There’s a quote that really rings true for me in the wonderful documentary about the Barkley Marathons race in Tennessee. A competitor commenting on why they would run an ultramarathon despite the pain and potential for injury, declares:

I think most people would be better off with more pain in their lives, honestly.

I think that, if nothing else, they would appreciate the pain-free times more.

Last night I was asked why I was interested in running ultras instead of something more reasonable like a marathon or a 10K. It was a simple question from a fellow runner in the Lyon Running Club pack and I answered that I just liked the challenge and seeing how far and for how long I can push myself. I added that there’s always the chance I won’t be able to finish which, frankly, is not something that occurs to me before a half marathon or a 5K.

But this morning as I thought over my answer I was reminded of the quote from the documentary and I think there’s some real truth to that, too.

We do live very comfortable lives now. It seems like most any new product is designed to make our lives easier, to take away a little bit of pain. Indeed, in marketing and communications we constantly refer to customer ‘pain points’ and how we can help customers negotiate them. It’s all about making our lives and the lives of others easier and less painful.

But when I was 60 kilometers into that 100K a few weeks ago, there wasn’t any technology there to help me through. I had a water bottle and there were aid stations, but I was tired and my feet were hurting and I still had a marathon to run to be able to call myself a 100K finisher. There was pain in my life at that moment and, looking back after I finished the race, I appreciate the pain. Being able to move through it and still achieve what I wanted to achieve meant I could appreciate the end of the race more.

My left foot was very painful after that race and it took a week before I could actually walk around without any pain.

But because I did feel the pain, I can also appreciate more what it is like to head out on a pain free run now.

Tomorrow I’ll be heading out for a couple of hours of night running and it will be pain free. I’ll feel pain again when I’m racing again but I’ll be a better runner and person on the other side of that pain because of it.

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