Embrace the Pain

One of my favorite parts of a hard run is the moment the pain arrives.  Not pain from an injury.  But pain from pushing myself.

Maybe it’s my lungs burning during a speed workout. Or my legs when they start to feel the burn from hill repeats.  It may just be plain exhaustion when I’m 20 miles into a long run.  Or the soreness my legs feel the day after a hard run.  Regardless of the type, I have come to expect and welcome the pain.  And I’ve taught myself how to keep pushing. 

The first time I heard/saw this quote was in 2001.  I was a sophomore at West Point and had just working out in the gym (I was no longer playing on the basketball team).  After my daily cardio workouts, I would head to the mats to do some ab-work.  These words were nailed to the wall I looked up at as I was doing my situps.  I saw them every day and learned how to embrace the pain (so much so that I once yelled this phrase at my 11-year old sister when I took her to the gym – whoops!).

If you are looking to improve your racing time – regardless of the distance you are running – you must learn to leave your comfort zone every now and then.

Not every run can be relaxed and easy if you want to improve your race times.

Source: www.dailysinspirationalquotes.in

You will never run a marathon at an 8:00 pace if every mile you run during training is a 10 minute mile.  Your body will not be ready for the shock and stress of the faster pace if you don’t give it time to practice that pace (or a faster pace).

Nor will YOU know what to expect and how to keep pushing if you don’t practice this pace during training runs.

One of my favorite images from the Olympic Trials for Track & Field over the last two weeks was taken along the homestretch of the Men’s 5,000m final.  You can literally see the pain in Galen Rupp and Bernard Lagat’s faces.

Source: www.Reuters.com

Fall marathon training is in full swing (btw – I am SO jealous of everyone that has begun their training!!).  The heat/humidity of the summer makes it easy to get into the routine of heading out on easy runs every day.  While easy/recovery runs are a VITAL part to your training plan and will help ensure you show up to the start line rested and injury-free, they will not be the reason you cross the finish line at your goal time.

Embrace the pain.  

Look forward to it on a hard run.  

Learn to love it.  

It will make you a stronger runner. 

Source: www.quickmeme.com

Do you enjoy or look forward to the pain from a hard run?  How do you approach days when you know a hard run is on the schedule? 

Note: Not every run should be an all-out effort.  Your training plan should be a mix of hard runs that take you out of your comfort zone (whether it’s in pace or distance or a combination of both) and easy/recovery runs that give your body a chance to recover from those hard runs while getting some mileage in.

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    33 thoughts on “Embrace the Pain

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    5. This is such a great and profound post. I’m running 14 miles in the morning and this is exactly the motivation I needed to make it a great run. I’ve really been trying to push myself during my speed and tempo days to dig deep. It has hurt. But I’m hoping it will pay off on race day. I know you’re facing a new kind of pain right now. Wishing for you to find only the good kind of pain again soon.

    6. Wow, great post! Pain scares me when it comes to running. As much as I know it will help me improve and gain strength and confidence, I tend to shy away from it, even though I know I should embrace it. Thanks for the reminder and motivation!! As always!
      jobo recently posted..On tragedy and resilience.My Profile

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    8. Just an update for you hahaha I changed my running schedule to a different one. I’m now doing a ton more speed work like you suggested! I want to let you know that on my run last night, it was only 3 miles, but I did it at pace. Or tried to haha I kept thinking about this post and kept thinking how the burn is good! So I pushed pretty hard, I wasn’t dying and it felt really really good! I ended up running faster than pace! haha Average was 7’51 a mile! I was really excited because that’s the fastest I’ve ran!! It felt soo amazing! (my pace is supposed to be 8’10…kept trying to slow down, but it felt to good to slow down. Luckily today is a rest day! But I still feel soooo good!)
      Thank you again for this post and thanks for the advice! You are such an amazing person!
      Emily Buck recently posted..Happy 9 Months!My Profile

    9. So glad I read this… It’s week one of NYC training and I know I have a LONG road ahead of me before November!!

      I know exactly how you’re feeling… I know you know this already but you are doing something MUCH bigger and better than any kind of training. It’s hard, hard work bringing a new life into this world and all the running and training in will still be there when your baby is here. For now, you can enjoy the non-competitive side of running. The fast, competitive stuff will all be there when you’re ready. :-)
      Tia @ Arkansas Runner Mom recently posted..The 15 Mile ChallengeMy Profile

    10. Thank you thank you thank you!!!! I feel this was an answer to an email I sent you! If not, oh well I’ll take it! haha I’m so very glad you posted this. You seriously are an inspiration to me and I talk about you all the time. I’m 9 months new to running…as in never ran a more than a mile 9 months ago…I just ran a 13 miler and Saturday and I absolutely LOVED IT! I feel I can go so far with running and I love that feeling. But I’m wanting to qualify for Boston soo badly! I know this is only my first marathon but how sweet would that be to hit that ultimate goal! I’m so glad I found your blog. You are amazing! Thank you!
      Emily Buck recently posted..Weekly MilesMy Profile

      • Emily, I have been meaning to email you back for SOOO long!! Yes – I decided to quasi-answer your question through this post =) =) =)
        I will email you tonight (or at the latest tom night!) – let’s chat about your recent race times to see if your goal is possible. Don’t count yourself short on Boston even though it’s your first. I know plenty of people that have done it on their first try =)
        And thank you for the sweet comment!

    11. Excellent post, as always! First off, that Rupp-Lagat finale was awesome. Those were two guys putting it all out there on the track. Great quotes too, as pain is something we runners deal with in so many different ways. I have had a lot of conversations with other runners lately about knowing when to push and when to hold back. It’s in our nature to go past that point, but when you hear tragic stories during races, you begin to think twice. That is why it is so important, as you wisely point out, to follow your training and learn to listen to your body. But wow, do I love pushing through that threshold from time to time to really see what I can handle. Thanks for another great piece!
      Steve (@steverunner21) recently posted..Get “Up”!My Profile

    12. such a GREAT post. this has been on my mind a lot lately, especially with the summer HEAT so crazy right now. i ran my 16 mile long run on sunday and the heat totally got to me. i was FINE with listening to my body, slowing down and even walking at the end…but now two days later it is eating at me. tomorrow is my speed work and i’m planning to get out there insanely early to beat the heat/sun and crush my workout – and embrace the pain! i have lofty goals this season and i know you are so right we have to go outside the comfort zone and push our limits if we are going to grow and get faster and stronger. such a great post, michele!
      jessica (pace of me) recently posted..vacation and a tough long runMy Profile

    13. Great post, and timely reminder as so many have already said! I’ve got a few half’s coming up, and my first full in October. This past three months have been the longest stretch of injury/illness free running so I’ve been trucking along just thankful to be running, but holding back out of fear I’ll hurt something. I’ve slowly started adding some hills and will be looking to push it and embrace the pain!
      Melissa @ The Melissa Chronicles recently posted..Hot Mama AbsMy Profile

    14. I feared the pain for a long time until I had my daughter. With less time to run I had to push myself harder and harder to get the amount of miles in. The number of miles increased but the time didn’t. Now I look forward to those hard runs to see just what I’m made of! I’m jealous right there with you too!!

    15. I’ve been thinking about this a LOT now that I’m into my first bout with marathon training. The sheer distances I’m running now (weekly mileage, daily mileage) is something my body continues to adjust to but it’s reacting well so far. Now that I’ve given myself a chance to acclimate, I do need to build in some of those painful runs…my husband mentioned fartleks to weave in very soon, which HURT but they work. Totally. It’s so easy to shy away from ‘getting uncomfortable’ while running but to your point, its the only way to get better and to evolve as a runner. Awesome post! (and ps I LOVE that quote too!!)
      Jess recently posted..(Un)titled.My Profile

    16. That is an amazing picture and an incredible race!! I do look forward to the pain of a hard run because I know that I tested my limits. You can’t get faster or run farther without leaving what you are comfortable doing. When I finish a hard run, it makes me marvel at what our bodies are capable of doing.
      Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..30 Days of Green SmoothiesMy Profile

    17. This is a perfectly timed post for me too as I gear up for official marathon training in a few weeks. Right now I am trying to maintain a pace during my runs that I want to be comparable to what I hope to hold during Philly. I keep having to remind myself to get out of the comfort zone and while, yes, my legs will be sore, my heart will thank me for knowing I can do it. :)
      Kristin recently posted..An 8-Mile Race?My Profile

    18. This was a perfectly timed post for me, thank you! I did a brick this morning–16 on the bike and then 7 on the run, 30 minutes of which I ran at tempo pace. It was hot (89) already and it hurt. I repeatedly had to say to myself that if I wanted to run fast in a race, I had to embrace the pain of this tempo run. And now that it’s over–I feel stronger for it, both physically and mentally. You are on the money with this post!
      misszippy1 recently posted..Play time is (almost) overMy Profile

    19. Wow! perfect timing for me to hear this. I am struggling with my move across the country with 3 small children. I am in pain in another way. I like the pain of the run, but often try to steer clear pain in day to day life and am always trying to eliminate the pain from my babies lives. What does Oprah say? “light bulb” moment? ….. bring on the pain and let it move through you like a wave, do not resist but rather learn how to surf. xoxo
      Lisa @ RunWiki recently posted..6 Summer Running EssentialsMy Profile

    20. I love that totally exhausted, depleted feeling after a hard track session. I miss it. I can’t wait to get back to training October! I’m so thankful that my track club has access to an indoor track and holds sessions through the winter: it will be the kick in the pants I need after giving birth in September:-)
      Sarah recently posted..Strawberry Run Race RecapMy Profile

    21. I love that feeling of pain–the pain of “I pushed myself a little farther.” I embrace sore muscles because it means I made my muscles do something that I don’t normally. It’s that paradox of pain making me feel strong.
      Renee recently posted..Good runs and an ultrasoundMy Profile

    22. Michelle that is part of improving as a runner – at least to go faster or farther. We need to leave our comfort zone on a regular basis, but do it as part of a plan and like you say not every day. That is when runners get into trouble and either get injured or burnt out.

      It is what it is. Running fast or running longer distances is not without its discomfort and you have to know the difference between good pain (the kind where you are challenging yourself) and oh crap I better stop pain (so you don’t do something bad to yourself).

      There is a huge difference and learning that is a skill that is developed over time.

      Great post!

      Harold
      Harold Shaw recently posted..No More NikePlus for my iPhone 3GMy Profile