Yesterday morning while running in the dark, I turned my ankle a bit. Kept running with no real consequence. That was no real surprise. Usually, when you turn an ankle or tweak a knee, the true effects don’t show up immediately. It takes a while for any pain to kick in.
Two winters ago I did something really stupid during the Sno-Fun Run in Lake Geneva. The streets were icy and I hurdled a traffic cone. Don’t know why, other than naive exuberance and a history as a steeplechaser. The knee reverberated inside.
I finished the race fine. But for weeks after, my knee was a mess. It was sore throughout. All the ligaments had been stretched. That cost me some valuable training miles, but a lesson was learned.
Hurting yourself either from your own stupidity or ugly happenstance is never fun. Which is why, while I was sipping on a beer at my brother-in-law’s birthday party last night, it struck me that running in the dark without headlamps isn’t really a good idea. With all the LED equipment out there, I could have easily avoided the ankle twist that was suddenly, at 7:00 p.m. last night, causing me a considerable amount of pain.
It came on like a toothache. Sort of background pain. It centered under the part of the arch where the ankle pad meets that strong yet tender plantar fascia. “Oh no,” I thought. “Not that.”
I’ve had plantar fascia problems before. It was a long time ago. I’d gone running naked on a beach in Virginia, leaving both shoes and clothes behind. It was a marvelously free experience. But it had a cost. No, I didn’t get thrown in jail for letting my whank out in public. I hurt my arches badly by running on soft sand. It took weeks for them to feel good again.
The truth of all this is that runners and cyclists and swimmers all get used to living with pain of one kind or another. Pain is a way of life for us. Even when we’re not injuring ourselves in some stupid or smart way, there is pain from training hard. Pain from accumulated fatigue and physical distress. Pain from skipping dessert.
Yes, there is emotional pain as well. Pain at having failed in some way. Pain in quitting on a day when we should have (could have?) gone on.
Pain from little tweaks and angers in relationships with training partners, coaches and life partners. Pain from guilt at spending too much or too little time at what we love, or without the people we do love.
Pain is a way of life. It really doesn’t matter who you are or what you do. Life is painful.
There, I’ve said it. The difference in you and me is that we court this pain rather than let it hit us in the solar plexus and the brain every day. If you’re the praying type, you might well try to pray away the pain that life doles out. “And deliver us from evil…” goes the Lord’s Prayer. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us…”
Save us from the pain, in other words. That we cause ourselves. That we inevitably cause others.
Yes, life is painful. But when you confront that pain and run through it, or cycle up a hill that you never thought you could climb, or pull yourself out of the pool following 3000 meters of hard swimming, life feels easier. You can let down a bit. The pain of everyday life doesn’t seem so bad compared to what you’ve just put yourself through.
And there you have it. Pain as a way of life is the antidote to pain. Just like drinking a bit to fight the Hair of the Dog That Bit You. Or calling an old lover out of the blue when you know it’s going to be a rough phone call.
Taking out the garbage or doing the dishes even when it’s not your turn. Pain.
Life is just a total pain in the ass. So deal with it. Go after it. Go find it. Run through the pain. Run and ride and swim with it, for God’s Sake. Love the pain.
But cure it too. Like last night, I asked for a couple Advil and took two of those big blue plastic ice blocks from my brother-in-law’s fridge and applied them to my foot. Propped my tweaked ankle up on the chair and set my foot on the cold ice. It took a while for the Advil to kick in. Meanwhile, I drank a couple Killians and had some pizza and birthday cake. By the time I got home later that night the pain was gone.
This morning I got up and rode the bike on the trainer and watched the news on Good Morning America. The talking heads were pontificating about how Donald Trump has refused to relinquish his Executive Producer role on Celebrity Apprentice or some other “reality show” that does not mean a goddamned thing to the health and welfare of our world and yet this selfish bastard still can’t give it up. He is the most painful, selfish, narcissistic public figure in the history of the universe. Next to Hitler.
But like I said. Life is painful. And if this guy does wind up serving as our President it will be a long four years. But many of us are quite used to living with pain. So we’ll get through it somehow, if he doesn’t manage to kill us all first. But you know, you don’t feel pain when you’re dead from a nuclear holocaust caused by some arrogant twit taunting North Korea. So there’s that.