Last year, my favorite Mud Run Guide Editor in Chief and Dirt in Your Skirt owner Margaret Schlachter posted an article about “The Dark Side of OCR: When Hobby Turns to Obsession”. If you do not already follow Dirt in Your Skirt, make sure you check them out. Despite having a female-focused name, they still post a lot of great stuff for both male and female athletes. Her article was thoughtful and well written, but it brought up the question in my mind. Where is the line between unhealthy obsession and dedicated athlete?

In her article, she lists a series of questions highlighting signs if your hobby has turned into an obsession including:

     Do you feel depressed if you do not have a race on a weekend? 

     Do you feel jealous when you see other people at races you can’t attend?

     Have you skipped a family or close friends event because, “you had to race”?

     Have you opened a new credit card just for race entries? 

     Have you gone to more than one race in a day, because you “had to”?

     Do you need to display your medals in order to feel accomplished?

     Have you gone into debt chasing the next race, medal, headband, special award?

     Have you added some extra monicker to your name implying your level of competition? 

     Do you now define your life and your identity based on a weekend activity?

     Do you spend more time online in groups talking about OCR than you do with your family and friends?


The questions regarding opening a new credit card and gone into debt are clear signs of a problem. However, everything else falls on the razors edge between unhealthy obsession and dedicated athlete. This line between unhealthy obsession and dedicated athlete is sometimes hair thin and is often (unfairly) solely determined by your results. If your name is Ryan Atkins and you are on a ridiculous 1st place winning streak stretching back farther than I care to research, then any action you take pushing extra things out of your life is probably viewed as dedication. But, if you are an age group athlete, who is crushing his personal best times and achieving an all-time high in fitness but is still nowhere close to the podium, you are viewed as having an unhealthy obsession by coworkers and peers.

The hardest part about being a dedicated athlete is when you are not reaching the podium or when you just start out trying to make a lifestyle change. When you are winning or qualifying for major events, people understand your dedication. However, there are often long periods of training and working your way to the top (could just be top of your age group), where people do not understand the amount of work required to achieve a desired result.

I have even had friends at dinner talk about how much they respect a notable Mixed Martial Arts fighter for his dedication, work ethic, and persistence. Then ten minutes later the same friend was trying to peer pressure me into having an alcoholic drink when I had a 20-mile run planned the following morning. What happened to all the respect of the dedicated athlete? Is my dedication less respectable because I am not a million dollar athlete?

The unwillingness to have a single beer could be viewed as disruptive or unhealthy but the key between unhealthy and dedication is balance. The caveat is that balance for one person, does not look like balance to another person. If you enjoy traveling every weekend to race and it is not putting you in financial difficulty, then go for it. Coworkers and peers sometimes view my “balance” as “unhealthy”, but for me, the long hours of training, monitoring my nutrition and frequent races contributes to my happiness.  Just be sure to find your own balance before casting stones at others.

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Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and official policies of Mud Run Guide LLC, or their staff. The comments posted on this Website are solely the opinions of the posters.