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Why we keep racing

Injured runner

Injured runner

You know how much the end of that race hurts? Probably not.

New research, published earlier this year, has added to the understanding that we’re not all that great at remembering pain very well.

Sixty-five runners who finished a marathon in Poland were asked to rank their pain level when they crossed the finish line on a seven-point scale. The runners averaged responses of 5.5, meaning they were pretty uncomfortable. The race was painful enough that many probably wouldn’t have considered ever doing it again.

But we’re not very good at remembering how awful the marathon – or a lot of uncomfortable things – can be, which is why six months later, when asked again, the runners didn’t seem to think the race had been that bad. They remembered being uncomfortable, but asked again to rank their pain on the same seven-point scale, their responses this time averaged 3.2, over 40 per cent lower that the original responses.

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The study was published in the journal Memory.

The findings are likely not too surprising to those who have run multiple marathons and the oddity of realizing, not long after finishing, that you’re wondering what will come next, even though right after the race swearing to never run one again.

The research echoes similar pain research which has been done, such as a study last fall on new mothers who ranked their pain immediately after childbirth and months later. This new study on marathon runners seem to be the first to look specifically at endurance athletes.