Bale, John (2006). The place of pain in running. In Sigmund Loland, Berit Skirstad and Ivan Waddington (Ed.), Pain and injury in sport: Social and ethical analysis (pp. 65-75) New York, NY, U.S.A.: Routledge.
Where is the place of pain in sports? Most studies of pain focus on the discomfort that is induced by injuries of various kinds. The object of such work is, it seems, to relieve or eliminate pain. Studies into injury-induced pain are mainly scientific in nature and focus on faces rather than feelings. They employ the techniques of medical and statistical science and are undertaken by medical and social scientists. However, there are other contexts in which pain in sports is worthy of study. There is the pain experienced by athletes that is unrelated to injury. Such pain may be the result of fatigue or exhaustion during a competition; it may also be pain that is imposed by the coach or trainer; and there is also the emotional pain of failure or retirement. Another context for pain in sport is that experienced by spectators, mainly through the sense of sight, Spectators consume pain in a different way from performers and little has been done in the sports literature that addresses spectators' attitudes and feelings when watching athletes in pain. Additionally, I adopt here a somewhat 'non-scientific' approach, drawing more on the humanities than on the social and physical sciences.
In this chapter I make some tentative observations on pain in relation to 'non-injured' athletes and to spectators. For convenience (and personal interest) I concentrate on some aspects of pain experienced by top-class runners - almost entirely middle-distance runners - and those who watch them perform. Though I take running as an example, much of what I have to say may be applicable to other sports. However, it is worth noting that sports-workers from sports other than running may report pain in different terms and with different emphases. In order to illuminate the forms and meaning of pain in the context of running I utilize, on the one hand, the inspirational work of humanistic geographer Yi,Fu Tuan (see Bale 20(4) and, on the other, biographical sources that, I think, describe the place of pain in running in a more sensitive way than scientists are able to do.