top of page

Can I increase my pain tolerance?

Minute 1: Can you train to tolerate pain?

“A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more.” 

45 years after his death, that quote and the legend of Steve Prefontaine live on among runners. We were reminded of his enduring legacy this week when we had the happy good fortune to chat with one of his fellow 1972 Olympians, Jeff Galloway. We asked Jeff what made Pre special and without hesitation he said that his ability to endure pain set him apart from his peers. (Our full interview with Jeff will be released on our podcast next week.) Several studies over the years have shown that while Pre may have been the master of the pain cave, he was not its only inhabitant. Research indicates that endurance athletes have a remarkably higher tolerance for pain than other humans. A new article in GQ explores this question: Can you train yourself to tolerate more pain?” It turns out that there is a nature vs. nurture debate within the field. Are endurance athletes good at their sports because of a high tolerance for pain? Or have years of training increased their comfort in the pain cave? Outside magazine also weighed in on the subject this week with this piece: “Why Endurance Athletes Feel Less Pain.” The New York Times offered perspective several years ago by exploring the pain endured by elite athletes in the NYC Marathon: “How to Push Past the Pain, As the Champions Do.” #PainTrain

Minute 2: Does music make you ‘Born to Run?’ Or do you prefer ‘Peace of Mind?’

Based on our latest survey, it seems that many of our readers would rather run with bare feet than bare ears. A majority of you said that you either listen to music, podcasts or news on your runs, with music by far the most popular audio companion. Whether you hit the road with Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” Van Halen’s “Runnin’ with the Devil,” or RUN DMC,  when the miles start to rack up and fatigue sets in, we pull extra motivation from running with music. In fact, the name of one of our favorite running blogs is exactly that -- “Running with Music.” Studies have shown that music helps you run faster by improving your mood, lifting your spirits, and distracting you from the pain. But music is not for all runners. According to the Six Minute Mile Survey we mentioned, almost half of our 6,000+ respondents prefer to run without any kind of audio because it clears the mind. (Or gives us “Peace of Mind.”) Here’s how our Headphone Habits responses shook out: 

  • 39% -- I need to listen to music while I run

  • 12% -- I prefer listening to podcasts, news, or audiobooks while on a run

  • 42% -- Running is the time to clear my mind, so no music or podcasts for me

  • 6% -- I like to chat, so I’d prefer to run with a friend

Many runners would rather focus on their strides and splits, or just enjoy the isolation and quiet of the great outdoors. There are benefits to not listening to music while running, and plenty of studies have cited the mind-clearing magic of running. Novelist Joyce Carol Oates once wrote, “If there’s any activity happier, more exhilarating, more nourishing to the imagination, I can’t think what it might be.” But if you absolutely, positively can’t leave home without tunes, check out this list from Road Runner Sports of the Top 100 Running Songs. #RockOut #TuneOut

Minute 3: Our favorite new virtual race

We’ll admit that it took us several months to come around to the whole virtual race thing. To us, it seems that the main purpose of a virtual race is just to keep us from going stir crazy. It’s more about the mind than the body. That’s why we instantly took to the idea of the Mind Body Tri that takes place on October 24. Instead of promoting the mental health of endurance athletes in a roundabout way, they are tackling it head on. Their novel triathlon idea was hatched by 6 experienced race directors spread across the country. The first leg is to run a 5k, the second is to do 45 minutes of yoga, and the third is a 15-minute guided meditation. The goal isn’t to see who’s fastest, it’s to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. We were lucky enough to catch up with 3 of the 6 race organizers on our Six Minute Mile Podcast last week. Bruce Dunn, Eva Solomon and Rachel Martin are cool and brimming with energy. We gained new perspective on why endurance sports are so important to all of us. The conversation also took an unexpected turn as they each got into some predictions for when in-person racing is likely to return in a big way. For more details and a fun conversation with 3 very creative endurance race organizers, check out the full Mind Body Tri conversation here. And if the whole yoga/meditation thing ain’t your bag, you can find many more options at our Virtual Race Directory. #AnotherTri

Minute 4: Women runners ask: Where are all the men?

When McKale Montgomery crossed the finish line to win the Prairie Fire Marathon in Wichita last weekend, friends and spectators had just one question. Where are all the men? Montgomery not only shattered the Kansas state record, she beat the fastest male runner by 8 minutes. “It was super neat,” a surprised Montgomery said. Montgomery’s feat would not have been quite so unique if she were an ultrarunner. Women have been outrunning men at ultra distances for a while now. Some female endurance athletes have mastered the concept of mind over matter. Like Jasmin Paris, who beat a field of 126 mostly male runners to win the 268-mile Montane Spine Race, all while still breast-feeding her infant daughter. Or legendary ultrarunner Courtney Dauwalker, who outruns men 200 miles at a time. A recent study even found that women are faster long-distance runners than men over extreme distances. But in shorter distances, men average faster times than women. What made Montgomery’s feat even more impressive is she did it in temperatures topping 80 degrees. She got so hot at the halfway point, she said, she stopped checking her watch and was “kind of falling apart.” #FastWomen

Minute 5: Quick Intervals

  • Everyone’s favorite made-up shopping holiday is arriving late this year. No, it’s not Black Friday or Cyber Monday, but Amazon Prime Day. Normally run in mid-July, it was pushed back to October 13-14 due to Covid. To help guide you through the aisles of the world’s everything store, we compiled a list of the “Top 10 Prime Day Discounts for Runners.” Or, if you’re looking for options beyond Bezos’ ecommerce empire, we found that the best alternative Prime Day discounts for runners are from Dick’s.

  • It’s not every day you can run a marathon and give your confession at the same time. But if you happen to run into Father Michael Bradley, you can. Bradley, who has been running marathons for 25 years, has heard many confessions during his 26-mile runs. “We go over to the side, off the beaten path for a moment. Usually I say I hope this will be a quick confession because I don’t want to lose time,” he said. Bradley ran his 20th Chicago Marathon Sunday, a virtual race that allowed him to pass his own Saint Gertrude Catholic Church several times. His 49th career marathon was to raise money for the church’s Heart to Heart charity for senior citizens.

  • Like many runners, Emily Hou had been planning for months to run the Chicago Marathon. But when the 2020 race went virtual, she had to alter her plans. So Hou, who has run the Boston Marathon and San Francisco Marathon, used Strava to create her own route around San Francisco’s Richmond District. When she completed her 26.2-mile run, her GPS device displayed a special message: “Vote 2020.” Hou, who immigrated to the United States as a child and became a U.S. citizen in 2016, wanted to come up with a creative way to motivate others to vote. “No matter what your political preference, there’s one thing that we all have in common, which is encouraging people to go out and vote,” she said. “This is something that I don’t take for granted.” Hou is not the only runner using her sport to encourage people to vote. A few weeks ago, we wrote about Native American runner Christian Haswood, who is running for fitness and public office.

Minute 6: Daily Inspiration

Lloyd Scott has been completing challenges for charity his whole life. Like running the 1987 London Marathon while he was battling leukemia. Or running an underwater marathon at Loch Ness. Or completing the slowest London Marathon in history over five days, eight hours and 29 minutes — while wearing a deep-sea diving suit. In more than 30 years, Scott, a former English professional soccer player, has raised more than $5.8 million for charity with his creative adventures.  Now Scott, 58, has completed his final, and perhaps greatest, challenge yet. On October 7, Scott completed a climb up Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK, while wearing a 130-pound diving suit. It was the beginning of his Three Peak Challenge, a 23-mile trek over eight days that also included Scarfell Peak and Mount Snowden. His climb up Scarfell Peak proved to be just as challenging as Ben Nevis. He completed the challenge October 12 when he summited Mount Snowden. But the remarkable journey, which raised more than $50,000 for a youth charity, may be his last. After more than 23 surgeries, including three hip and knee replacements, Scott says his amazing challenges have taken a toll. “I think the end is knocking,” he said. A video of his odyssey is below.


bottom of page