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Ultramarathon Training Aids Addiction Recovery

Patrick Bowles is 24, and has been an addict for half his life.

“I was never athletic, I never once ran anywhere for any reason. I was never concerned with fitness, health or anything of the sort, and it goes without saying that I certainly didn’t care about any of these things during my addiction.”

However, for Patrick, just about everything in his life is changing for the better because he made the decision to try.

He’s been in treatment for addiction at Gateway Community Services in Jacksonville, FL since May 12, 2015. Being an addict since the age of 12, Patrick missed out on the years people often consider their best, childhood. Over the years he betrayed every relationship that ever mattered to him, causing extreme heartache and worry to his family. He sought help just days after the birth of his daughter, who he will meet for the first time in a couple of weeks.

“I lost all of my ‘friends’ when I graduated from powder to crack cocaine. I betrayed every relationship I’ve ever had and my family completely fell apart as a result of my addiction. I knew it was time to seek help when absolutely everything that ever mattered to me was gone. As far as I’m concerned I’m an infant being nurtured and brought up by this program.”

Patrick is also part of Runwell’s pilot running & wellness program with Gateway, which encourages a healthy lifestyle early in recovery through running and nutrition, and while he was present at the initial meetings and events, he didn’t take to running with the group for the first three weeks. “One day I just took off and was immediately hooked. Running for my recovery is like having something no one else has. When I run on my own it’s like the world falls away and I have nothing to worry about but my next step. When I run with Runwell, I am pushing myself to achieve things I’ve never even dreamed of doing. I don’t believe my recovery would have the foundation that it does if it weren’t for my running.”

As part of his recovery, Patrick has decided to join Runwell Founder Linda Quirk to run the 9th edition of the 4Deserts Roving Race on February 14, 2016. The 155-mile, 6-stage/7-day endurance race will take place in Sri Lanka, one of the most culturally- and spiritually-rich destinations in the world. Patrick says, “I’m terrified on one hand, but on the other hand I’m looking forward to the physical and mental training required to conquer this goal. There is definitely fear, but let’s face it, through my years of addiction I was afraid of nothing, I would walk the darkest streets in the wee hours of the morning to achieve a different kind of goal, so what’s there to be afraid of when I’m doing something that will only benefit me physically, mentally and spiritually?”

Excellent point.

“I don’t know whether it’s the meditation of running, the adrenaline, the chance to do something that is entirely mine that no one can take from me, or just the peace of mind that comes with focusing on the next stride. That’s the beauty of it, when I run, nothing else matters. Everything falls away from me as soon as my left foot follows my right foot. The chance to take on something as big as Sri Lanka is a motivator and an incredibly opportunity for me to experience life. I’ve never left the US and I feel I never really lived life, I merely existed within life, and now I get to really live.”

Addiction afflicts millions of Americans, and a very small percentage of them receive the treatment they need to learn to live a life in recovery. Runwell’s mission is to give more people that chance by funding treatment scholarships as well as teaching wellness and coaching people to achieve physical endeavors they never thought possible. Joining forces with Runwell has awakened Patrick’s passion for running and also given him a stronger voice as he is eager to educate people about addiction. Knowing he won’t change minds, he hopes some people will just simply listen to the experience and strength of those who have overcome this disease in order to understand that pain, suffering and loneliness often fuels addiction. “Addiction is the only disease people get mad at you for having. Loved ones don’t usually look at how the addict suffers in their active addiction, they look at the damage addicts have brought to those around them. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I know all too well the wreckage I brought into the lives of those that had the nerve to care about me. I never took necessary measures to get the help I desperately needed until now. I am a good man with a disease, and if ‘normal’ people could try to understand that addicts are plagued by a physical allergy that is awoken with the first drink or the first drug, then the mental phenomenon of the craving sets in and we’re off to the races. Some can have a glass of wine and not have to kill the whole bottle, or have a tooth pulled and take their pain medication as prescribed. Not this guy. And there are millions of people just like me.”

It’s still very early in training, but Patricks goals for Sri Lanka are simple, he wants to be prepared mentally and physically and he wants to finish. However his short term training goals are quite specific. Running a six-minute mile tops his list (he’s running 6:30 now), later on he’d like to run ten miles consecutively at an eight-minute pace. As far as races go, he’s signed up for the Tour de Pain. Long term goals of course include running 25 miles at a time at a decent pace, and of course, Sri Lanka. “I haven’t quite figured out my Garmin and haven’t registered in training peaks, but I have my passport application filled out and printed and I am getting the funds together. I suppose that’s all I have for anticipated challenges at the moment. I have a good way to go as far as building pace, distance and endurance, however I can tell you that so long as both my legs work, running will not only always be a part of my life, but a part of me.” 

Along with his training and day-to-day management of his treatment, Patrick will also be raising funds to help others suffering from addiction get the treatment they need. Consider a donation to his campaign.

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