Pain You Enjoy. That was the slogan of the Utah Valley Marathon. I own a shirt that has it printed across the back of it. Pain I enjoy. Hmmm. Is running pain I enjoy? Is running pain? Are runner’s masochistic? As I runner, am I masochistic? These are very important questions. If I’m going to wear a shirt that proclaims there is a pain that is joyful, I’m going to be darn well sure I mean it. (Most of my other shirts, “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Miles for Midwives,” “14th Annual World Fireknife Championship,” are fairly benign and I wholeheartedly endorse all of them.) But “Pain You Enjoy”? I struggle there.
Now let’s be clear. There is, sometimes, pain associated with running. Blisters, chafing, sore knees, crampy muscles, upset stomachs, sweat in the eyeball. I even get a pain underneath my collar bone on occasion, which I’ve never been able to figure out. But these are not things I enjoy. Not at all. What I do enjoy is the perseverance. Working through the pain, despite the pain, to make something cool happen. Like running farther or faster than I thought I could. Being able to set the pain aside for a little while to achieve a goal. That is what I enjoy, for sure. So maybe the slogan should have been “Perseverance You Enjoy.” It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Okay, maybe not.
Let’s go the other way then. It’s not the pain that I enjoy. It’s just that I tolerate it so I can get to the good stuff at the end: the finish line, the endorphins, the feeling of accomplishment, the bagels and bananas and cold protein drinks. “Pain You Tolerate.” Nope. No good. “Pain You Tolerate So You Can Wear a Shirt Saying You Enjoyed It.” Better. A little. I think. Maybe a bit too long, though, for a shirt people are going to be reading as I cruise past them. (Or vice versa. They both happen.)
But then I’m faced with this situation: I’m running home from Trader Joe’s today, pushing the boys in the stroller. I remembered my wallet this time, so I was able to purchase my groceries and I’ve got most of them stashed in the basket underneath and one bag tied to the handle. It’s probably close to 90 degrees, nearly noon, and I run (almost literally) into a friend who is just leaving her apartment with her little boy. We exchange pleasantries and she asks something to the effect of, “Doesn’t that hurt? How do you do it?” I’m caught off guard. Hurt? Do I hurt? Am I in pain? I mention something about my water bottle saving me, but after a second or two I decide: No. It doesn’t hurt. It feels good. My legs are kind of aching (possibly still sore from my long run on Saturday), and I’m really sweaty, but it feels good to be out. It feels good to get my legs moving. I can almost feel them getting stronger. My arms are strong from pushing the boys, so it doesn’t hurt them any more, either. In fact, I can think of nothing unpleasant about the situation. I’m enjoying it thoroughly, even with the heat, the sore legs, the added weight of the groceries.
So on third thought, maybe there is something to that slogan. Maybe there is something about the pain that I enjoy. It’s the part of me that knows that that which does not kill me makes me stronger. Maybe they should put that on the back of the shirt next year.