What Running Has Taught Me About Pain

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by Calvin Harris |

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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.

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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.


Allan Martin avatar

Allan Martin

My name is Allan and my daughter has sarcoidosis we live in south australia and my wife and myself had never heard of sarcoidosis. So we had no idea what it was and the controlling disease it is, some of the heart felt stories you hear are from some beautiful extremely strong people who battle with this disease. Which fight every day to try and have a normal life but I find a lot of doctors are unaware of the disease and just sweep it under the carpet. Nobody seems to know or want to know or want to help people through this ongoing battle, I think there should be more awareness of the disease. A worried father that loves his daughter Allan

Brad Wyatt avatar

Brad Wyatt

Thanks for the article. I'm just getting back on my bike after a long break, and I concur that it is possible to do more than your body initially tells you... I find it best to back off when my body is disagreeing with me, then push on again, when I feel ready to give it some more.

I reckon the exercise is the easy bit... it's the exhaustion and aches when I get home and stop, that's the harder part... hopefully that will get easier with the more rides I do?


DebbraP avatar


Congratulations, Calvin on qualifying for the marathon! I like your attitude and spirit. Particularly when it comes to living with Sarcoidosis. Your hard work seems to be paying off and I hope that continues.

Tania avatar


Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us and for letting us know that you are able to run a marathon!!! Just wow!!! I was diagnosed with pulmonary sarcoidosis in May 2021. It took almost nine months for me to be able to make it up the stairs to my bedroom without being a total, shivering mess. Now, about 13 months later, I have started working out again and I almost feel like my old self again. All the other times I tried to exercise and fight through the shivers and fatigue, would result in about 4 days of ongoing muscle fatigue and shaky hands and legs. I have recovered quite a bit without meds (just using an inhaler most days, sometimes twice a day.) It seems my body has learnt to cope with my new normal and I feel great! I do believe that if I chose to not try and be active, that I would not have recovered as quickly or at all.

Chris avatar


Way to go, Calvin! I was diagnosed with rip-roaring pulmonary sarcoidosis in the spring of 2023. I kept blowing it off as sports-induced asthma exacerbated by allergies, weather or whatever environmental or immunological variable I felt fit the bill that day (THAT IS BAD ADVICE…DO NOT DO AS I DID). However, the miles were progressively becoming more difficult. Ten miles suddenly felt like 20…then 5 felt like 10…then 1 mile became a struggle. I finally got the chest x-ray my wife had implored me to procure. That led to a CT, which led to bronchoscopy and biopsies and…well, if you are reading this you probably know the rest. But get this, just 6 months after my diagnosis and while still on therapy, I was inspired to run (and complete) my first 50 mile race! I never thought it would be possible, but I am fortunate to have had a solid running foundation along with friends/family, an internet community like this and a pulmonologist all pulling for me. Does it suck sometimes? Hell yes! But I consider myself exceptionally fortunate with every step I take, every cough and every smile I can muster during my training. After all, there really is nothing else to do but keep on keeping on! You’re only in trouble when the keeping stops.

Patrick avatar


Thank you for the articles, especially this one on running. I had never heard of sarcoidosis until my diagnosis in 2015 at age 60. It all began a couple of months earlier with a CT scan during a pulmonary embolism episode. Granulomas showed up in my lungs and, a tissue sample later, sarcoidosis was confirmed. At that point, the granulomas were not inflamed and I was told that it would likely never be of great concern. At least that's what I heard so I went on about life. A diagnosis of cardiac sarcoidosis followed. I was a 60 mile per week runner for many years but my ability to run fell off a cliff around 2009...I just could not do it and quit altogether. After retiring in early 2021, I started back at the gym several days each week and, a year later in January 2022, I decided to try running again. The first weeks were painful, frustrating, and disheartening. I began to enjoy some modest success by summer and signed up for a half marathon held in November. My effort was neither fast nor pretty but I got it done and have since run three more. Running was once fluid and easy. It's now painful and requires great effort but it's more satisfying than ever.


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