At its core what is “pain”?
Pain is your body telling you that something is wrong. It is not a weakness. A weakness is when you have NO pain and your brain is telling you to stop, because you’re bored, or you’re tired. That is not true pain. There is a reason for pain, and true pain is a warning bell for you to STOP whatever it is you’re doing at that minute, or it WILL get worse. I have a couple of examples of this.
The first one happened to me in high school. Playing Strong Safety (or Monster Linebacker as we called it) for the DeLand High Bulldogs against the New Smyrna Beach Barracudas. NSB’s running back, a big corn-fed farm boy, #44, hit the line and we all stacked the middle to stop him. From the corner of my eye, I catch movement to the right and see #44 heading down the sideline. I take off after him and catch him at about the 5-yard line, grab a hold of his pads in the back (which would now be a horse collar foul) and yanked with everything I had. He flipped, OVER the goal line, and I went flying into the bench area. I got up and felt a twinge in my knee, but it had been the first week that I had earned a starting slot and I was NOT about to come off the field. So I limped to the huddle and lined up for the extra point. At this time in High School ball no one really kicked field goals, so they were going for two. They handed the ball to Farm Boy again, he came through the middle where I met him head on …. only he ducked under my tackle and slammed his helmet, and that big old farm boy head, straight into my knee.
I saw stars but managed to get to my feet and limp to the sideline where I was immediately yelled at by my coach for allowing not only the touchdown but also the extra point (obviously I had missed the practice where I was the sole person responsible on defense for stopping plays like this). I went to the bench and sat down but found I was having trouble bending my knee, so I motioned for a trainer. She pulled my pants over my knee and my kneecap was sitting to the outside of my leg. She freaked out and called the coach over, he looked at it, grabbed the kneecap, and pushed it back into place, then told the head trainer to get ice for the “pussy”.
Yes, that is NOT an exaggeration. It is exactly what he said …
On Monday afternoon I was back at practice.
I finally got the knee fixed in 2009 after once again ignoring pain while running on a treadmill and spraining the ACLs on BOTH knees.
A more recent example was a Fit Niche Pub Run in 2011. I usually am “off” for the first half mile or so of a run, so when I felt sharp stabbing pains in my right foot I didn’t think much of it. “It will loosen up,” I told myself. “You can’t afford to miss the miles with a marathon coming up”, so I pushed through it, and the funny thing was it did feel better after a while, and even after the run. I had forgotten about the pain until I got home and got my shoes off. It started hurting again but now was to the point that I could barely walk on it. So what did I do? I iced it for the night, iced it Friday, and Saturday headed out for my training run with Team In Training. I made it 2 miles before having to stop running. I went to a doctor and was told that I had probably ruptured the tendon the starts at my ankle and that I should rest it. I did …. for four days and tried to run the next week’s Fit Niche, made it two miles before hobbling back to the start. Iced it. Then Saturday headed to team run. Made it two miles. This finally got my attention and I sat until the week before the half marathon …. three weeks of no running. I finished the run with no pain and then finished the marathon.
So I started reading. Jeff Galloway and John Bingham mostly at that time. It has finally sunk in that I am not in these events to become a champion. I am in them to finish, to become healthy, and to have FUN. Where I had failed in the past to keep up with training was the same path I was heading down again. I had become obsessed with pace time, and finishing times, and had forgotten to have fun. PAIN is NOT fun.
Galloway says in his book that the pace for a half marathon should be one that is comfortable and that you can hold a conversation throughout the run and after the run. He has a formula that is basically multiplying your normal one-mile pace by 1.2 and that should give you your half marathon pace in the end. My normal pace at that time was in the 12:00 range, which means my half time should be in the 14:27 region. Guess where it was? Correct. 14:23. That means I held my normal pace through 13.1 miles, and I should be proud of that and be OK with that.
This might be I have started to “lose my motivation”. I have forgotten to have fun. When I watch Chrissie Wellington compete in the Ironman she was smiling the whole time …. she was pushing her body to its limit, sapping every bit of strength she had in her, yet she is HAVING FUN. The funny part is when you watch Crowie in the same race, he is grimacing, scowling, hating life. The “man” part.
So … PAIN is NOT a weakness. It’s a warning sign that you are pushing too far. If my Stepfather had heeded the PAIN he was feeling for a year when urinating instead of trying to be tough, we would have found the cancer, but instead, he waited until the bleeding was so bad he was almost passing out, and he died three months later at the age of 64. As “men”, as “athletes”, especially those of us that have seen success before athletically, we try to treat ourselves like we are still 17. but 17 was 38 years ago, and I have to accept that and change my definition of an athlete.
Am I an athlete? I don’t think so. Not really …. I may never really be one …. but I am going to keep racing …. and from now on I am going to have FUN doing it, no matter what my time and pace are.