FELLOW SUFFERERS, I know you're out there. Every week you turn to the fitness columns, hoping to see your symptoms discussed. They never are. When the evil side effects of running come up, it's always the glamor topics -- knee injuries, stress fractures, orthotics and anorexia.
The time has come for someone to speak out. The lesser chronicled -- but potentially devastating -- psychological side effects of distance running must be revealed. Crude self- diagnosis is the best I can offer, but take heart. Admitting we have a problem is the first step toward recovery.
Runners, are you victims of:
Tee-shirtus maximus -- Onset coincides with entry into a series of 10K races. Awarded a shirt per race, the afflicted runner soon finds his or her dresser bulging with the ever- burgeoning collection. In severe cases, thetee-shirtus sufferer stubbornly refuses to part with a single shirt. No matter that the silk- screen design appears to be the creation of a deranged pre-school class; no matter that the fabric is suitable only for straining lumps from gravy; no matter that the guest bedroom overflows with shirts -- the hoarding continues.
Pitstainus nocarus -- A particularly virulent strain of tee-shirtus in which the runner not only keeps every race shirt, but develops an unnatural attachment to shirts with armpits the color and texture of kitchen floors' waxy yellow build up. (Related symptoms include wearing shirts stretched to fit the Redskins' defensive line and a fondness for tees resembling aged Swiss cheese.)
Adidas nervosa -- A tragic malady peculiar to runners who've been racing for several years. The chief symptom is a bedroom closet crammed with old track shoes. Exhibiting an obsessive attachment to these antiques -- their laces in shreds, their arch supports crumbling, their cloth uppers stained and shot through with holes -- the runner refuses to trash a single pair.
Packratus momentus -- Like each of the above pathologies, packratus involves hoarding behavior. The runner squirrels away race paraphernalia, including tattered race numbers, foil blankets, finisher's trophies and race photo proofs. In extreme cases, even safety pins are secreted away.
Sound familiar? If you're in the throes of any of the above, take heart. Your running future needn't be jeopardized. Some of these suggestions may work for you. Tee-shirtus sufferers, try finding alternative ways to keep those cherished race mementoes close by. Have your grandmother crochet them into an attractive scatter rug, or quilt them into a coverlet -- preferably before they reach the nocarus stage. Supportive family members can help adidas nervosa victims. The more courageous families can attempt dismantling shoes and sneaking the remnants from the house. However, bronzing the old darlings is a safer course of treament. Reincarnated, they make dandy wind chimes.
If, by coming forward, I've reached one other afflicted runner, if I've helped one other person open a dresser drawer without shame, or face a bedroom closet without getting misty-eyed, then the pain and humiliation of public confession have been worth it.
Now, if you'll excuse me. I have to mail in this 10K entry blank. Only the first 500 entrants will get tee-shirts.