The Purpose of the "50-Mile Dolphin Dash"

Welcome to my blog leading up to the American Cetacean Society's 2nd Annual "50-Mile Dolphin Dash" fundraiser run on Wednesday, July 6th, Monterey, CA. I'm willing to shed 50 miles worth of blood, sweat, and (possibly) tears to raise funds to attend the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in St. Helier, Jersey (UK), where ACS will be speaking out against commercial whaling and compromises to international whale protection measures. I'm also the Executive Director of ACS, so I put my heart and "sole" where my mouth is.

Support the Dolphin Dash with a tax-deductible contribution:

Monday, March 29, 2010

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.

There are two main weapons in an ultrarunner’s arsenal that must be mastered – both are psychological. The first is overcoming boredom and the emotional/mental fatigue of spending hours at a time “in your head”. The second is reconciling pain and fatigue.

Like an old friend, you have to seek pain, wrap your mind and body around it, and know it so well that you are no longer of unafraid of its unrelenting embrace.

I welcome running pain. I look forward to the ache in my quads the day after a long run - it’s my body’s way of telling me that I’ve done something substantive, and it still feels like an accomplishment to be able to push myself hard "at my age." I've heard it said that you don't stop running because you get old, you get old because you stop running.  I believe it. 

I’ve never sustained a running-related injury.  I attribute that to being so attuned to pain and how it works through my body over time that I’m able to anticipate its next move. Beginning around mile 18-19, I know that my shins will begin to ache; after a while, that pain will subside and move to my calves; then hamstrings, followed by quads. Pain shifts around like this in selective but predictable ways until... nothing. Nothing hurts for a good long time. Not surprisingly, by the time you’ve reached this state, you’re blissfully sailing in a sea of endorphins, so who cares about pain? And then.... whammo! At some point (for me, it seems to be 50 miles or so), every muscle in my legs is screaming to be rid of lactic acid and micro-tears.  This is always the most fascinating point in competitive running for me - recognizing when your fellow runners have hit their 'wall', and how they (and you) deal with it.  That movement reveals a lot about character and life philosophy. 

You can listen to fear, give it a voice and a life and let it work on you like slow water torture, or you can willfully ignore its pleading and push on.

The painful truth is this: You cannot give in to pain... or fear, the unknown, the “what if”, or whatever else holds you back in life. You have to embrace it, because pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.

If you're going through Hell...keep going.  -  Winston Churchill

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