Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional

Which one?

Which one?

2 weeks ago, I ran a half marathon.

I finished in 98 minutes, more than 5 minutes off my Personal Best.

I had mixed emotions at the end of the race.

On the one hand, I was satisfied with the run, especially after the confidence-sapping efforts of my last race – a marathon in which I walked the last 6-7 km due to severe cramping.

On the other hand, it was a race where I really began to question my mental toughness and wondered whether there was an inverse correlation between age and grittiness.

One attribute that I have always prided in myself was will-power – the determination to see things to the end, no matter how difficult the going.

Unfortunately, over the past two races, I am beginning to feel that I am losing that competitive ‘sonofabitch’ edge, that never-say-die attitude.

I know this because, at the 18km mark of the recent half-marathon, I actually SLOWED DOWN. My legs were willing and my heart was pumping but my mind just kept on protesting “Take it easy, fuck-stick, I’m dying over here“!

Deep inside, I know what is required to fix this problem. I need to do more speed work. I need to re-condition my mind so that it is used to the pain that is inevitable during a race, so that it learns to push through that mental barrier and come out the other end, ‘Matrix’-style.

In short, I need to change my weekend runs and reach a stage where the hills are alive with the sound of my fartlek.

Unfortunately, therein lies the obstacle – one that wants me to just run long, at a comfortable 5 minute-per-km pace and treat my weekend exercise as a therapeutical escape.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with that.

Except that my competitive streak begs to differ and wants to forever improve my time in races.

I’m not sure whether this is just another manifestation of reaching middle-age, where you still want to desperately cling to your younthful exhuberance but father-time keeps on reminding you that you’re not a spring chicken anymore.

I guess this is what Mr R. Frost meant when he began: “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood …“.

Do I commit to becoming a faster runner, or do I remit to becoming a content jogger?

There is no right or wrong answer here, of course. But that won’t stop me from thinking about it this weekend, when I will either be running long or painting the hills alive with my fartlek.

Keep on pounding.


14 thoughts on “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional

  1. Angie

    I like the ‘Matrix’-style analogy. I would love to finish all races like that! It’s funny as I just finished up a run and was thinking that I would be quite content to just ‘run’ and never race again. However, racing is kind of fun and I do like to suffer through the occasional interval session. I do hope you paint the hills alive with your fartlek.

  2. Phil Lengthorn

    I think I may be at the same crossroads. I supposes you have to decide for yourself what your goal is. Me? I think I’ve probably given up on PBs – I still train very hard – but I also enjoy running more – especially the long comfortable runs. As for ‘the hills are alive with the sound of fartlek’ – I prefer ‘te a drink with jam and cake’

  3. kerbey

    I ran every day last week for over an hour each time (I hadn’t in forever), enjoying nature and pounding the pavement and feeling pride in going-going (and not being a spring chicken either). I saw the doctor at the end of the week, and he said, “You’re not sleeping?” “Nope, but I’ve been jogging, so my heart should be in better shape now.” “Well, you’re heart is weaker and your back is crazy inflamed.” So I had to stop. 😦 Now I miss it. So you run twice for me. But you can’t just continue to improve your time forever, right? There has to be a “peak performance” and then a very negligible decline, eh? It doesn’t make you weak as long as you are still in motion.

    1. The Jogging Dad Post author

      Done deal – I will make the hills come alive with the sound of my fartlek TWICE this weekend. In the meantime, looks like you may have to transition to swimming, given the unfortunate state of your back.

    1. The Jogging Dad Post author

      Yes, we do madam, we certainly do. It’s just that sometimes we also need to push ourselves beyond comfort levels – to have fun that we didn’t even know was there!

  4. JohnSnow

    I think becoming a fast runner would provide the most improvement for you. I think it is the next step for you. However there is nothing wrong with running only for recreation and making the most of your abilities that way. Congratulations on your improvement since your last race!


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