In ultrarunning there’s an ominous phrase you’ll hear bantered around by seasoned pros — the “pain cave”. It doesn’t matter when or why — but the reality of running long-distances competitively is that you will have to spend time in the pain cave.
It’s a dark place. A place where things get really ugly.
Every part of your body hurts.
Your legs are shredded. Your arms hurt from carrying a water bottle. Your inner thighs are chafed from so many strides. Your neck is sore. Your back is bruised from tripping over roots and stumps along the trail.
Everything hurts. And every part of your body is screaming out that the best possible option for you right now is to quit doing what you are doing.
Despite your training and your will to win, the darkness of the pain cave distorts reality. You feel all alone. You’re not sure there’s actually a way to get out of the pain cave. You just hurt.
And you’ll do whatever it takes to stop hurting.
Spending time in the pain cave isn’t just for running ultramarathons. It’s happens in business and family situations, school, your community, and a lot of other places you happen to be.
Your pain cave is different than everyone else. The intensity of what you feel and the emotions that cascade around you are different — but what isn’t different is that we all get there.
The truth about life and success and doing what is hard is that without pain there is no progress. If you don’t hurt doing what you’re doing right now then you’re not working on something that will end up with extraordinary results.
Pain is the gateway to progress.
So what do you do when you want to keep going but hurt so badly you’re not really sure you can?
- Talk to yourself — Don’t let the suffering shout at you without shouting back. Remind yourself of the reason you’re doing this and the reward that is on the other side of the pain you feel.
- Keep moving forward — Don’t stop now. You’ll feel better right now — but a lot worse down the road when you realize that you missed out on extraordinary results.
- Keep fueling up on inspiration — Don’t forget to stay energized for the journey ahead. Keep moving but keep fueling too. You’ll need all the energy you can get.
The only way to make it through the pain cave is to want to make it.
To be successful, you have to want the rewards of winning more than you want the pain to go away right now.
Don’t run from pain. You don’t have to like it. But you do need it.
Especially if your mission is to do something awesome.