On Suffering and Speedwork
I rolled out of bed with a groan in the pre-dawn dark. Tuesdays meant speedwork. Tuesdays meant pain. It was difficult for me to convince my body to jog over to the gym for cross country practice most days in college, but on speedwork days, it was the hardest. I knew what lay ahead: suffering.
After a few miles of warm up, the darkness still surrounded us, but it was time for intervals. Somewhere around the 2nd mile repeat, I began to recite the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary in my head. I didn’t even know if you were meant to say the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesdays, but I instinctively turned to them. Contemplating the pain and suffering of our Lord on the Cross made maintaining my paces seem so small and insignificant. And so, I pushed harder. I stayed true to pace. And I prayed that rosary with an attention to our Lord’s suffering that I had never contemplated before.
Suffering, whether physical or spiritual, is not wasted. As Catholics, we hold a strange position on the beauty and power of suffering. We are able to offer up our own sufferings, large and small, and contribute to something greater. We are privileged to share in some of the pain that Jesus himself experienced on the Cross and unite ourselves more closely to Him in that way. Therefore, suffering is not an obstacle to holiness; rather, it is a path straight to the heart of Jesus.
And so, back to speedwork. Most of us would rather skip it, if we’re honest. You can certainly achieve some improvement with consistent running and strength work. But if you are really looking to test your limits and see big gains, speedwork is necessary. Pain is necessary for growth, for muscles to grow, for lungs to expand, for feet to fly. Run those intervals and hills with confidence. And when it gets hard, know that your suffering is not wasted. Offer it up for your alcoholic uncle, your sick child, or your co-worker with cancer. Commit it all to Jesus and keep your head up and arms tucked in.
We are not made to live easy lives. We are meant to lead extraordinary lives.
Colleen Beatty is a wife and mama, as well as a lifelong runner and Catholic She grew up in the hills of Southwestern Wisconsin, just across the road from her beloved red brick Catholic church, and wore out her running shoes on gravel roads before moving south to attend the University of Dallas. Under the hot Texan sun, she ran four years of track and field, as well as cross country, and she received her bachelor of English there in 2015. She now lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota, teaches fitness classes, and coaches track and cross country, all while chasing after her very active little boy.