Run Towards Pain
By Nick Barringer
That which hurts, also instructs.
I hate running. Maybe because I’ve never been any good at it. But still, I hate running.
Yet on this day I find myself, plodding along like a drunken Clydesdale desperately trying to suck in enough oxygen to maintain this less than respectable pedestrian pace I’m “running”.
I say “running” because I’m sure any Kenyan or halfway decent high school cross country runner would chuckle at my definition of “running”. Instead they would interpret my current state of locomotion more like a wounded animal that should be put down.
I do not feel the much talked about runner’s high, I do not feel fast, I only feel pain.
My joints ache, my lungs burn, and my right foot feels like I’m stepping on tack with every strike. I start to pull back.
Then I start to think about Joe Kapacziewski and Derek Weida. One individual I have met and one I have not. Both physical specimens for whom I am not worthy to simply carry their water on a short run.
I think most people understand there is a level of extreme mental fortitude required with handling the loss of appendage. I also imagine it is quite obvious that doing with one leg what most others can’t do with two is also quite impressive. But I wonder how much people consider the pain.
Imagine the sawing of bone. Think about all of the nerves that once ran down your leg getting bundled up and smashed together at the end of that bone and covered up with a flap of skin. Think about taking that skin and covering it with a tight fitting sock and stuffing it in to the end of a prosthesis.
Visualize your bodyweight that once was evenly distributed constantly pressing down on that ball of nerves and tissue. The painful swelling causing your prosthesis to feel too tight, yet when the swelling subsides it causes it to be too loose. Thus the fitting process begins again. The force of up to six times your bodyweight slamming into nerve filled tissue every time you run.
So when I think of those gentlemen running or working-out, I think of pain. A pain that I’m sure they have gotten used to. Not because it no longer exists but rather it has become an acquired taste for their cognitive palate. Where most of us shun discomfort like some stranger infected with leprosy, they embrace it like the closest of friends.
Now here I am, ambling along in perfect weather, with two perfectly good legs, in two perfectly good shoes whose sole purpose is meant to absorb shock. But I’m thinking about my pain. My weakness. My frailty. This weakness does not take place in most of the seventy inches of flesh and bone that is my body. Rather it takes place in the six inches of gray matter between my ears.
That mushy little thing that cowers to my body’s signals. It tells me to seek comfort, take it easy, and slow down. But it is the same gray matter that better men have trained to command the body to adapt, push harder, and go faster. Those that have overcome tremendous adversity understand the “secret to success” that you won’t find in any self-help book…embracing pain.
Pain is the universal language that speaks to us all. Yet it is in the interpretation that lies the difference between success and failure. Where at the slightest hint of pain the vast majority of us interpret this signal as a need to slow down, to halt, to proceed no further. The extraordinary minority hears press on, persevere, and go further. They let pain serve as beacon leading them towards their goals.
We all have our pain. The pain can be physical, mental, or a mixture of both. But we must not cower in its presence. Instead we must develop a devotion to seeking discomfort. We must constantly pursue pain until we achieve mastery over it. We must look down the path that we have been avoiding and take that dreaded first step.
Do not be afraid. Today is the day. You know where it is. Now go run towards it.