To run your second marathon, forget your first

Legendary US distance runner Frank Shorter once said: ‘You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can’t know what’s coming.’ New research suggests Shorter is correct. Published in the Journal of Pain Research, the study found that runners forget the pain of a marathon, which allows them to sign up for another.

The researchers explain that memory is reconstructive, which makes it less accurate, and both acute and chronic pain are often misremembered. This is particularly true when pain is induced by positively-valued experiences – such as giving birth or running a marathon.

This builds on the conclusion of a previous study, published in the journal Memory. The researchers polled 62 runners moments after they’d crossed the finish line of a marathon. They asked them questions such as ‘How intense is the pain right now?’ and ‘How unpleasant was that?’ The marathoners reported to be hurting at an average of 5.5 on a seven-point pain scale (7 being the highest).

However, when the researchers followed up with these people three to six months later, they remembered significantly less pain than they had reported at the finish line. On average, the marathoners recalled pain at 3.2 out of 7.

Interestingly, those who had performed poorly during the race remembered their agony more accurately, whereas those who were happy with their performance downgraded their pain the most. So, how’s about signing up to another marathon?


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