Pain is guaranteed in life. There is no escaping the fact that something or someone will cause you pain. What is not guaranteed is suffering. Ultra-running, to me, is a long conversation with yourself about these two ideas. Are you in pain AND are you suffering? The ability to first understand the purpose of pain, as a feedback mechanism to instruct us to listen to our body, is crucial. Children tend to listen only if there are repercussions for their actions, so the same goes for pain. Our body sends a pain signal because we are not listening. In ultra-racing, you need to learn how to listen to that signal, acknowledge it, and then move past it. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when both pain and suffering collide, and that will cause a DNF. The majority of the time, we choose to suffer because the pain has crossed over a threshold that we decide we can no longer bear. We give in, we give up, and we drop out.
When you reach this point, there are a few critical items you can do to prevent going over the edge:
- Listen! It’s trying to tell you something, but if you choose to ignore it, there will be a breaking point.
- Take a break! There’s nothing to say you can’t back off the pace, sit in the shade, or just stop and collect your thoughts. Pain comes in waves, and most of the time, you can ride the wave to the next shore.
- Reason with it. You can talk with yourself to see if it’s really an issue if it’s really that bad and if you can make a deal just to wait and see if your fears are warranted. Nine out of ten times, it’s never as bad as you think.
This year, I plan to approach racing and life completely differently. I will stop getting in the way of things, stop trying to steer them, and let things play out. I have read many books on self-help, self-discovery, and self-improvement, and the underlying theme in all of them is awareness. The present moment is always trying to tell you something, but we ignore it. Far too often, we are on to the next thing, living in the past, or dreaming about the future. Sitting in silence, with no task and nowhere to be, is life’s ultimate reward. Not what you have, what you have done, and what you will do. The odds of being born into you are 1 in 400,000,000,000,000. Think about that! You already won the lottery, now it’s time to just sit back and enjoy it. So, the next time you are “suffering” you have to ask, but am I really? Sit with your pain, because it’s a gift trying to tell you what you are doing wrong, and if you listen, you will avoid suffering.