Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Running lessons: Pain is temporary

"Pain is temporary, pride is forever." 

It's a quote I've repeated often to myself over the years - especially, in the midst of my longest, toughest runs. Usually, I focus on the pride I'll feel if I stick with my training but, during my long run Sunday afternoon, it was the pain I was pondering.

Any running coach will tell you you should never ignore pain because it often has important things to tell you. On the other hand, if you pay it too much attention, it can quickly discourage you from training altogether. It's a tricky balance.

My runs felt tough last week - mostly because the tightness in my quads and hip flexors, which I'd thought was resolved before we left for Scotland, returned with a vengeance after I spent a week walking Indy (the rescue dog) 5 or 6 kilometres a day. I suspect the trouble was I was walking too quickly. Or maybe I was over-striding. Whatever the cause, getting out of bed in the mornings had once more become an ordeal.

Before subjecting myself to more of Dr. Warren's tender ART, I decided to try doing some gentle yoga each morning to see if I could get my body moving normally. So far, it seems to be helping and I must say it's a lovely way to start the day - once I get through the first few rounds of creaky sun salutations, that is.

One of the things running has taught me is that I shouldn't let pain discourage me too quickly. In the past 13 and a half years, I've had a wide assortment of running injuries - from shin splints, IT band tightness, and plantar fasciitis to frozen shoulder, back pain and anemia. And, each time I've been injured, one or more of my family and friends has suggested it's time to give up running. Fortunately, I haven't been inclined to do that, and have always managed to recover through some combination of body work (massage, chiro and/or physio), stretching, strength-training, rest, diet and (occasional) anti-inflammatories. The key I've found is to remain patient, attentive, committed to finding solutions for however long it takes to get back on the road.

On Sunday, as I ran one of my favourite routes through Shubie Park, it occurred to me that the same holds true in respect to healing emotional pain. On days when the state of the world seems too bleak to bear, when old griefs come circling back to knock the breath out of me, or when anger and fear undermine my peace of mind, I need to remind myself that emotional pain is just as temporary as physical pain - that, with enough patience, attentiveness and commitment, it too can be healed.

It's an important lesson. Too many people are discouraged from living happy, caring and productive lives by the belief that their physical and/or emotional pain is insurmountable when, in truth, it isn't. Need proof? Check out this video about Arthur Boorman.

Or this open letter from Antoine Leiris to the terrorists who killed his wife in Paris last weekend.

Pain is temporary. I'm hanging on to that thought. For as long as it takes my body and heart to heal this time around.

Happy running and writing friends.


  1. Was that a twinge or a niggle? Nope, it's gone, that's good. But there's a stone in my shoe treads scratching as land. Yuck. Scrape scrape kick. Good. Now my knee, what's with that? Let's change pace slightly, and play with posture. Hmmm. Time for a walk break? No! Get on with it. No we're not bored, isn't the sky beautiful? Don't think about work. No, turn right for the planned run, not left for the shorter route home. Things are good. Well, except my hip is aching a bit, and I'm short of breath at the moment. Up the hill, come'on, you can do it. Ignore the squeaky ankle, that's nothing. Relax, hands, elbows, shoulders. Now I can breath. Stupid curb and ice! Missed my step a bit. Let's just limp along for a minute, see what happens. And so on.

    1. Ha! I hear ya. Been there. Done that. Thanks for dropping by, my friend.