Making Friends With Your Pain …


Do What You Can! …


What I Learned From Running a Marathon.

Re: Title #3 – Let’s be clear. I did not run a marathon. I ran IN a marathon. What I mean is, I snuck into the last 2 kilometres to run with my son who was, in fact, running the entire 42. I did this insane thing simply because HE thought it was a good idea. HE thought it might be a nice challenge for his old ma. HE thought (and here’s where he got me) it would be just what HE needed for that final push. Mommy shuffling beside him.

I say shuffle on purpose because that is exactly how I (now) run. I don’t. I shuffle. It’s like walking but a little faster (not much, trust me). Lots of tiny steps getting me nowhere slowly.

I used to run. We called it jogging back in the day. I banged out 4K most days without so much as an “Ouch, my poor knees!” But that was a couple of decades ago. A few broken bones ago. And about 20 lbs. ago. I now just walk. At a decent clip. But I can assure you I have no desire to take flight.

I like walking.

I do not like running. I do not enjoy that first stretch where you are huffing and puffing (and dying) and waiting to get over that first hump (“It’s natural,” they say, they being the spandexed sprites who sprint along merrily). I do not like my knees giving out and I really do not like the ensuing back pain. Do. Not. Like.

And here’s what I have learned. If you really do not like doing something, chances are you will wind up NOT doing it. Crazy, right?

Which brings me to Title #2 (apparently I like to go backwards) – When there is a choice between doing something you hate and doing what you CAN, you should always choose the latter. You should always choose something over nothing. When it comes to physical fitness and aging well, you MUST do something. You absolutely must. But if you suddenly get the urge to run but you hate running (and it hates you back), just don’t. And if walking 4K is daunting, walk 1. Or a half. Around the block. Do what you can. Because if you do what you can every single day, you will be doing something, which is so much better than sitting on the sofa eating chips. So do SOMETHING. Stick with it and see what happens. If it’s just a few steps a day – Yay You!!  And if you suddenly find yourself longing to run a marathon, sit down on that damn couch and eat some Pringles. I can assure you the urge will pass.

Which leads me to Title #1 – who the hell wants to make friends with their pain? Most of us spend our entire lives avoiding pain at all costs. Whether emotional or physical, nobody wants to get schmucked. We avoid getting schmucked like the plague. We hide from schmuckery and when it shows it’s terrifying face we smack it down with denial, booze, drugs or sleep. Or even religion, anxiety and depression.

Poor Pain. Nobody wants to be his friend.

When my son ran his first marathon he trained like a demon, then drove across the country, caught a horrible cold and ran the damn thing anyway. He ran alone. And he told me that the “dark moments” – when he truly believed he could not take another step – were debilitating (emotionally and physically). All he could do was push on and hope. When his best friend joined him for the final 10K he said the relief was incredible. He was still struggling physically but the pure emotional relief of having a mate at his side was game-changing. He did it (sub 4 hours if you’re wondering) and we were all so proud.

For his second marathon he knew there would be a team by his side for the entire journey. Four of his mates were doing the relay (each running 10.5K) and he KNEW that support would be immeasurable.

In the month before the race, when I was “training” and so were they, he informed me that our complaints we all the same (sore knees, sore back). No matter that they are more than 3 decades younger than I am, the complaints were identical. And so my son (veteran marathoner that he is) says, “Make friends with your pain. Don’t cause injury to yourself but remind yourself that you can work through this discomfort. Pain is just telling you that you are evolving. Growing. Getting better. You can do this!”

Who the hell does he think he is – Richard Simmons?

(I can assure you, he has no idea who Richard Simmons is.)

But on race day I watched him run by me at around the 30K mark. He waved. He was smiling. He was killing it.

Shortly before the 41K mark, I joined him. I knew immediately there was a problem. These sub-4 runners were flying past me at speeds I’ve only experienced on motorcycles. AFTER over 40K! There was NO WAY I could do this. I would ruin his time and quite probably my own health … just in the trying. This was so out of my league I might as well have vied for the Nobel Prize in Astrophysics.

He smiled but he could barely speak. His mate high-fived me. And we ran.

Matey took off (he had upped his game to a half-marathon and was not about to be foiled by Sam’s tortoise aka momma) but my son insisted he would finish with me!

Oh my baby.

I spattered and spewed and started coughing and pretty much dying (their pace was nuts!) and I cried, “Please … go! Finish strong! Please … leave me here to die alone … in peace!”

Okay. It was not nearly that dramatic. I just said, “Go!”

And he did. He knew that, in these final metres, if he let up, his legs would seize. He knew he was putting in a stellar time. He looked at me with all the love his exhausted blue eyes could muster and yelled, “See you at the finish line momma!”

And then … taillights.

So … what did I do?

I stopped running. Are you crazy? I was about to vomit blood.

Not really, but I was pooped.

I kept walking as I watched intrepid marathoners boldly pass me as they approached that beautiful END. So many of them looked way worse than me (ya think?). All ages, all sexes, all colours and all speeds, they just kept flying (or staggering) past me.

I was in awe.

I also had no idea what I should do. Do I cut across the park and try to find the finish line? Do I call an Uber (oh, that sounded nice). Hop a bus or just keep strolling?

I started running again. I knew there was another kilometre or so (the course is actually almost 42.5) and I just started running it. At MY pace. The slow, steady old-lady shuffle that I had rehearsed for an entire month before that fateful day.

As I approached the finish the crowds grew in size and volume. There were signs (literally) of encouragement and praise. Folks hooting and hollering and offering waves and smiles. I kept running.

Then there was a hill. Are you kidding me? A HILL at the END of a marathon?

I kept running. I ran up that damn hill and kept going. I was slow. But I was still running.

And then the finish line was in site. The roar of the crowd was deafening. I was surrounded by other athletes. I was laughing my frigging head off because I knew I was the biggest imposter who ever lived! I’ll tell you, it was shameful and hilarious and exhausting, ALL at the same time.

And then I saw my son.

Just across the finish line, he was waiting, phone in hand, believing that his momma WOULD INDEED have finished the race on her own, she would indeed cross through that big red gate and he would be there smiling, proud, spent, emotional, yet arms outstretched, ready to get a photo.

Do. What. You. Can.

I can assure you that getting out of your own personal comfort zone will always be … uncomfortable. Maybe even painful.

Sam told me that for this, his second marathon, he allowed his pain to show up but he did NOT allow it to consume him. He knew he would get through it. He knew it wouldn’t beat him. So he made friends with his pain. “Sure, run with me if you must,” he said, “But you will not be with me forever. I will get through this with my friends and my mother and my own determination. Pain – you are not the boss of me! I can handle you and be better for it.”

I believe with all my heart this goes for all pain. It s such a natural part of the human experience. So there is no need to hide from it, pretend it doesn’t exist or numb it with whatever toxin you can find.

Make friends. Allow Pain to coexist. For a while. Until you are ready to run again.

Do what you can. Always push a little harder but even when you can’t, do what you can.

No need to run a marathon.

Unless of course, you want to.

My son now wants me to train for 5K which he has promised to run with me. The whole damn thing.

Obviously I have raised a monster.

About winesoakedramblings - The Blog of Vickie van Dyke

Writing is therapy. Wine is therapy. Writing while drinking wine is the best therapy. Reading while drinking can also be fun. Listening while drinking is also fun so check out my podcast! And then there's that book (memoir) that I wrote: Confessions of a Potty-Mouthed Chef: How to Cheat, Eat and be Happy! My life has provided me with a wealth of inspiration. Maybe something here will inspire you too? ~Vickie
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3 Responses to Making Friends With Your Pain …

  1. Scott F. says:

    Great story! 🙂

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