Sunday, April 6, 2014

The secret of joy is the mastery of pain – Anais Nin

Ever meet one of those guys that get hurt but won’t go to the doctors or hospital to get it checked?   You know the ones; they cut their hand nearly off with an electric saw and as they bleed through the 5th towel proclaim “it’ll be just fine once I get the bleeding stopped.  Nothing a little Guerrilla Glue can’t fix.”.      Any suggestion of going to the hospital would be an assault on their manhood. 

I don’t see myself as this type of person but I’m afraid my wife would disagree (joined swiftly by my children I’m sure).   Most of their “perception” stems from those few occasions when I’ve returned from runs with what I would call aches and pains but they would refer to as injuries.    And of course there was that one time when running with Heather I caught half a curb, rolled my ankle and fell in the street.  I have to admit, I did do the macho thing…popping back up on my feet and limping around saying “It’s OK, I’ll just walk it off”.    It was pretty clear looking down at my ankle swelling over the top of my shoe like a muffin top that walking it off wasn’t an option.    Who knew skin could turn that many colors in a matter of minutes.
Most of the time I heal up after a few weeks or months of limping around but occasionally it will take a bit longer.  It’s not that I prefer to suffer rather than go to a doctor.  Quite the contrary, if they could help me I’d be waiting at their door when they open the next day.  It’s simply that after making the time to go I know the conversation will go something like this:
Doctor:  How did you do this?
Me:     Running
Doctor:  Does it hurt when you run?
Me:  Yup…that’s why I’m here.
Doctor:  You need to stop running and give it time to heal.
Me:  How long will that be?
Doctor:  Hard to tell.  Let’s set up a follow up appointment in a month.

 Now I’m out the money for a doctor visit and I’ve been told I should lay off running at least a month.  Not very helpful.  Heck, Pam said the same thing to me before I went.  If I had just agreed with her I could have won a few marriage points and saved myself the doctor costs.  

If you are running a marathon you have already made up your mind you are going to deal with a certain amount of pain.   Even without an injury, the process of running a marathon requires a runner to keep going long after the body has depleted its energy resources, any cushioning has been stomped out of the shoes, and the leg muscles have turned to cement.   In races like the Boston Marathon , with its steep downhills, the legs take such a beating that each downhill stride  later in the race feels like someone driving spikes into your quads.   Given our brains are hard wired to avoid pain, why would anyone put themselves through this, especially more than once.

Insanity and masochism are certainly two possible answers.    For me the second is not likely but the first is arguably a possibility.   But I think there is more to it than this.   Some of us like to test ourselves, to push ourselves to try and find the limits of our capabilities.  It could be overcoming fears like taking your first airplane flight or maybe even parachuting out of one.    It might be physical like climbing a mountain,  running your first 5K or maybe even doing a marathon.    In each, pain (emotional or physical) teaches us about our limits and at the same time we often learn we can reset those limits.   And if Anais is right, conquering those pains should bring joy.    If that is the case, when I finish Boston this year I should be on cloud nine.  

At this point you might be thinking nothing is more painful than reading this blog.  That may be true but clearly you are testing your pain limits because you are still reading it.    

Two weeks to go.  Pray for good weather.

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