Part 1: A Marathon Without Training - Lessons About TMS / Chronic Pain
Updated: May 25
Life Lesson #1: Don’t make it a big deal.
The following is Part 1 of a 4 Part Series.
As a coach empowering chronic pain / TMS sufferers to permanently overcome their pain, part of my job is to show my clients that their bodies are infinitely stronger than they’ve been conditioned to believe. That’s why I decided to “run the run” - completing a marathon of 26.2 miles / 42.2 kilometers without training. Read below to learn my 5 keys to success, how to apply them to your life, and what it has to do with overcoming chronic pain.
“What’s a Misogi?” I asked.
“It’s an ancient Japanese purification ritual - a limit-pushing physical and mental challenge,” my friend Luke said with a sort of sadistic smile. “You pick a challenge, and design it so that even if you do everything perfectly, you only have about a 50% chance of success. The #1 rule is to not die.”
Luke is an adventure-seeker and one of my best friends. Jumping off 40-foot cliffs into narrow pools of water, and surfing in hurricanes are common endeavors for him. I usually just watch.
But this time was different.
“Hey. What if we ran a marathon without training?”
I watched Luke’s eyes light up, his eyebrows raise, and his mouth open as he took in the words. Yep - we had found our Misogi.
I’ll admit, a marathon without training sounds pretty crazy at first. Most people partake in months of regimented training in order to guard against injury, avoid bodily shutdown, and keep the fear that lurks in the depths of the mind at bay.
According to ChatGPT, there are plenty of logical reasons why not to even attempt it. Ask for a reason to run a marathon without training, and ChatGPT shuts you down immediately.
And I’m no avid runner or fitness enthusiast, either. In fact, in the previous seven weeks before this marathon, I’d ran an average of 1x per week for two miles. I would ride my bike and go to the gym an average of once per week.
Even as a former semi-pro cyclist in my teens, I convinced myself I couldn’t run more than a few miles without my body breaking down. That was certainly my lived experience.
At age 17, I went on an excruciating trail run that was the mental equivalent of stuffing my body into a meat grinder. Since then, every time I’d run, I’d find my mind racing - “My body is weak. Will I make it this time? Will my shins hurt? Do I have enough strength?”
So why did I have the gall to believe that a marathon without training was even possible, let alone a good idea?
Well, for years, I had been immersed in a different type of “training.”
The world opens up when we let go of a story, a limiting belief.
You see, the fear center in our brain, the amygdala, is always scanning for threats. That’s its job - so it can help keep us alive. The problem is that it makes everything such a big deal that if we’re not conscious, we see mountains instead of molehills, fear instead of opportunity.
That amygdala-generated fear quickly becomes a belief that can spread via “social contagion,” which creates a reality based on beliefs that aren’t even our own. “You have a strong engine thanks to cycling, but if you try to run, you’re going to injure yourself” is what a running coach told me once. And just like that, his belief became my running reality.
But in recent years, I had begun to chip away at the belief that my body was weak, choosing to drop the story that running was a “big deal” and instead be curious about what was on the other side of my fear. I found that not only had I been able to run farther, but my runs were more enjoyable, too. The dam had broken.
The bigger the deal we make something, the more energy is required to do it. This, in effect, pushes our goal farther out of reach. But if we can do the opposite, our world opens up. We turn mountains into molehills.
In my head I wasn’t running a marathon. I was just going for a run.
Alec Kassin is a chronic pain coach and founding partner of Changing Work.
If you’ve been suffering with chronic pain and are serious about overcoming it once and for all, I have limited slots available in my 1:1 coaching program. If you have any questions about my story or just want to say hello, you can message me or set up a free consultation with me here.