The pain of running a marathon quickly forgotten
A recent study found that the pain of running a marathon is quickly forgotten, which may offer some insight as to why runners continue to complete marathons over and over again.
In a small survey, 62 runners were asked to rate their pain as they crossed the finish line. The average answer was a 5.5 out of seven, but just a few months later, they recalled their pain at an average of 3.2. Runners who performed poorly in the race or rated their pain closer to a seven initially were more likely to remember their pain more accurate the second time they were asked.
Dr. Charles Crotteau is a family medicine physician at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago and an avid marathon runner. He’s run over 27 marathons, and agrees with the findings of the survey.
“My very first marathon in college I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so hard. I’m never going to do that again,’” Dr. Crotteau says. “Within a half hour of completing the race, I felt like I had to do it again. There is amnesia about the pain because the reward is so great.”
While pain is associated with running a long distance, Julie Pate, a group exercise instructor at the Good Samaritan Health and Wellness Center who is also an avid runner, says that endorphins help runners forget the pain they experience while running.
“Running or intense exercise in general releases endorphins, which are pleasure chemicals in the brain that help us to block the pain while we are running,” says Pate. “These hormones linger after the run to help us feel good for a long time. This, along with the fact that we are doing something so go for us, really is a happiness pill.”
After the pain of a first marathon has dissipated, Pate offers these tips for those who decide to run a second marathon:
- Learn from your mistakes. Did the Gu you ate at mile 16 make you nauseous, the shorts you chose chafe at mile 19, or were you too hot with a hat on? Figure out what worked and what didn’t, and make critical tweaks to your race-day plan.
- Take some time to recover. Do some cross training, spend time with the family and enjoy life.
- Add some speed. Most first-time marathoners have a goal to “just finish.” For the second one, try and get a bit more competitive and add some speed, hills, speed bursts or more competitive aspects to your training plans.
“It’s such a long race and it’s kind of an event unlike a shorter race,” says Dr. Croutteau. “It’s such a momentous occasion and event. There is such an energy, and once you forget about the pain, it’s such a cool day.”
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