I know, I know. Duh. But think about all the other running related media you see; the blogs, the magazines, the memes, and the race websites and emails. You don’t see a whole lot of mentions of pain. You definitely don’t see reflections on that heavy thrum in your legs that starts off as a minute and distant twitch somewhere in the first mile, before it swells out, consuming your mind and body, becoming the only relevant thought and sensation left in the universe (well that, and the fact that you’re still 5 miles away from home). No, mostly what you’ll see is an endless parade of sweaty smiles and sunrises as people gush about how happy running makes them. How revitalizing it is, and weirdly, just how good it feels.
And I’m not gonna argue with that. If you run, you probably enjoy it. But the fundamental truth so many of us seem to forget when we’re staring out of our office windows wishing we were wearing sneakers instead of a tie is that if running was as simple, refreshing, and fun as we make it out to be in our heads, walking wouldn’t exist.
No, there’s something a little bit masochistic about our hobby. You rarely to hear about people playing Frisbee golf in their park and rec leagues until they couldn’t stand up, and as much as I’ve searched, I still haven’t found salt tabs specially formulated to keep people replenished during their movie marathons or long reading sessions. In fact, in most other endeavors in life, if you do it till it hurts you’re doing it wrong. Pain is one of those things that makes running a little unique, and I think, ultimately, one of the things that draws us in.
So why hide it? Probably because it makes us look crazy. Most people associate self injury with intense derangement, which is why, outside of your local BDSM club, nobody starts an inspiring speech with the words, “Trust me, you’ll love it. It hurts like hell.” But maybe they should. Look, I work in a library. Five days a week I drag myself into a building where I check in books and put them on a shelf just so someone else can take them off the shelf and check them back out again. Then I sit at a computer and fill out forms that seem designed just to create more forms to fill out, rather then actually accomplish anything. At the end of the day it can be hard to look around and really see that I’ve done anything. But when I run, even if I’m just going in a big circle, I’ve got that burning sensation in my legs and lungs that lets me know I did something worthwhile. It’s sensory confirmation that I put in work, that it had an impact, and that I accomplished something between point A and point B. And as long as at least a little bit of the pain is there, no amount of blase day to day drudgery can take that away from me. So yeah, despite how much it can hurt, it does make me happy. It is refreshing. And at the end of the day, the pain does feel good.