I run because it hurts. I recognize this is an odd (and perhaps disturbing) statement. Running can generate 3-10 times your bodyweight in impact force per footstrike. Rest assured, I am not a fan of senseless self-flagellation.
The pain I'm talking about is not the pain associated with hitting the road for miles. It's not the pain associated with hitting the wall hard as you hover near the brink of what your body can reasonably support. I'm talking about a totally different kind of pain.
I am actually talking about pain that is completely distinct from the 'physical' pain associated with the act of running. I'm talking about mental and/or emotional pain. To quote R.E.M., 'everybody hurts.....sometimes'. While I really do hate the song, the simple (yet profound) message of this song resonates.
Everybody hurts sometimes. I could hit the bottle (and I have). I could act rashly (and I have). But, before I act impulsively, I seek the solace of the road. If anger is the driving force behind the hurt, a tempo run or a lung searing track workout can sap excess adrenaline unlike anything else. Catharsis is running myself into the ground.
But, what about sadness and disappointment? Running has you covered there too. Certainly, there's nothing wrong with shedding a few tears and pretty much everyone needs to now and then. But, taking the sharp edge off searing sadness can be done quite easily with just a few miles.
All too often we're told to be optimists, to think positively, and to always expect the best. I don't argue this approach and it's one that I generally agree with, but I'd be a fool (and a liar) if I didn't acknowledge the dark side.
Life is full of sadness, disappointments, pain, and anger. It's as much a part of life as sunshine, rainbows, and love. The possibility of the latter is often what makes the former vaguely palatable when we're neck deep in hurt.
Such is the case with running as well on a micro and a macro level. Individual runs are full of peaks and valleys. The first mile or so may feel ugly only to turn transcendent a few strides later. Certain runs may be just plain awful, but the following day all is well. Yes, running is once again like life.
Running isn't the answer for handling pain in life. But, just as in life sometimes the best (and only) thing you can do is strap on your shoes and just keep moving forward.