Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion
– Muhammed Ali, born 17/01/1941 – happy birthday
I like to think that I have a reasonably high pain threshold. Others may disagree, but I consider it one of the reasons that I have run many marathons. I often push myself to my apparent limits, and possibly cause myself injury and illness as a result. I do pay close attention to any pain, and try to detect whether or not I can continue to run, or if I must take time off. However, I have not had a day off work sick since I became a fully qualified teacher (5 years ago)*, and have not taken paracetamol or similar pain relieving medication since I went to secondary school.
I am not sure how this ‘tolerance’ developed, but I did go to a boarding school (although I didn’t board) where bullying was rife. We were exposed to some rather extreme acts and grew used to them. Alongside this, runners know that visits to the Doctor will often result in recommendations to stop running, so many avoid making the appointment in the first place. Some make the appointment, but choose not to follow any advice that includes ‘not running’. Others make the appointment, but don’t tell their Doctor they run and just hope for the best.
I tend to be in the first category, and usually avoid making the appointment with the Doctor. To date, I have recovered from any illness and injury myself; some would argue that I haven’t really been that ill. Others may suggest this is why I frequently seem to pick up colds – combined with the fact that I don’t give myself the opportunity to recover fully. Maybe I am just lucky.
Chris Finill, who has run every single London Marathon (ever) in under three hours and has sub three hour marathons in five different decades, was recently interviewed on MarahtonTalk (here). Despite all of this, the achievement he is most proud of is his recent Run Across America from San Francisco to New York (see here for the website).
There was one sequence in particular he refers to that really caught my attention. When describing his highs and lows, he describes his low as having to take a rest day. The pain he was in at the time meant that he couldn’t continue covering 40 miles every day so, naturally, he forced himself to take a day off. However, it is the events leading up to this that amazed me.
A physio had diagnosed his pain as a stress fracture, but Chris goes on to describe the following:
Physio: it’s a stress fracture, stop [the Run Across America]
CF: look I’ve been planning this trip for three years; you cannot tell me I’ve got to stop running
Physio: but it’s a stress fracture
CF (to MT Interviewer): I persuaded him it wasn’t a stress fracture
Physio: well, if you can walk on it without pain, maybe it isn’t a stress fracture
CF (to MT Interviewer): So I walked on it for 160 miles, and it then stopped hurting, so I started running on it again and within a week it was perfectly ok.
The only reason they didn’t xray it was because there wasn’t enough time.
So next time you think it hurts, think really carefully if it hurts and, if it does, does it hurt enough? Or at least walk on it for one hundred and sixty miles before deciding you’re going to quit.
*the benefits, or otherwise, of this may have to wait for another post.