I awoke at 5am to the sensation of a lightning bolt striking my spine. Proceeding this event, a cup of water tumbled onto the side of my pillow while my son was falling off my bed. The jolt that shot me out of bed actually ended up keeping me in there most of the day. My head's turning radius diminished to near nil and the soreness locked down half of my back.
But after icing and heating and icing and heating and rubbing and heating and stretching and heating, my legs took over. I laced up and went for an easy run hoping that would turn my evening around. As my husband saw me leave he yelled "be careful" but I know he was thinking it is okay to take a sick day, even on a running day.
And as I waddled through my neighborhood, involuntarily looking straight ahead, I began to ponder how healthy this running addiction really is. As predicted, the endorphins kicked in around 8 minutes, numbing the throbbing in my head that 8 Advil couldn't. My pounding feet weren't exactly massaging my neck, but my morphine was being released and I could finally deal with the pain the way I wanted to. It got me thinking that perhaps there is another angle to the story how runners live longer. Running doesn't just strengthen your heart and bones, or fight cancer and diabetes, or simply diffuse anger.
Running makes you more tolerant of pain.
Between the feet aches and the muscle aches, the ice packs and the ice bathes, the sunburns and sweat in the eyes, shin splints and physical therapies, the blisters and bunions, the sports tape and its removal, the nasty-tasting gels and nutrition bars, the swollen knees and throbbing IT band...running hurts. But we keep getting out there because of (among other things) the endorphins; they make it possible to do more under harder conditions.
And as we age, it's no secret that our bodies fall apart. No matter how much you workout, ingest or tuck, the aches and pains just keep coming. But I think what separates those just waiting to die and those actively creating a few more worthy memories is the ability to deal with the pain. Perhaps it's having the running drug itself, or just the confidence to know that 'you've pushed your body before so you can do it again.' Whatever it is, the need to do a few miles was more powerful than my mother's voice in my head saying "sleep it off." My neck is still stiff, but I feel good.