I'm preparing to head out for the second of my back-to-back long runs. I ran 21 miles yesterday. I'm planning another 20+ mile run today. So far this year, I've only managed on other 20 mile run. The next longest run was about 12 miles.
As a barefoot runner, I am constantly preaching about the need to exercise patience and restraint. The best way to avoid injury is to be aware of the signals your body sends. At the slightest twinge, tweak, or strain, you should stop. Take a day or two off. Assess the problem. Be smart.
As an ultrarunner, I am conditioned to push through pain. I practice the finely-honed skills of dissociation and acceptance. Pain becomes a reliable friend that hitches a ride towards the end of the long runs. It's part of the game. It is what makes the game fun.
Therein lies the incongruity. Yesterday's run wasn't bad, but I did have a few issues. There was a sharp pain in my left lower leg. There were a few early signs of mild "top of the foot pain" in my right foot. My soles are still sensitive. I'm tired. I'm physically fatigued. My barefoot runner persona tells me to rest; you need to exercise some restraint. My ultrarunner persona tells me to run; you're finally pushing the envelope. This is how you prepare.
Of course the ultrarunner persona always wins. Luckily I have enough experience to know when the pain is serious. I also know what it takes to train your body for the long races. I know bitter taste of regret and longing when you're sidelined with injury. I also know the painfully humbling emotions that come from failing to reach your goals because you are under-trained.
Knowing what type of pain is adaptive and what pain is injurious is critical. Every training run has two possible outcomes: you will become a better runner OR get hurt and be sidelined for a period of time. Creeping as close to that line as possible is the key to reaching your goals.
This morning I'll be taking my first steps toward those goals.