Why Are Runners Obsessed with the Pain Cave?

Posted by Ross Poulton on Wed 03 June 2020

From Outside Magazine, Why Are Runners Obsessed with the Pain Cave?

After years of subjecting myself to this masochism, my sense is that runners gravitate toward painful activities because they provide us with opportunities for knowledge. We think pain will reveal something, some evidence of value or commitment to self-improvement. We believe, for some reason, that arbitrary painful challenges will provide answers: Who’s the best? Have I improved? Am I tough enough? What am I doing with my life? In other words, we want to know the content of our character.

Us runners are a weird lot. Type 2 fun sure is an odd part of the human experience.

Type 2 fun is miserable while it’s happening, but fun in retrospect. It usually begins with the best intentions, and then things get carried away. Riding your bicycle across the country. Doing an ultramarathon. Working out till you puke, and, usually, ice and alpine climbing. Also surely familiar to mothers, at least during childbirth and the dreaded teenage years.

Cover photo: Just after crossing the finish line at the Trail Series 2019 race at Plenty Gorge, where I opted for a different sort of Type 2 fun: a 5km trail race where I placed just outside the top 3 for my age group.