Pain only hurts

by Chavi

Thoughts on Eat & Run by Scott Jurek/Steve Friedman

For a few days I was hearing this mantra in my head, ‘pain only hurts’. I thought about it. If that’s enough to get you through something. If it’s true. Sometimes pain is an indicator of a problem that can escalate if it’s not addressed.

Or if you ignore it long enough does it cede its control over you?

It made me think of the chapter in ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ where the author is taught by an Indian guru to use the pain, to feel it, to have the pain be the meditation. (Sad I get my knowledge of zen/yoga/meditation from an American adventurist, I know.)

Then I picked up Eat & Run by the super-ultrarunner Scott Jurek which I’d begun reading the week before. I flipped through the pages to find my place ans saw that  one of the early chapters in the book is called ‘pain only hurts’, which was the motto of Jurek’s high-school coach.

If I’d never picked up the book again, I might have thought it was my own head that had come up with that.


In 2006, Jurek paced for a fellow ultrarunner named Brian at an 100 mile race in Northern California. Brian made it to with

in 100 fee of the finish line, the closest runner 12 minutes behind him, and he collapsed. Jurek and someone else supported him to the finish line. Instead of winning, Brian was disqualified.

In trying to explain how someone can run for 100 miles and collapse within reach of the finish line, Jurek writes,

Science is about objective measurement so it’s’ understandable that it has an innate bias for things that can be measured… It’s not possible to measure the mysterious workings of the will. – pg. 161

So reason isn’t G-d after all.

The book

The story is remarkable and it got me moving.  The  day I began reading it I ran 4.5 miles, about 50% more than my next longest distance.

The writing is, as you’d expect from a ghost-written book, not great. It flows glibly. Even the parts about extreme endurance and pain, those are glib too. Or is that how Scott approaches everything? He claims to be a thinker, to always asking why, to have a gaping need for something that he’s found only by pushing himself further and further. I know that because he told me, not because he showed me.

At the end of each chapter is a vegan recipe and sometimes running tips as well.  Some of those recipes actually look doable even for a carb and dairy eater like me.