The path to peace

The path to peace

Although Larry Adelston has been a runner for several decades, the Christie Clinic Illinois 5K and half marathon later this month are the first two races he has ever entered.

Taking the steps to enter, train, show up at the start line and run 13.1 miles through Champaign-Urbana is a unique challenge for the 55-year-old Champaign man. He has suffered from an anxiety disorder since high school that makes it difficult for him to be in unfamiliar environments.

"In the back of my mind, I always thought I should train for a race. I never did, for various reasons, not the least of which is my anxiety issues," Adelston said. "I have trouble feeling secure in places I'm not familiar with, when I don't have people I know around me. So I tend to avoid."

Blog PhotoIn fact, Adelston probably wouldn't have entered these races either. But his sister had entered the Half I-Challenge before learning she had to be out of town during marathon weekend. She offered to transfer her entry to Adelston and he took her up on it.

"I just thought I would regret not trying," he said.

Adelston started running nearly 30 years ago. He usually runs 3 to 4 miles a few times a week, but he isn't always consistent and sometimes a few months will go by without any running. He always comes back to it though.

"I like the fact that it challenges me mentally," he said. "It's easy to accomplish a goal I set out to do if I have confidence knowing I've accomplished something like this many times. I know it's stretching me mentally as well as physically. It gives me a sense of self-confidence."

He also likes the feeling of being calm and relaxed when he finishes a run, and the sense of accomplishment from having completed it.

That's not to say it's easy. Adelston does many of his runs on a treadmill, and when he runs outside he usually stays within his neighborhood, where the streets are familiar and he's a short distance from home.

When Adelston is running by himself in an area that is less familiar, he thinks about what he would do if he panicked. He thinks about who he might know in the area and where would be a safe place for him to get his anxiety under control.

Running with other people makes him feel less anxious. Adelston joined the half marathon training group organized by Second Wind Running Club, and he's done his weekend long runs with that group. He studied the routes the group would run ahead of time. The first few runs passed near his workplace, Wolfram Research, and that helped him feel more comfortable.

He was also relieved to find he knew a few of the people in the training group, and he's gotten to know some of the other runners now as well.

Pushing himself during a run — whether it's to run a faster pace or to conquer a hill — also helps Adelston focus on the running and takes his mind off any anxiety.

"I find that a lot of times when I'm physically challenged, I'm able to focus more. I like it because I'm focusing on something very tangible at that moment," he said.

Adelston completed his first 10-mile run about a week and a half ago.

"I was really proud of that. Double digits," he said.

"I've enjoyed building up the mileage. I never thought I'd be running 10 miles," he continued. "I feel really good that I've stayed with the program."

Now that he's increased his mileage for the half marathon, he's thinking he should take advantage of his conditioning and enter more races. He still worries about traveling to unfamiliar places though.

Even though Adelston has been running new routes with the training group, "I still have in the back of my mind this fear that I'm going to go to a completely unfamiliar area with the group, and I worry about injuring myself and having to stop. I have a fear of being left behind, and that scares me. That's part of the reason that it's been difficult to get myself to do this. Having a training group that is supportive has helped to give me some self-confidence to at least try."

Adelston said he doesn't mind talking publicly about his anxiety because he hopes it will encourage others with the same issues.

"Any time they push themselves to try, it makes them stronger," he said. "In the end, it can only help, as long as you remain positive and keep trying."

Jodi Heckel, a writer for the University of Illinois News Bureau, is a runner, swimmer and triathlete. You can email her at jheckel@news-gazette.com, or follow her at twitter.com/jodiheckel. Her blog is at news-gazette.com/blogs/starting-line.

Photo: Champaign's Larry Adelston runs along Fox Drive in Champaign. Adelson, who suffers from anxiety when running alone or in strange places, is training to run in the half marathon at the upcoming Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon. Photo by Heather Coit/The News-Gazette

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rsp wrote on April 06, 2016 at 10:04 am

I have a bad sense of direction so if I'm going to be in a new area I use google maps to get familiar with the area before I go, looking for landmarks, cross streets, and safe places. It makes it a lot easier when I go out.

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