On pain and running

When I run, it hurts. It hurts during long runs and it hurts even more during pickups. It hurts during interval training and tempo runs. Recovery runs at a slow shuffle: these, too, hurt. So do races. Races hurt a lot. Sometimes I run in the wind and pelting rain, which hurts in a different way. Other times, in the summer heat, the hurt is served up with a side of thirst and delirium. Night running has its own barking terrors and varieties of hurt. Winters bring gradations of hurt impossible to describe, so I will save the details for later.

No one warned you about the pain: it is wallpaper.

I registered for a long road race some years ago, in another city, in which the fee included a Nike training program. The program explained that every type of run toughens the body, but some runs are also useful for toughening the mind. You gain “comfort with discomfort.”

Anyone who has visited the dentist recognizes the weasel words.

“You may experience some discomfort during this procedure,” the dentist says. “If you do, raise your right index finger.”

The dentist places a masonry chisel against a tooth and begins hammering. Your right arm shoots up. The dentist steps back, with barely concealed annoyance. A distorted figure appears in his blood-spattered visor: you. Convex, skinny, snivelling, you. A human worm recoiling in discomfort.

The difference with running is, you can stop the nightmare any time. No one forces you to run.

Meanwhile, I’ll be running with The Club tonight at an indoor track that smells of rubber and dust. Sure beats running on ice and snow. I guess.

Round and around we’ll go…

8 thoughts on “On pain and running”

  1. Just as important as consistent pain is consistent recovery! The cycle goes: pain – recovery – repeat. Something non-athletes will never understand… the only path to improvement is hurting yourself every single day. But the gratification that comes with that pain is improvement, which makes every muscle cramp and drop of sweat worth it.


  2. But think of all of the wonderful, intelligent, charming running idiots you have met . Misery truly does love company!
    Or maybe we all just have very short memories, forgetting past suffering as we lace up our running shoes and head out, searching for our own version of glory! Crazy or eternal optimist?


  3. No pain no gain. Raising an index finger , really! I’m of the opinion that having your fist flailing around might evoke an empathy that would at least be somewhat satisfying.


    1. You’re right about no pain, no gain. I half expected a dentist to comment, and I am not disappointed. (You realize, of course, I wasn’t referring to a specific dentist. Just to an insensitive brute, to make a point about my own cowardice.)


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