Joy Through Suffering

I ran a marathon on Saturday. Regular readers may already be aware of this 😉

I completed a ridiculously hilly course in 3:54:55 coming in under my target time of 4 hours. I also raised in excess of £100 for SHINE Charity. And I finished 4th. Out of 40 runners. But still 4th!

I intended to post a race review but this is more a conversation review. At around the 3 mile mark in fell into the company of two fellow runners. We were all going at a similar pace and got talking. Or rather they got talking and I mostly listened. From the way they chatted I assumed they were old friends only to later discover that they had never met before that day.

One of them came from my home town of Omagh and worked with my cousin. Small world. The other was a psychiatric nurse which was also my father’s profession. Both, it quickly transpired, were recovering alcoholics and members of Alcoholics Anonymous. Except they weren’t very anonymous about it. In fact they were incredibly proud of this and totally open about their battles with alcohol and how the ’12 Steps’ had turned their lives around.

They both were passionate about both their sobriety and their running, stating that the latter very much contributed to the latter. One of them said running was the only time when he felt totally at peace. The other agreed, adding that he found a unique joy through the suffering of distance running. I could only listen on intently as they regaled each other with tales of their chaotic pasts and how they had fought back.

If I had to describe marathon running in two words then ‘peace’ and ‘joy’ are not the ones I would choose Most distance runners will, at some point, encounter ‘the wall’ in the latter stages of the race when their glycogen reserves run out and their bodies effectively begin to shut down. It is an indescribable feeling. The physical pain is only matched by the mental anguish. Loneliness is Mile 18 of a marathon when you have been running for three hours and realise you have still 8 miles to go.

is an old adage that the second half of a marathon only begins at Mile 20. That is when your mind and body rebel on you in equal measure. You want nothing more than to stop. Every rational part of you wants to give up, yet something irrational keeps the marathon runner going. They see beyond the pain of the wall. They see the glory of the finish line and neither hell nor high water is going to stop them from crossing it.

This was nothing to these men. They relished the pain. They sought and embraced the suffering. For it was nothing caused to the pain and suffering that addiction has wreaked upon their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Yet they had overcome the odds and fought through the horrors. They had conquered their demons. They both swore like troopers and were rough round the edges. They spoke of a Higher Power but I don't even know if they believed in God as I do.

For all that though they showed an appreciation of life and the spiritual world that put me to shame and made me believe that I was meant to be in their company and hear their stories. They provided me with inspiration during the perspiration. They were running the race of life for all it was worth. They knew true peace and joy. 26.2 miles was nothing to them. They had seen it all before and were making up for lost time.

By the end of the race I had lost contact with the two men, finishing ahead of them both. I had stronger legs and lungs than them. But they were streets ahead of me in terms of where their hearts and souls were. I hope one day to experience the peace and joy they talked about. They proved to me that there is hope no matter how dark your world becomes. The light will always overcome the darkness. Just like good will always vanquish evil.

Have you ever experienced joy through suffering?< strong>Do you believe in a Higher Power?

43 thoughts on “Joy Through Suffering

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  1. Well… not exactly, let’s say that often I saw the purpose of that suffering later. And ultimately been glad that things didn’t go as I expected but as they were meant to.., 🤗

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am not a runner but I do relate to the way you have described the journey between both sovereign suffering and pain. I myself have to walk everywhere, sometimes 20+ miles to get where I’m going. It does bring about a connection and personal conversation with God. God bless.

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  3. It’s at ‘that’ point during exercise I say my body starts to protest its existence. Well done finishing 4th! Damn what an achievement worth gloating about and for raising money in the process


  4. This is the first post of yours that I have read after I found your blog after you liked a post on mine.

    Congratulations on a good race. I spent ten years running long distance (30-40 miles/week), but only ran 3 marathons during that time. All three were within 3 minutes either side of four hours. I never hit a wall, but that may have been because of the way I trained. Every minute I spent running was peace and joy, (except for a few falls and injured ankles) For me, running was more emotional than physical. It was my favorite time of the day.

    Due to chronic injuries, I had to stop running in 2004, which happens to be the same year I came to realize/acknowledge that I had some addiction issues. I wish I had the ability to use the therapeutic value of running in my recovery, but cannot. I am a practicing Roman Catholic and belong to a recovery group that references “God” as opposed to a “Higher power”, but that is simply because we are a church-based group.The important part was to acknowledge that we couldn’t beat our addictions by ourselves and needed to depend on God to give us the strength and friends to help.

    You cite the “Serenity Prayer”. There is a longer version, often used in recovery.

    God, grant me the Serenity
    To accept the things I cannot change…
    Courage to change the things I can,
    And Wisdom to know the difference.
    Living one day at a time,
    Enjoying one moment at a time,
    Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
    Taking, as Jesus did,
    This sinful world as it is,
    Not as I would have it,
    Trusting that You will make all things right,
    If I surrender to Your will,
    So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,

    I look forward to following your journey.
    Ray at Mitigating Chaos

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Are you sure they are streets ahead? You know reading you I get the feeling you already are there. That’s what your words say… The excitement and all in all your posts. Maybe you’re not ready to accept it… Just guessing. Congratulations in case I haven’t said it yet.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I just started reading your blog this morning, and I have found it to be very inspiring. I am a runner, and recently completed my first half marathon. I admire your courage and perseverance. I also admire the way you shared this story. I have often turned to running to find joy through suffering, it is one of the outlets that gives me peace. I am currently struggling in my own race, I have hit that wall when every rational part of me wants to shut down and give up. I want to simply let go, but the stubborn irrational part of me is still hanging on by a thread. I’m questioning all the things that I have held to be true for so long, finally admitting some things that are difficult truths. I struggle to get back out there, to pursue the goal that I seem to have lost sight of.


  7. Wow, again: Congrats! This is so amazing. I felt joy through suffering when I did my half-marathon and also when I studied for the bar exam 🙂 although the latter one was mostly suffering hahaha


      1. Yess I am 🙂 Stopped working as a lawyer immediately after passing the exam though. Really not loving it. Now I work at University in research and as a Meditation teacher in mindfulness meditation.


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