It’s funny to think that my major spring races are over, with every running blog post and tweet proclaiming upcoming spring races. I’m doing a few shorter races, but the 2 Us (Uwharrie 20 and Umstead marathon) are behind me.
As my friends complete their spring races, one topic that we keep revisiting over coffee and on long runs is our mental ability to push through pain to achieve our goals. My husband and Running Coach Extraordinaire, Andrew, calls this the ability to suffer. He defines it more concretely than I do, but our thinking is similar: http://runnerpeep.blogspot.com/2012/01/what-does-it-mean-to-suffer.html.
My running buddy Danny and I have discussed this at length. Clearly, he can do it. He’s doing the Umstead 100 this weekend, his first 100 miler. He’s not one of those super-intense people who over-analyzes their training, either. He has put in the time and hard work to get to the starting line, to be sure, but he’s had fun doing it. He wins.
How do you assess your capacity for pain? And, is it something you can learn? I don’t really know. I’ll be watching my running bud this weekend as I pace his last 25 miles and taking notes. I’m anticipating some tough moments, though I have no doubt that he’ll make it to the finish.
Quite honestly, I’m not sure I’ve given myself the opportunity to suffer. As I consider longer distance races, I think that this may be what drives me more than anything. While speed is eventually limited by physical factors, the longer distance tests your ability to push through the inevitable ebb and flow of pain. It’s that mental challenge that entices me.
These thoughts whirl through my mind as I contemplate doing my first 50K trail race in 2012—possibly at the end of June, otherwise this fall. Do I have what it takes to go the distance and transcend pain?