Saturday, 25 May 2013

The Pain And Pleasure of Running

Running is different from almost any other sport I can think of.

It is the only sport that I can hate but gives me the most pleasure.

Unlike other popular sports like football or basketball or cricket there are times in every runner's life when we have to almost force ourselves to do do our sport. At least once a month I will know I have to go for a run and it is the last thing I want to do. I will go through periods when I will not like running but will push myself to go out and run. I don't think people who do other sports push themselves to do the sport they profess to love. I hasten to add I'm not talking about the 1% of elite athletes - I'm talking about the 99% of us who supposedly do sport for "fun".

I don't think there are any other sports where you could feasibly ask friends, family and colleagues for money to do the sport you supposedly enjoy. I feel no shame asking people to sponsor me to run a marathon, if someone asked me to sponsor them to play a game of football or shoot some hoops I would think they were mad!

It's an acknowledgement from our friends that distance running is tough, that often it isn't fun and it is a real challenge. It's an endeavour worthy of giving money to charity for.  

There is a section on the website labelled "Motivation". As the name suggests it is there to try and motivate people to run when they would prefer not to go out for a run. Runner's World is possibly the largest, most popular running magazine and website in the world and I would assume that they wouldn't have this section unless it was really needed by  it's readers. It's readers are by definition people who have voluntarily taken up running and yet we still need help to fight the urge to give up.

In this way I think running exposes one of the great secrets of life: 

The greatest joy is often the sum of of great pain.

I love running precisely because I don't get pleasure from every step I take. But each painful step I take adds up to the greatest joy I can experience. If life was a mathematical equation two negatives really do add up to a positive, or in the case of a marathon several thousand negatives add up to one amazing positive.

It is one of life's strangest contradictions; Only pursuing pleasure makes our lives less pleasurable.

Avoiding hard work and pain lessens the joy that life gives us, yet we seem programmed to avoid pain wherever and whenever possible. Despite the popular hymn "comfort" may be the antithesis of "joy"!

There will still be mornings when I won't be able to push myself to out of bed to run the 10k I know my training schedule says I should run and I will enjoy the comfort of my warm duvet. There will definitely be days when I won't be able to stop myself eating the junk food I know I should avoid.

But what running has taught me is that comfort rarely brings joy and in the long run, (pun intended), only hard work and achievement bring ultimate pleasure.

(The picture today is of me in pain directly after I finished the London marathon)

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