Competitive running hurts

By Fred Deckert


Since I’ve been taken to task for my perceived bias regarding the difficulty of long distance running, I should explain those views. Bill McGuire, one of Gulf Wind Track Club’s original members and a stellar track and intermediate distance runner from his youth has seen in my writing and conversation a tendency to regard the long distance efforts such as the marathon as the only “painful” competitions.

If I’ve given that impression, here are my true views on the matter. All competitive running is going to hurt, the difference is in degree and duration. I don’t believe the pain in a 100 meter dash is of enough duration to be meaningful, as intense as the effort will be. 200 meters starts to give the flavor of pain to the competitor. 400 meters can really test your pain threshold on the home stretch and 800 meters can be pure agony.

I think at the mile you have to start being a real planner about rationing your effort so the pain part is bearable during the last quarter. 5K and 10K efforts can actually be fun for a while, but the last third of a good effort will give you some minutes of pretty uncomfortable pain, and I’ve seen lots of runners fold up at the finish line when they have given their all, that’s when in the next couple of minutes you’re doubtful that you’ll ever get enough air again.

Marathon and above efforts test your ability to stand pain or strong discomfort for a long while, seldom reaching the pain intensity of the shorter runs. That’s when you start to wonder if hurting that long is really worth the game, and your mind has to work on blocking out that idea. At these distances and even the 5 & 10K’s you really can’t run in oxygen debt for very long. The time you really draw on the bank’s reserves are very near the end of the race. Up until that time there’s a barometer of discomfort you look for that you’re willing to tolerate.

For the many runners who never want to run in pain, but just enjoy the outing, this probably looks like a litany from a masochist. There’s absolutely nothing wrong in participating in a race and enjoying the whole experience with little discomfort. But, for the competitively minded at any level, you are going to look for the best you can do and that guarantees considerable discomfort or let’s face it, PAIN!