Sometimes running is just hard. And that is OK. Every run can’t possibly be easy or feel good. Some might disagree with that sentence but I have found it to be true for myself and in talking with fellow runners. Especially when training for an event. You’re asking your body to move faster than it normally does for extended periods of time. Of course it’s going to hurt at some point.
There’s pain…and then there’s pain.
When you start to feel that kind of pain where you know something’s wrong, it’s time to stop. If it’s chronic, it may be time to see the doctor. But let’s talk about the un-italicized form of pain. The slightly uncomfortable pain where you are pushing just beyond your limits. That’s a good kind of pain. In fact, let’s not even refer to it as “pain” any longer. Let’s call it discomfort. Because that’s really what it is. And it is temporary.
pain discomfort? I would submit that only runners or athletes can relate to that statement. Why is it good discomfort? Because that discomfort just helped you cut 10 seconds off of your 5K time and you just PR’d. Because that discomfort just helped you go a little farther than last time. Because that discomfort means you will be stronger next time. Because that discomfort will make you a better runner. The best thing about running in your discomfort zone is that it’s temporary. This discomfort is fleeting.
When you begin to understand that discomfort is temporary, you can become comfortable with being uncomfortable. 1K is a drop in the bucket when you’ve already run 4K. 2.2 miles are a cinch when you’ve already run 24 miles. The discomfort zone is relative.
What happens when you hit a wall? That’s one of the toughest things to overcome in running. Getting over that wall is hard! Especially when the wall comes so suddenly. You may be having a great run and all at once, your mindset switches over into the negative. Your motivation is zapped. Your legs feel like Jello. You contemplate switching sports altogether. But if you can claw your way out of that negative place in your mind and get over that wall, as you’re clawing you will realize again that this discomfort is temporary.
You are getting back on track. You put your head down and breathe. You do the work that has to be done and you grind through it. You concentrate on a point 20 yards in front of you, breathe, get to that point and find the next point another 20 yards down the road or trail. You repeat those small increments of effort until you feel good again–and trust me, you will feel good again. When you get over that wall once, you know how to get over it the next time you hit it and you’re learning how to be comfortable with discomfort.
After climbing the wall several times you begin to wise up. It becomes clear that the only way to master this wall is to relax. Get away from the mental panic and hyperventilation by relaxing and simply breathing and accepting that this may be unpleasant only for a few moments. You’re on your way to learning how to find comfort within discomfort. And that small kernel of wisdom will carry you over all of the “running walls” you will ever encounter.
About Scott Cooper
Graphic designer, photographer, trail runner, cyclist, gear junkie and mountaineer. Coffee is my life blood and pixels are my ammunition. When I’m not designing t-shirts for #Anywhere5k I’m at my MacPro whipping up sweet webby goodness, out running trails, nerding out over the latest outdoor gadget or not watching television.