It's Only Pain
I just now got the most touching facebook message from a friend of my late nephew Matt's saying "You are here to show that pain is irrelevant and that pain is a road you don't have to keep walking down - that love is the cure - this is what I have learned from you." Her message inspired me to share the following section from my book with you:
When I was training to run that first marathon, we were told that it was best to take about six months to rest and prepare between races. So after recovering from the first one, I ran four more marathons over the next 24 months or so. Some runs were faster, some were slower. But most important was the fact that I had succeeded. Each time, I had finished in spite of the intense pain and physical stress. And I felt great about what I had accomplished.
Pushing the Edge Again
Still feeling like I could do “anything,” I decided that my next goal would be to run an ultra-marathon. An “Ultra” is anything longer than the regular 42.2 K distance or the six hours normally given for doing a marathon. And I set my sights on a 50 K or 31 mile run near Niagara Falls that was about two months away.
To train for this one, I decided that I would run three regular marathons first – partly to build up my endurance, and partly to break through my beliefs about what’s possible for the human body. Nobody I knew personally had ever done even two marathons in a month. So I was definitely pushing the edge by attempting so many in such a short time.
I approached the first marathon pretty casually, and completed it in fairly good shape. One week later, I ran another marathon – or at least tried to. Part way through, I was 'zoned out' listening to my iPOD, didn't notice that I had taken a wrong turn, and ended up running the half-marathon course instead. However, I also experienced a slight leg injury during this run, so my mistake might have been a lucky one. And then two weeks later I ran another full marathon. This time I got injured at 10K and ran the last 32K in considerable pain, limping the whole way.
Pain… and Deep Peace
During this last run, I decided to call my writer so I could capture my thoughts about it while I was still running. Out of it we created an article called, "It’s Only Pain,” in which I described what it's like to run through physical pain – and how my commitment to finishing and the power of being with other runners got me through it.
After doing that article, I began asking myself, "What is it about these marathons that I'm so attracted to? Why does running them mean so much to me?" Given that my mission is all about overcoming unwanted habits and addictions, it obviously had something to do with that. So I started to try and figure out the connection.
I reflected back on my first marathon when I was totally injured, bedridden for nearly a week after and in excruciating pain whenever I tried to walk. It would make sense to ask, "If your first experience with a marathon was that painful, why would you ever want to do it again?"
And there was the paradox. Because on the other side of that pain was the deepest sense of peace and emotional freedom I had perhaps ever known.
Having felt that "love of humanity" and the deep gratitude I had for how people helped me, the two had left me deeply moved. During that run, I'd also had an experience of what I can only call "transcending" my body. At one point near the end, I felt like it wasn't "me" running my legs any more. It was as if my spirit was moving a body that shouldn't really have been doing this. Yes, there was pain; but I wasn't especially present to it. It was as though I was outside of the body, and outside of any feelings, fears or negative thoughts. And it left me with a sublime sense of freedom and peace.
What I began to sense was that, somehow, the experience of being willing to be uncomfortable was a key to breaking free of unwanted habits and living a fulfilled life. For me, running marathons had simply become the most intense exercise I could use to train myself to break out of my "addiction to comfort" and my desire to avoid pain at all costs.