When Pushing Through the Pain Isn’t Worth It
“No pain, no gain.” We’ve all heard it. We’ve all been there. For the most part, I believe it. Training hard is…well, hard. We push ourselves to run farther, faster, and in better form. Our bodies scream at us as we push them to limits they’ve not before known, and we know that the efforts are worth it. We don’t get better by chance. We put the hard work in to see results.
I ran Grandma’s Marathon in 2010 – my first marathon – and finished with a time I thought to be respectable. But when I signed up for the Minneapolis Marathon in 2011, I was determined to do better. This year I would push myself harder.
Things were going relatively well, but about 7 weeks before the race my body felt fatigued. I was working full time, writing papers for my master’s program, and was attending to family and friends. On top of it all, I was training harder than ever for an upcoming race, which was taxing on both my time and energy. I’m a morning runner, so as my mileage increased and I needed more time for my runs, the first thing to go was my sleep as I set my alarm clock earlier and earlier.
Don’t Push too Hard
5 weeks before my race I set out for my first 20-mile run, and I felt exhausted. When the physical exhaustion sets in, I (like most runners) need to draw from mental strength to put one foot in front of another. I had neither physical nor mental strength that day. The wind was strong, the temperatures were low, my form was sloppy, and I was counting the miles until I was done.
Around my fourteenth mile I felt some soreness along the outside of my foot. It was the “enough to be annoying but not enough to stop me” kind of pain. Over the next mile the pain grew increasingly stronger, but I continued to push. By the time I reached mile 15 or 16, the pain was so excruciating that I couldn’t run through it and I began to walk…err, limp…my way home.
The Cause of My Pain
Tendonitis took me out for two weeks. During that time I ran very little because I could walk very little. That pain was just too much. Eventually it was bearable enough to resume my training, and while my marathon time was better than the previous year’s, my two-week hiatus undoubtedly impacted my race.
As runners we constantly push ourselves to be better. We need to change things up, or we’ll never improve. But as we do, we need to listen our bodies. Yes, we need to train harder, but we also need to train wiser. I felt my fatigue setting in two weeks prior. Knowing that I was exhausted and that the conditions were less than ideal, I could have spared myself an injury by paying attention to the growing pain in my foot.
Slowing down and maintaining good form would have been preferable to two weeks off. Pushing through the pain only takes us so far. Sometimes pushing through the pain is just plain stupid.