Why I Run: 2 Kinds of Pain

25 Jul

In the HOURS of running I’ve been doing, I’ve had an awful lot of time to contemplate why I run and have come to a conclusion: There are 2 major types of pain.

First, there’s the pain that you don’t have any say in…the pain caused by forces so far outside of your control that all you can do is hang on and muddle through as best as you can.  This is the pain of being helpless and out of control, which has been probably the hardest part of infertility for me–knowing that I can want something, I can work incredibly hard for something, but that might just not be enough.  I mean, who knew there were things that you couldn’t “work hard enough and get”?  So there’s nothing to do but keep doing stinging shots every night, admiring belly bruises, watching my tummy bloat up, going to the doctor as much (more than?) a geriatric patient, and crying…lots and lots of crying (so much that you start looking up trivia facts about tears).  You cry in bed at night, you cry in the shower, you cry in the middle of a run, randomly, for no real reason–you’re just out running and realize there are tears streaming down your face because the pain is apparently that insidious that you didn’t even notice you’d started crying.

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And this kind of pain…it sucks.  Of course, for a control-freak planner like me, this kind of pain is the worst kind.  There is nothing you can do about it.  Give up trying?  I’ll still be upset about not being a mom (although not having to worry about needles and catheters-through-the-cervix and doctor appointments would be pretty awesome).

But then there’s the second type of pain–the one that you CAN control.  The pain that you can CHOOSE to put your body through.  Because while you’re out in the woods, running 20+ miles (or sometimes even less than that), you are bound to feel pain or at least discomfort.  But it’s completely within your control.  You can manage that pain a thousand different ways–stop and stretch, take a walk break, crack a joke about it, count your footsteps to take your mind off the pain, eat some skittles…or just straight up quit.  Stopping the run will cease your pain.

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And as a control freak, being able to control some pain, when there is so SO much pain right now that is out of my control, is a wonderful, empowering thing.  Last night, I met up with Mike to check out his loop for MM99.  We ran 5.5ish miles, and I felt like crap for a good chunk of it. I decided to do only one loop with the group we were meeting at 7 for nighttime, in-the-dark miles.  But we met up with that group, and suddenly, time started flying by.  We were all shifting positions in the group, so there was always someone new to talk to, and the conversations ranged from silly to serious.  The first loop finished, and I was tired…but not done.  So I went back out again.  By the end of this loop, I was suffering.  We’d already done 2 miles of foot golf, and I had been running for almost 5 hours by then…a smallish group decided to go out for another short loop to make it to 11 PM.  My back was locked up…It hurt.  BAD.  I thought about staying at the car…I’d put in 18 solid miles of trail running…and then I decided to run through the pain.  Maybe my back would loosen up a bit and once I was out, then I’d just have to stay with the group (because no way in hell I was going to run alone in the woods at night!).  Every step was torture–the pain would just jolt through my back.  But we did another 2 and a quarterish miles.

water stop and selfie during loop 1, about 10 miles into my run last night...

water stop and selfie during loop 1, about 10 miles into my run last night…

I realized then that I was supposed to be meeting Mike and Ron again at 7:30 AM (so about 8 hours) to run some MM99 loops again and finalize some stuff…I promptly sent a message that I might not make it.  It’s a little over 30 minutes to get from our house to Mendon, and we still had to do shots and I had to eat something.  I set my alarm and decided to decide in the morning…We went to bed at 1, I woke up around 6:30 and decided…I was going back to Mendon to at least finalize my loop of the relay course.  We slowly finished my loop and the guys decided to go back out for a little more…I started with them, but the first major climb took all the wind out of my sails.  I left them to go run fast and went to do my own (slow) thing.  I added an additional 5k to my morning miles. It was a 5k of absolute pain cave, compounded by a phone call from the doctor’s office right smack in the middle.  I could’ve stopped.  I could’ve cut back to the car.  I could’ve called it.  But I didn’t.  I was in control of this pain, and it felt good to feel bad.  On my way back to the car, I realized how absolutely gorgeous a morning it had been.

started to feel sorry for myself, then I took a good look around and realized that THIS is beauty.

Just when I started to feel sorry for myself this morning, I took a good look around and realized that THIS is a beautiful world, even with the uncontrollable pain.

So I run.  As a lesson in controllable pain.  I run: long, short, alone, with people, laughing, having serious conversations, with the dog, with Eric, easy trails, hard trails, in the heat, in the cold, in the rain, in the sunshine…I run because it’s pain that I can control, and being in control of SOMETHING feels really amazing, EVEN if it’s something that doesn’t always feel good in the moment.  Because afterwards, when I look back on all the friendships forged, the conversations had, the sweat and even sometimes tears, the controlled pain somehow becomes worth it.  Maybe the uncontrollable pain will someday be worth it, too…

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