Posted by: Joe English | April 24, 2008

Commentary: Our badge of honor

It’s been three days since the Boston Marathon and I’m so, so, tired.

It’s not just tired, it’s this sort of wrecked feeling. Like all I want to do is stay in bed motionless kind of wrecked.

I’m coughing and hacking, because I caught that post-race cold that I always catch. I don’t know where they come from, but the day after a race, I just always catch one and it usually lingers for awhile. I read something about immune system function being depressed after races, which is usually why people get sick, but that’s all too much for my brain to process right now.

The funny thing is that I didn’t particularly run that hard out there. I was busy shooting a film of the race, so I was starting and stopping and it took my over five hours to cover the course. But I’m wrecked just the same.

I saw this young woman in the airport in Chicago on Tuesday night. She had her Boston jacket on and was sort of limping slowly down the concourse. I made eye contact with her and then said, “you look like I feel,” to which she couldn’t even work up the energy to smile. She was far worse than me. She was in serious pain and wanted nothing more to be lying in bed somewhere, not walking through O’hare at 11:00PM eastern time.

I recall other races when I’ve felt like that. It’s been awhile, but I do remember. I ran the Rock N Roll Marathon one year and I can very clearly remember walking down the jet-way onto an airplane and just about passing out from the pain. Every step was sending shooting pains up through my quads. And for the first time, perhaps in my life, I thought that perhaps I couldn’t just walk through this. I almost had to stop and ask for a wheel-chair.


It’s a part of the marathon experience. Sometimes it happens during the race itself, but more frequently it comes afterward. In the days after a race, we feel completely beaten down. And we have to ask ourselves, ‘why do we do this to ourselves?’

And that’s a question that we all have an answer to — and whatever the answer, we know that it is worth it to feel that way.

We wear our limps and brokenness like a badge of honor. Actually not LIKE a badge of honor. They ARE are badge of honor. They show everyone around us that we have done something that wasn’t just a stroll in the park. We’ve done something that was so physically strenuous that we are feeling it days later. And we know that although they may not understand what we’ve been through, they can get it on some abstract level.

The pain is our badge of honor.

The pain doesn’t last long though. And perhaps that’s why we continue to run marathons. Not because we are gluttons for punishment, but instead because we want to wear that badge of honor for a few days now and then to remind ourselves of what we can do when we set out minds to it and try.

I’ll try again. Will you?

Coming soon: Coach Joe’s Boston Marathon short-subject documentary is in the editing studio. Watch for it soon.

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon, USA
Running Advice and News



  1. I was limited running Boston this year by stomach cramps. I am almost most disappointed at how not sore my legs are. This tells me I was not able to push my body to its full potential.
    Looking forward to your movie.

  2. “The pain is our badge of honor”

    Great post! You really nailed it. I was stretching at a rest stop off of I-90 on the way home Monday afternoon and caught someone doing the same. “How was your race…” Camaraderie with strangers. You have to love it.

    I ran my first Boston (3:31 not my best but proud of it) on Monday and I’m hobbling around the office. It hurts but it reminds me what it took to get there and the feeling of accomplishment.

  3. As long as you don’t have green ears, you haven’t pushed it too far.

  4. Congratulations Joe!! What an awesome athlete you are! I’m so proud of you. I would love to run Boston at least once in my life.

    Badges of honor. Yes, I think that there is pride in every hobble, bloody inner thigh, and cold, to name a few. To earn these…to OWN these, is a tangible reminder, a legacy, of the beautiful (spiritual), and athletic accomplishment that we have made. They would be a nuisance in any other instance.

    I hope you recover quickly, hon. Once again, CONGRATULATIONS ON A JOB WELL DONE!

  5. I think you’re dead-on dude. And I think that is why most non-runners will simply never get it.
    Coach Dean

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: