Is this a pain, or what?

A very important person in my life likes to say, “if it hurts… don’t do it!”

As a runner I respond, “well, yeah, but…”

Truth is, if you’re at all interested in running, you’ve probably heard or read comments like “running to your full potential requires a high tolerance for pain…,” and even those of us in the middle of the pack – who may not be hell-bent on pushing our limits – have to expect some level of unpleasant sensations. Heat and sweat, hunger and thirst, sore tired muscles, rubbing and blistering, they all come with the territory, but are they really ‘pain’?

My battered old paperback Webster’s defines ‘pain’ as “physical or mental suffering…” and I’ll admit that sounds a lot like how running sometimes feels. Fortunately, the good Dr. Daniel W. goes on to say “… caused by injury, disease, grief, anxiety, etc.,”   Now we’re talking! ‘Pain’ is that category of suffering which is caused by some sort of negative influence; ergo – I love using that word; it sounds like the name of the robot dog in some sci-fi carton series, doesn’t it? – ergo: the category of suffering caused by something which is not negative or destructive, is not ‘pain.’ (It’s just ‘suffering,’ as if that is any better, right?)

Well, actually, this MPR does find it is better, especially if you take it one step further and consider that suffering is not all that different from ‘being uncomfortable.’ If I am suffering because I’m pursuing something I love and enjoy (even if I enjoy it most when I finally stop, having achieved my goal for the day…), then I’m not in pain, I’m just uncomfortable, and you don’t have to be a Navy Seal to know that life isn’t supposed to always be ‘comfortable.”   (You just have to have a few Scottish-Presbyterian ancestors – or Eastern-European, or African-American, Jewish, Korean, or any other nationality or ethnicity that had to work and struggle for survival or to establish themselves in a new strange land – which is all of them).

So when the going gets tough and the right side of your brain says “I’m in pain,” use the left side to drill down thru the sensations and figure out just what is causing them. If you can tell that something is doing damage, will potentially cause you not to be able to run tomorrow or the next day, then by all means, pull over and take care of yourself. But if the answer is no, I’m not doing damage, I’m just sore – or tired or hot or hungry or (fill in the blank) – put it in the box labeled ‘uncomfortable,’ do what you can to get more comfortable (take a drink, eat a gel, vary your stride, strip off layer…) and get on with the laudable objective of proving yourself ‘Too Stubborn To Stop.’

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