Sunday, January 12, 2014

"I need my pain!"

I'm going to nerd out on you for just one quick second here. I recently gave in, and started watching the BBC series, Doctor Who. After years of listening to several friends prattle on about it, I finally had to see what it was all about and was instantly, totally hooked. There are a lot of things that I love about it, but what struck me immediately was how much it reminded me of watching the repeats of the original Star Trek series and movies as a kid. Even from a pretty young age (my older brother made me watch it), I vaguely understood that the show was making important commentary on ethics, politics, and religion through the telling of short science fiction stories.

I was recently reminded of a great scene from Star Trek V, in which Captain Kirk has a confrontation with a relative of Spock who has the ability to heal a person's pain. (I promise, this post is going to have something to do with running, any minute now.) In it, Kirk rejects the opportunity to have his internal pain eliminated, as it is a requirement of being human:
"... pain and guilt can't be taken away with the wave of a magic wand. They're the things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are. If we lose them, we lose ourselves. I don't want my pain taken away. I need my pain!"  
- Captain James Kirk
I love, love, love this reminder. I need it frequently as a runner, and I need it always as a human. I believe strongly that pain provides critical boundaries around what we can and should (and can't, and shouldn't) do to ourselves, and we should listen. While I understand and appreciate the optimistic notion that "I can do anything I set out to do," and do in fact firmly believe that I have the power to manifest a lot of pretty spectacular things, I'm also a realist. And I know my limits.

To be more precise, I know that I have limits. The boundaries and limits are always moving, and when I hit them, I'm certainly willing to push up against them. But they're real. I'm never going to be a 3-hour marathoner. That is just a fact. Can I run a 6:52 mile? Yes. But it hurts, and I certainly can't do 26.2 of them. I wouldn't even try. I don't like pain, and while my tendency to avoid it probably limits my achievements as a runner and in life, it also makes me a pretty healthy runner, and a pretty happy human.

I'm planning to start training for my next marathon in the coming weeks, and so am fiddling around with different training paces to figure out what feels good, and to find out where it stops feeling good. That pace where the pain begins will surely be different this time than it was last time. Will it be faster, or slower? I don't yet know. (Fingers are crossed that it's faster!) But I do know that I'll listen to my pain, that I'll respect my pain, and that I need my pain.

My thanks for this rad, creepy photo go out to
Berkeley K. Austin.


PS: This week marks the one year anniversary of my launching this blog! Thanks for all the reads, shares, comments, and love over the past 365 days. I'll try to keep writing weekly-ish, and if there are topics you'd like to read about or talk about (besides, obviously, the merits of Doctor Who and Star Trek), I'd sure love to hear it. Please feel free to send an email any time to, and let me know! XO


  1. great post. I'm dating an englishman and as you know, it's required for them to watch at birth. I have not watched Dr. Who, but I was just over there and caught a few of the episodes. I'm intrigued, because the knew Dr. Who will be the trash talking Scotsman from In the Loop. So, I may pick it up.

    And I think it all relates. I relate things that happen in my life to Buffy all the time.

    1. Buffy is another one of those series that's on my "things I missed" list. I'll have to catch up with it one of these days!

  2. Happy one year blogiversary. I agree, you need the lows to really appreciate and know when you are on your high moments.