Monday, February 7, 2011

Running with Pain

The late summer sun burned hot off the black asphalt outside the small central Oklahoma town of Slaughterville. The Sunday afternoon of Labor Day weekend arrived without the desired clouds to soften the energy from the sun. Four hundred miles of swimming, biking and running lay behind me and only thirty miles remained in the Tri4Cure five day endurance challenge.

Running long distances is as much a mental achievement as a physical accomplishment. The mind has to be able to focus on the moment that has arrived and block out what awaits down the road. Pain is a constant distraction and creates moments of doubt.  The runners mind has to be able to accept that pain is a reality and it will dominate your every conscious moment if you allow.

Highway 77 from Slaughterville to Noble shows to be about ten miles on the maps published by the state of Oklahoma.  But, it's mental distance has always been much longer to me.  It is a physical and mental test of my ability to embrace the pain it brings and control the doubts it pushes to the front of my mind. Heat exhaustion and dehydration are always dangerous enemies found on the black surface of the ten mile run I call "The Test". This summer, a small stress fracture in my left foot had developed on a few miles before and presented a new pain to endure.

Pain comes to my life at the most inconvenient moments. It tends to arrive in waves, trumpeting its presence and threatening my controlled lifestyle. As a youth, it bullied me by dominating my thoughts and controlling my actions. I tended to flee from the source of the pain and retreat to the special hiding places my mind developed. I often found myself inactive and slipping into depression hiding from the pain of life.

Years of living and the lessons learned on the journey of life have taught me that hiding from my pain only presents more opportunities for pain to dominate my life. I have discovered that you must control your pain before it controls you. It can never be allowed to dominate and bully you into submission. The strength you develop by focusing on the task at hand will  lift you up and free you from the demons of pain. Pain gains the power you are willing to give away.

I never run the Slaughterville road alone.  The many members of my running community, led by my greatest supporter and soul companion Sheila, tend to my physical and emotional needs while I battle the demons of pain. Pain is in fact a mental struggle for control of the mind. Strong minds learn to force it to the rear of thought and continue on with the purpose at hand. I continued down the road discovering, once again, the strength to control the journey by controlling the pain.

My last thoughts of pain vanished once again on the Slaughterville road. Pushed back in my mind by the power of my purpose and the love and support of others. The run through life can sometimes be very painful, but, with the love and faith of others your purpose lays ahead awaiting your arrival.