I was running a few nights ago and I felt this terrible cramp in my upper abdomen. Despite my body feeling like a house of pain, I focused on slowing down my pace rather than coming to a complete stop. Don’t get me wrong, I was about to stop and walk it home, until….(please imagine tense background music)… until I remembered a quote from a movie I had watched a few years back.
In the film, the very talented American runner, Steve Prefontaine, was interviewed and was asked to reveal the secret to his success. Prefontaine, known for his aggressive approach, had startled crowds by breaking a series of records over the years. Earlier in the interview, he had mentioned a “secret” that he had learned some time ago in the woods, in Coos Bay.
Mary: So what’s your little secret? The one you learned a long time ago.
Pre: I can endure more pain than anyone you’ve ever met. That’s why I can beat anyone I’ve ever met.
I remembered this scene and I thought about taking a moment to endure the pain. If he could endure pain, so could I. It wasn’t a bad kind of pain. This wasn’t something that I knew I had to rest or put ice on, this was the kind of pain you can work through and I knew it. This was a discomfort. I proceeded to focus on my breathing and focused solely on pushing the lack of air down into my stomach. I pushed the pain down, if you can even imagine what I am describing. Deep breathes. Focus. The pain doesn’t exist, just discipline it. It took me about 1/3 of a mile to catch my breath, but I cruised for the rest of the mile. It was a struggle, but I figured it out.
I’ve said this before and I think it’s been a while, so I’ll go ahead and say it again. I think that our priorities are messed up. I think that it’s an easier habit for us to endure the kind of pains that need Icy-Hot and love: the aching of the knees or the confusions of who we are and how we feel. Instead of resting, we stick through them, live with them, and end up walking around life with injured backs and broken spirits.
We choose to endure the wrong pains.
The pains we are meant to endure are the runs of life; the pains that come from lack of discipline and effort. The ones that come from fearing being alone, from changing, or getting hurt. The kind of pains that once challenged make you feel alive. The ones that change you.
In everything I have done, the one thing that has made me better is the discomfort that I have chosen to endure. The lessons that I have chosen to accept. It’s the social awkwardness that I have faced, the writer’s block that I have written through, and the chest-pain runs that I have turned into glides.
The following day I ran again. I had to do the freaking exercise again. I was far from gliding, I think that the runner’s high is a few weeks out, but I felt it. I felt a little of that pain giving up; chipping a bit at the shell between 23rd Street and Madison Avenue.
We must learn to tolerate discomfort. We must have a way to not let it affect the whole race. We need to sweat through the discomforts that will make us better. We need to rest on the aches that don’t.
I will tell you one thing. When you’re gliding, it doesn’t matter who is running with you or who is watching, it doesn’t matter if it’s raining or if you got somewhere to be, … it’s a moment, when you can feel the split between your mind and your body, while it works all together. It doesn’t matter what’s going on around you because you realize that there is more exercise going on inside than out.
Once you get there, trust me, you don’t only want to run like that, you want to start living like that, too.