Monday, August 16, 2010

Pain is difficult

Pain is difficult. As humans I think we try – sometimes to our own detriment -- to avoid pain as much as possible, even if going through that short term suffering will bring us to a better place long term.

“If this were easy, more people would be doing it!” How many times I have heard that statement in reference to running, to running marathons, to running ultras. How many times have I chosen the shortest path, instead of toughening out the longer one, even when I know I would feel better choosing the longer, quality journey!

Lately, I have been once again challenged to actually train for a fast fall race (which race, not quite sure). It has been a distant goal of mine, qualifying for Boston, or just plain being “fast” in any relative sense of the word. With all the other life issues happening around me, and training to go long slow distances, I have previously dismissed the idea of testing my potential. Until now. Without realizing the scope of what I have gotten in to, I have agreed to at least follow the plan (since my plan rarely works anyhow) and see what happens in six weeks.

“It’s gonna hurt, though.” Uh oh. I will be shoved out of my comfort zone at least three times a week, logging three key workouts – track, tempo run, hill repeats. And no, Suzanne, these workouts will be REAL, they won’t be lame attempts at tempo runs, acting like just showing up at the track nets results, I will actually be uncomfortable. If I am willing to do this, he says I will be amazed. I guess I have the bio-mechanics to run well, just not the strength. Get me some strength and I will blow away my personal records.

Do I have the mental strength to take the pain? Can I do this????

Saying yes to what I at times consider a RISK (drama added for affect) is going to take training runs where I begin my stopwatch for a set time and run faster than normal for me, just a step off of race-pace, breath heavily, watching the minutes count down and wanting the agony to be done. Then just a small recovery jog for ten minutes in between, and another set time at a pushed pace. The recovery jog will likely be over more quickly than I have really recovered – but I will have to follow the plan and pick up the pace again. In my brain and in my heart I will likely be screaming, “THIS SUCKS” and I will want to turn away, to quit. I want already to go back on my decision.

Why? People do this all the time. They go through tough times, not being able to breathe, and they are all better off because of it. Why quit?

Why? Because comfort would be much easier! Logging an easy 8 or 9-miler is simple; doesn’t take a lot of thought, or planning, or decisions, or investment really, to slog away for 90 minutes. Heck, when I don’t feel like running there are times I just skip it. Apparently, according to Frank Shorter and my new coach, I absolutely must fit in my three key workouts plus one long run every week, no excuses.

Excuses I have.

But in doing what I have always done – and as the saying goes, I will continue to get what I have always gotten: a less than stellar race performance, finishing in the 60th percentile of women, being a “back of the pack” runner. Do I really want to settle for consistently below average?

Nope. I want more.

This time I need to invest. Move forward with the decision. As some would crassly say, “go balls-to-the-walls.” Day by day, I will have to face discomfort, while still believing each day it is bound to get easier.

Meanwhile, I question my decision. I sit here wondering if I can ever be above average. Perhaps I will be, while there is a heavy chance I will fail. At the very least it could be a life lesson: will pain net progress?


  1. Hi Suzanne; great post. I know what you mean about the pain. It is refining, however. Just like you have inspiration from others, you are inspiring to the rest of us out here! Good luck with your new goal. Makes me want to get out there and run faster also!

  2. So, does this mean we'll be seeing you at the track on Tuesdays? We've been hurting there every Tuesday all summer. You'll fit right in!

  3. I read a great quote this week (from a cyclist actually) that really fits with this post. "You have to quit caring that your legs hurt."