The Benefits of Pushing Through Pain

Coming up on July 4th I’ll run my fourth half-marathon. The sense of accomplishment from running that far and accomplishing a challenging goal is incredibly rewarding. But to be honest the process of getting there – the training and large parts of the race itself – can be downright terrible at times.

Last weekend I was scheduled to do one of my longest training runs for this race – 10 miles to be exact. For some people jumping out of bed on a Saturday morning to spend almost two-hours pounding the pavement might sound great but that isn’t usually me. That was the case last week. I wasn’t motivated to run but I knew I needed to if I had any hope of completing the race. So, I dutifully set out telling myself if I just took it slow and focused on one mile at a time I’d eventually make it.

As expected, the first few the first few miles were really tough. My mind was wandering – often thinking about stresses and frustrations in my life – which drained my energy, my body was tired and achy and I felt like I was walking through quicksand.

vancouver half
Me finishing my second half-marathon

Then, at about mile five, something strange happened that has occurred several times before on long runs but I mostly forgot about it. After all that time of drudgery and feeling like I was pushing a boulder uphill, out of nowhere I suddenly felt incredible, like I was running on air. My body was comfortable, my mind was calm and I felt like I could keep running forever!

As I glided along with a clearer head I realized what a great metaphor the experience was for any challenge or goal we face. With any big goal we pursue or any large challenge we face we’ll run into obstacles. When we set a goal we probably feel lots of optimism and excitement about the upcoming process and about our prospects of accomplishing what we set out to do. But soon something gets in our way, something unanticipated that makes our “training” or the path to our goal suddenly look much harder than we thought it would. At that point so many of us give up. I know I have many times.

Eventually whatever we’re doing does get easier but so often we have to trudge through some pretty deep mud first and it often takes a lot longer than we’d like (Five miles is a long ways to run before finally feeling comfortable). I’ve never accomplished a big goal where I didn’t have several road blocks along the way and was tempted to give up on many occasions. It’s like a law of nature, obstacles and resistance always come.

I realize the running example may not resonate for everyone. You may have no desire to run 10 or even three miles for that matter. But I bet you have a big goal you’d like to accomplish or a challenge you’d like to overcome. No matter what the principle is the same.

Running has taught me many lessons but one of the most important is that we are a lot stronger than we think we are – in our bodies, our minds and our spirits. If you had told me 10 years ago that I’d be running half-marathons I would have thought you were crazy. But I’ve discovered that when we’re tempted to give up we can usually push just a little bit farther and dig just a little bit deeper. If we do that over and over eventually most challenges get easier and we find ourselves doing things we never thought we’d be able to.