Doesn’t running 100 miles hurt?

Running comes with a certain amount of “hurt,” which is one of the reasons I love it as much as I do.  There is that struggle of making your body go farther than your mind thinks it can go. Pushing past those internal and external barriers is something I specialize in. I enjoy pushing the limits and doing things that others believe I cannot accomplish. You don’t go from drug addicted high school drop out to single mom, attorney, and ultrarunner without a hefty amount of determination and ambition.

One of my favorite quotes is, “Some people follow their dreams, others hunt them down and beat them mercilessly into submission.”

For most ultrarunners, the question is not, does it hurt? It’s, when does the hurt begin? At some point in a 100-mile run, you’re going to be uncomfortable, at a minimum.  But, being uncomfortable,  and being injured are different. Knowing where that line is can be a challenge to runners. We want to push through the pain. Pain is, after all, weakness leaving the body.

There are certain types of pain you should probably not push through, such as sharp stabbing pain with a sudden onset, pain that becomes worse after you stop, or pain that gets worse throughout the run.

The prospect of not being able to run due to injury leads me to include as much injury prevention into my training as I can. I cross train (swimming and cycling) to round out my overall body strength and eliminate imbalances between opposing muscle groups. I strength train, use a foam roller, and stretch to prevent injury. I would rather spend that time running, but I know that if I don’t do them, I won’t be running at all or I would be running a whole lot less than I do.

Many of my family and friends have told me, “Running as much as you do, cannot be healthy.”

“You will destroy your knees.”

“It isn’t good for your heart.”

But here’s the thing, I feel amazing. I am strong and have never been healthier. My doctors identify me as a runner before I tell them because of my resting heart rate (48). I rarely get sick, and when I do, it only lasts a few days. Of course, I have had my fair share of running injuries, and I can always count on the “See I told you so,” look from my dad whenever he finds out I’ve rolled an ankle or what have you.

There is an ongoing longitudinal study called Ultrarunners Longitudinal TRAcking Study (ULTRA Study), which has put out some preliminary data showing that Ultrarunners do not get injured more than other runners. They actually have a lower occurrence of stress fractures. Ultrarunners are more prone to metatarsal (foot) stress fractures than runners who run shorter distances who tend to get tibia stress fractures.

Among Ultrarunners, those at the lower end of the injury risk spectrum are the older runners, those with more ultramarathon experience, and those that decrease the amount of high intensity running. The ULTRA Study will be looking into the long-term health of the 1,212 runners who are a part of the study (388 Women), as well.

For me, I know that I am a better person because I run, so whatever the results of the study are, it’s unlikely to change my running habits.  Life is too short to just let it pass you by.

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