I keep thinking about a conversation I had at the Derry race with a woman I had briefly met before. We were talking about our goals for the race, and I said that I wanted to push myself and suffer. She raised her eyebrows and said, "Well, I just want to have fun". Then she turned to our common friend Mary and said: "She wants to suffer, I want to have fun. Suffer, have fun". I did not make much of it, until later, when Mary apologized for her, saying that she is going through a tough time. Mary was concerned I was offended. I was not. Honestly. This is not because I have thick skin (which I do, if I don't know you or you don't mean much to me, you won't offend me, no matter what you say). My take on this was that she did not get my language. For her suffering meant a bad thing, so understandably she was puzzled. For me, suffering meant a means to an end, a good thing, something I want to master, something that will make me a stronger runner.
Runners (and here I mean those who race, as opposed to those who run for fitness) speak a different language. Runners have different meanings and perceptions of words and emotions. A typical person is repulsed by pain - evolutionary, we are predispose to overreact to pain and avoid it, because typically pain means something life threatening; why would anyone want that? Runners have a different meaning for pain. Pain means I am running well. Pain means I am pushing myself. Pain means I am giving my all. The only pain I don't like is the pain from an injury. That's the pain I give in to (I did not use to, but I know better now). Instead of avoiding the pain, runners (try to) embrace it!
I was told many times that I must have a high threshold for pain. I actually don't think I do. Yes, I have been known to ask my dentist to do a filling without anesthesia bc I wanted to be able to go back to work and talk thereafter, but in many parts of the world people don't have the luxury of anesthesia or pain control, so I don't think that is a big deal. I don't think the issue is pain threshold. The issue is attitude toward pain and fear of pain. If you fear pain, you are giving it power and you are going to have a hard time with it in life or in running. Fear makes the body to tense up, your biochemistry to change, thoughts to get more negative, sensations (pain ) more intense. The vicious cycle starts and ultimately you slow down. Or give in. Or avoid. Or convince yourself that you can't take it instead of trying to prove yourself that you can.
Running lets us explore pain and learn to master it in a controlled situation. And that is a good thing, because if there is one guarantee in life, that is ....pain.
Building a clock
7 months ago