Newsflash: Running is not always what one would call comfortable.
Sometimes you go out for a run and it’s amazing and you feel like you’re floating on air and everything is falling into place and there’s no better sensation at that moment than running. And then there are those runs where you go out and it’s torture the entire time and you want to stop, sit down and crawl into the fetal position. I felt the latter during my first (and several other) marathons.
This is me around mile 21 during my very first marathon in New York City:
At this, and several other points during the marathon, I was jogging my brain for excuses to stop that wouldn’t bring shame upon me and my family. Mind you, it was 75° when we started on the Verazzano Bridge at 10:15am. By the time this photo was snapped, it was well into the high 80s and we were all suffering. But (ignore my terrible running attire and the 10 extra pounds), do I look comfortable? No. Was I feeling good? Not on your life.
I have had the experience of feeling relatively good during marathons, but never comfortable. I believe that to be a successful distance runner, or athlete for that matter, you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Once you can accept that your feet are going to hurt, your arms are going to be tired, your hips are going to tighten, your calves are going to burn, your tummy is going to rumble (or, as mine does on occasion, quake) you can relax into all of those feelings of discomfort and focus on what you’re doing. Running a marathon is more mental than anything. You have to let yourself feel all of what you’re feeling and then let it go in order to have a good run. If you dwell in the pain, it will consume you and no good comes from that, I promise.
When you’re working it out in a speed/hill/tempo workout, you should be very uncomfortable. Working at an uncomfortably fast pace, pushing your lungs and your heart and your muscles, this is what will help you achieve new levels of speed. That is what conditions your body for those long runs and prepares your mind for the pain you will have to, on some level, ignore in order to get the job done.
When you can zen out about the pain and set it aside as something that will just “BE”, you can move onto more important things like your form, your fueling, your stride, your pace. You have so many more important things to be thinking about out there, why clutter your mind with a little thing like, “My feet hurt.” You’re running a marathon/half-marathon/10K/whatever. Your feet are going to hurt. Instead, think about what inspires you. Think about why you are there and how amazing it is that you are doing it. Think about all you’ve accomplished just by showing up and toeing that start line. These are the things that get you past the pain. Your mind can only focus 100% on one thing at a time, why not make it something positive?
Listen, I’m not saying you should ignore serious pain, but don’t sweat the small stuff. Go out there and get uncomfortable. And then get comfortable with being uncomfortable. You can do it. And when you do, finishing is even sweeter.
Now go out and run!