"If any psychologist will take the trouble to trace out the history of each of our prominent pedestrians (long distance runners/walkers back in the day) he will discover that a very large proportion of them have been subject to some form of madness."
Sir Adolphe Abrahams (1961)
I had to look this up, but Abrahams was a doctor for the British Olympic team for several decades.
On the twss blog (the group I run with) someone posted a New York Times story that made training for a marathon look like more of a challenge for co-workers and spouses than for the runner. Now, they did manage to find some especially crazy runners, who I don't think qualify as the "typical" runner. One guy seemed to think it was more important to buy a $900 gadget to help him recover from long runs than to keep his family on a budget. The same guy (i think) also took his finishing medal to work the week after the race to show his already annoyed co-workers. A female runner used her commute as her training run - and then didn't shower for work.
So, are runners crazier than the average person? If so, is it because crazy people are attracted to running or is it because running develops a slightly eccentric perspective - or both? Most of the comments on the twss blog denied that runners were more self centered, selfish, or crazy than the general public. Most people thought that the crazy people the Times found were that way before they were runners - and would have been the same way regardless of whether they ever took up running. Another point made on the blog was that runners are just like any person who is obsessive about a sport or hobby. That's possible - but, I'm not sure it's healthy to be obsessed about anything.
Here is what I think based on my own experiences. Generally, I feel much better psychologically when I'm training for something. Part of it is probably the endorphins, part pride in accomplishing something unique, part of it is setting aside a part of my day for myself, part of it is the social connections through running (they might be crazy, but they're my kind of crazy), and part of it is just the positive feeling of being in shape.
But, there are traps that I fall into - sometimes my pride or competitiveness turn me into a bit of jerk. Many times I expect family and friends to modify their schedules to fit my training - luckily my wife seems to understand that it's important to me and so she doesn't take offense - but, that doesn't mean that it's a reasonable expectation. I can be very irratable and cranky before a big race - and sometimes after if things don't go well.
That being said - all in all - i think running is a very positive thing in my life. But, I know that balance is important. That's why I was a little ambivalent about starting this blog - I'm a little afraid that it's the "dark" side of running that's leading me to write it. So far, it's been fun and helped me to focus on what I want to do this winter - so, until i feel something different, I'll keep it up.