McClellan wrote that the running accomplishment of which she is most proud is finishing her first race in June 2008.

“I hated every moment of the first six months, I cried, I whined, I wanted to quit. After years of battling addictions to drugs, food and alcohol, I knew how to quit! The moment that I crossed the finish line I felt the demon in my soul die. It may have been the end of that race but it was beginning of my life. Running transformed me into a HAPPY HUMAN who did not want to be numb every day but wanted to experience every emotion possible,” she wrote.

McClellan said the reason she entered the contest is because “your story only matters if you’re willing to share it. I’d only been able to share it with people I run with, the people who have been a big part of my staying centered and balanced.”

McClellan, 44, said her problems with addiction began in college, when she struggled with feeling accepted.

“I got into doing drugs and drinking a lot because that seemed to be the way to feel accepted,” she said. Instead, it took control of her life.

“I was pretty heavily into cocaine. It was a great way for me to feel like I belonged. I didn’t feel anything, I didn’t know if people liked me or didn’t like me and it didn’t really matter,” she said.

Her parents’ unconditional love saved her, she said. She found solace in her religious faith, which she said “kept me focused on keeping away from things that were illegal, but that didn’t really change my behavior. I ate a lot and I drank a lot.”

By 2004, she was again sober, but a few years later, for no real reason, she began drinking again and hiding it from her family and friends, although she realizes now she probably wasn’t fooling a lot of people.

She and her husband, Steve, an avid bicyclist, married that same year, blending her two children and his one, and having a child together.

McClellan and the children joined Steve in biking, participating in the Great Ohio Bicycling Adventure and Hancock Handlebars events together.

When the couple socialized, she got into the habit of drinking a couple of glasses of wine at home before going out with friends. While out, she would drink very little so as not to give anyone the idea she had a problem. Then she’d have a couple of more glasses upon returning home.

In early 2008, she decided to fulfill a “bucket list” wish and started running. She entered the Flag City Multisport competition, giving herself six months to train. And she hated every minute of it. She learned early on that she couldn’t drink several glasses of wine the night before a 5:30 a.m. run and be able to keep up the pace.

“I was looking forward to not training for something because then I could drink again. But running changed me, it gave me a healthy choice for my addictive behavior,” McClellan said.

She fell in with a group of runners and found that there was always someone she could run with, no matter what time of day.

“Running became a community thing because I could run by myself and work out a problem on my own, or run with friends and vent,” McClellan said.

Even if her running friends didn’t have a solution for her problems, she could hear herself talk through her problems. She learned how to change her unhealthy behaviors and manage her stress.

“And now I have accountability to people who really and truly care about me — my husband and friends — who say, ‘Why weren’t you there this morning?'” she said.

McClellan runs four to six days a week, usually logging between 20-25 miles a week, in all kinds of weather.

She said posting her story on the Runner’s World website was a big step for her, not knowing how her older children and their friends would react to learning the details of her past.

“I’m not saying that it was a good thing that any of this happened to me. I’m saying that I’ve learned from my bad habits and want to tell others to find a way to manage their unhealthy habits, that when you’re feeling like you’re going to fall off the wagon, you have a network of people you can go and be with,” McClellan said.

The best thing about posting her story, though, was reading the stories of the other contestants and realizing there are a lot of other people who use running to help themselves and others.

McClellan said she has been asking family and friends to vote for her as often as possible. Votes can be cast once a day using Facebook and once a day using Twitter. As of now, she is in the top 50 of the contestants. Votes can be cast until Friday, when the field will be narrowed down to 10 finalists. Voting will continue for that group until Aug. 26.

To vote, visit http://covercontest.runnersworld.com/.

Dwiggins: 419-427-8477
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