What Running Has Taught Me About Pain
November 2022 is a long time away, but I’m very excited for it. If all goes well, I’ll be running in the 51st TCS New York City Marathon.
Why am I focused on 2022 when we are weeks away from this year’s marathon? Well, it’s because I just qualified for next year’s race!
To be fair, I am extremely excited about this year’s marathon, too. The path runs less than a mile from where I live in Brooklyn, so I plan to walk to Barclays Center and cheer on my many friends who are running. I can’t wait!
Yet, running in any race was an unrealistic dream as recently as 2019.
Back then, I thought running a half-marathon was impossible. But I’ve since run three of them, including the 2020 and 2021 virtual Brooklyn Half Marathons. I’ve run multiple 10-mile and 10-kilometer races, and a few dozen 5-kilometer races. Amazingly, I’ve accomplished this all during the pandemic and with pulmonary sarcoidosis.
I figure that if a half-marathon is possible, even with these sarc lungs of mine, then maybe a full marathon is, too.
The New York Road Runners has a 9+1 program that allows locals to earn a guaranteed spot in the TCS NYC Marathon. To qualify for the 2022 race, you must complete nine qualifying races and one qualifying volunteer activity in 2021. I just finished the process, with the Instagram pictures to prove it. My 2021 Brooklyn Half Marathon journey was even featured on News 12 Brooklyn.
So, other than some paperwork (and a lot of training), I’m all set for 2022.
More importantly, and much to my surprise, I’ve found that running has helped me manage my sarcoidosis.
My doctor at the Johns Hopkins Sarcoidosis Clinic always encouraged me to stay active, as it results in better health outcomes. Perhaps I’m running more than she originally had in mind, but with her approval, it’s played a huge role in my overall health.
When I initially decided to run the 2020 Brooklyn Half Marathon, my goal was simply to finish. I frequently ran and biked at Peloton Studios New York, and my instructors and friends there encouraged me to “explore the impossible.” That’s partly where my column title, “Run Your Own Race,” comes from.
But running also taught me how to better manage my pain.
I’m referring to the dull and chronic pain that so many sarcoidosis fighters deal with. My pain fluctuates, and sometimes my whole body likes to join in. But while my pain can be uncomfortable, it’s usually bearable and doesn’t require pain medication. In this way, I’m luckier than other sarc fighters.
When I’m running, the first mile is always terrible. My mind is saying “stop” most of the time, my legs feel heavy, and my lungs usually tighten up a bit. I often want to quit as soon as I start.
But then, around mile two, my body and mind open up.
It’s hard to adequately describe this feeling, but if you’re a runner, I bet you know it. At that point, the running isn’t necessarily easier, but I mindfully and suddenly discover that my body is stronger than I realized. That’s when the real race begins.
(I do feel obliged to say that sometimes it’s smart to just stop. Even those of us who like to push ourselves must learn the difference between discomfort and injury. In this case, I’m talking about discomfort that might require a push, but won’t cause injury. If it’s an injury, please stop, recover, and run another day.)
Running has taught me that I can endure far more “healthy” discomfort than I previously thought possible. The discomfort is real, but it’s also temporary and worth fighting through.
I didn’t understand this about pain before I started running. It’s helped me better distinguish between temporary and chronic pain. Both are tough, to be sure, but I handle each very differently.
Now, I am aware that many sarc fighters simply cannot run. Sometimes our symptoms and pain are just too much. I see you, and sometimes I can’t manage it, either. Sometimes all we can do is all we can do. When I can run, I am always mindful of the blessing of movement.
That blessing helped me finish my first three half-marathons, and it will hopefully help me through the 2022 TCS NYC Marathon.
Prayerfully, in 13 months, I’ll see you at the finish line.
Note: Sarcoidosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sarcoidosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sarcoidosis.