I’m reading “What I Talk About When I talk About Running,” by the novelist Haruki Murakami, a gift from D., my friend and running partner in New York City, and from J., my friend and former boss. Even though Murakami and I are of different age, sex and country, and even though we came to running for different reasons, I find myself nodding every other page at a statement or an anecdote, thinking: “Yes! Me too!” There is a common ground to runners that I haven’t found in other parts of life. My love for cycling is as great as my love for running, but when I talk with fellow cyclists, it’s usually about how a ride went or what the next ride will be like. It’s stories about having a flat, changing gears or falling. It’s about hills and slope percentages (“I did a 12 percent. It was tough.”) Runners’ conversations, in my experience, are more visceral, especially as far as long-distance runners are concerned. Our body is the machine, so it’s about muscle, bones, sweat, blood, blisters and bladders. We share a visceral common ground.
Today is a beautiful day on Cape Cod, sunny and about 63 degrees Fahrenheit (17 degrees Celsius), and I’m inside, reading, wearing warm socks.
I’m not outside because I did something I think most runners will understand, because they’ve done it too. I ignored the signals and thought I could get away with a sore throat. As a runner, I’m trained to push my body to its limits even if it tells me it’s in pain. That mental discipline is the only way to finish a race or a run. Yesterday, when I woke up with a throat on fire (due to my running in the rain two days earlier), I decided to have a “make or break” run. I believe, or perhaps make myself believe, that sometimes a good sweat is the best cure to the beginning of an illness. It has worked for me in the past. Not yesterday. I took my camera and went to the Priscilla Lane town landing, on the other side Nauset Harbor’s Mill Pond, which I visited earlier this week. I was glad I did because it was beautiful. I felt a bit cold at the beginning of the run, but the sun broke through from time to time to warm me, and even though my throat felt dry and painful, the rest of my body enjoyed the run. I ran 10.3 miles (16.6 km) and I felt like I could have continued for much longer if my throat hadn’t been so painful.
This morning, I woke up with a full-blown cold. Ignoring a sore throat isn’t too dangerous. I’m staying home today, reading about running and hoping to be back in shape tomorrow for a bike ride. Sometimes, runners ignore much larger problems and avoid consulting until the pain is unbearable, because there’s nothing worse than hearing from a doctor: “You have to stop running immediately.” During a marathon, I need to force myself through pain and discouragement: giving up isn’t an option. To finish a marathon, a runner must ignore her body when it says, “You have to stop running immediately.” After training my brain not to give up, I have a hard time being reasonable and stopping before it’s too late. It seems it’s an inherent part of me, as a runner.