Monday Motivation: Fear-not the Pain & Finish without Fear

Life is pain, Highness. 

Okay, name that quote? I know you know it.

Hint, he goes on to say:

Anyone who says otherwise is selling something.

Sound familiar?

I know. You didn’t need the hint.

I mean, who doesn’t just absolutely love The Princess Bride? 

One of my all-time favorites.

In this classic scene, Buttercup is afraid, angry, and pretty-well cornered.

the-princess-bride-pirate-princess{Photo Source}

She doesn’t want to marry Prince Humperdink.

Prince-Humperdinck{Photo Source}

Who would?

Neither does she want to be kidnapped and sold to pirates or whatever “The Man in Black” threatened to do.

So she screams, accusing him, You mock my pain!” 

And the classic quote ensues. “Life is Pain.”

Amping-up to run another marathon in two weeks and I expect it to be difficult as always.

Anymore marathons are a pretty painful experience.

They’re painful no matter how you cut the cake, but as the cycling quote says: “It never gets easier, you just go faster.” So true, Greg LeMond. So true. Since my last marathon was quite a bit faster than ever before (for me) and nothing near the realm of easy, I can almost taste the depth of pain due me. As I’ve become more seasoned, I feel better prepared to harness the anxiety and to not fear the pain.

At least not quite so much.

So here’s why I say: Fear-not the Pain

Scientifically: pain is essential. If we didn’t feel pain, we’d do something stupid like burn the flesh of our hand on a boiling-hot cup of coffee. But research has shown that pain-related fear can be more disabling than the actual pain itself. Studies on fear and chronic pain show that people with chronic back pain, for instance, who don’t understand their pain, feel more disabled because they’re afraid of their pain (1). They’re tense. They’re uncertain. They’re incurable (well, maybe not, but things seem hopeless). Haven’t you had an injury you thought would never go away? You couldn’t figure out the pain and were afraid it would never get better?

So what does chronic pain or injury have to do with marathoning?

Or eating a disciplined diet, for that matter, which can feel pretty painful, right?

Fear is fear.

Fear increases pain.

If you fear the pain and annoyance of managing self-controlled healthy eating or are afraid to try to shoot for a wild new goal, well, then you’re likely not going to be as successful.

In past races, I’ve been majorly concerned with “saving” something for the last 10k out of fear that I’d die or completely fall apart.

I always seemed to save too much.

Pacing yourself is one thing, but saving so much because of the fear of the pain of the finish, that’s limiting.

The Marathon that qualified me for the Olympic Trials was pretty stinkin’ painful, as you can well imagine and see from the look on my face…

indy finish

…the last 50 or so yards from the finish.

I accidentally skirted around my previous problem of “saving a little too much” by planning to race the first 20 miles hard and try not think about the last 10k. What happened perchance was that when I got to that last 10k, I was able to maintain. There was no room left for fear. I completely understood the pain. I could deal with it. I was not afraid of it. Afraid that I would run 30 seconds slower than I did and regret missing a huge opportunity by 5 seconds, that I feared in those final miles. But I wasn’t afraid of struggling through the pain of the finish.

You may end up in the medical tent but… hey, you know, no big deal.

carmel marathon14-5


Truly, “The rewards for those who persevere far exceed the pain the must precede the victory.” Right on, Tom Engstrom, whoever you are.

And as Lord Byron once said, “The great art of life is sensation, to feel we exist, even in pain.”

So this day, be motivated to embrace life’s painful moments, feel your existence and finish without fear.


Looking for motivating recipe and a healthy and warm dinner, check out this lentil soup, you’ll be screaming “More lentils, please!”

Or if you’re interested in reading other mental strategies, check out this half marathon race report.

Who else is with me, The Princess Bride, a favorite, right? 

3 thoughts on “Monday Motivation: Fear-not the Pain & Finish without Fear

  1. I don’t really believe in the entity that doctors call kinesiophobia–I think it is a figment of doctors’ fertile imaginations getting carried away with visions of the evilness of their patients, along with somatization & malingering. In my experience, it wasn’t fear of pain when moving, but genuine pain every time I exerted myself, which stacked on top of the constant, genuine pain I was in. The key was adequate pain control, which is hard to come by these days with the DEA breathing down the necks of every doctor. Once I had adequate pain relief, I could increase my activity level & strengthen my weak joints. I credit my rehabilitation to opioids & oodles of vitamins & minerals & trying really crazy hard to never allow my joints into an abnormal range of motion.

    Now that I am losing some of the ability to feel pain, I realize the gift that pain is. Pain lets you know that something is wrong. Too many times, I get blood everywhere because I can’t feel that cut or scrape on my feet or legs. Also, If I had never felt pain, I would have never gotten the diagnosis of EDS.

    Thanks for the Puy lentil recipe. I bought Canadian Puy lentils, but haven’t made them because I couldn’t find a good recipe. I make red lentils a lot, but they are very different than Puy from what I have been told.

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