Running Until Your Heart Explodes: What could you achieve if you never had the ‘pain’ signals from your brain?

I read the Seabiscuit book before it was a movie…anything that involves running as fast as you can has my attention, even if the racers are horses. I loved the book, and movie too for that matter, but do you know what single detail will forever stick in my mind?
tired runner
Horses will run themselves to death if the jokey lets them. A horse can actually race themselves so hard that their heart will explode due to the exertion.

How is that for proof that the mind can be your biggest limiting factor? The human brain, for its intricacies, problem solving skills, and evolved emotions we cite it as superior to any other creature’s. Along the way our brains have also developed a coping mechanism that screams at us to STOP if it gets messages from our muscles, organs and other systems telling the brain they are tired. The brain tosses up the red flags, it sends out PAIN signals…and they get louder and louder, echoing in our minds.

STOP. Stop this activity that is making you sweat and pant, the exertion that is causing your heart to work and pump oxygenated blood to those muscle fibers. Quit while your lungs aren’t completely maxed out, heed to the lactic acid building up in your muscles. Give those poor mitochondria a break already!

The evolved human brain reads these distress signals and implores us to quit while we’re ahead. It even manipulates things and over-amplifies these messages of fatigue, it will tell us that if we keep up this running hard business up maybe we will collapse and our body will just stage a protest right then and there.

The truth though is that the body can go on much longer than it tells the brain ‘thinks’. That sneaky body of ours knows it can keep going but the mind is duped pretty easy. Apparently the human brain, while it boasts of being so much keener than a horse’s, is fooled a lot easier by the body.

I am no veterinarian, I’m no horse whisperer, so I’m only left to wonder what really does go through a horse’s mind as he races around the oval. Is he cognitively aware that his muscles are so tired, does his heart even ever send a message that ‘I’m working super hard here’ to the brain? Does his brain get any kind of advanced warning, does this horse ever have to argue back that he can keep pushing, keep going, keep chasing the animal in front of him, that he wants soooo bad to be the first one across the line and please that dork who is sitting on his back spanking his tush?

women running
Does that horse ever have the mental battle when he runs, or rather, does he race on blissfully unaware of hard hard the exertion is?
Does he know how much pain he would have to be pushing through if he were human, with one of those evolved, fancy brains?

From a runner’s perspective, it sure does make you a bit envious of that horse.

While I’d never want to see someone race until their heart exploded on the track, certainly not, the reason this tiny detail of the book will forever be stuck in my ‘highly evolved human’ mind is that it is proof that we are capable of so much more than our brains want us to believe.

The brain you see, is just much too gullible and falls for the body every time. As runners, as racers, it is then a test, a game of sorts, to see how long we can stretch the gullibility of that brain. How long we can keep it from falling for the hoax…the longer we can hold out the more we can achieve.

1) Did you ever read the Seabiscuit book or see the movie?

2) Have you heard of this about horses and what is your take on it? Do you think the horses are getting some similar signals of fatigue from their bodies and are just able to ignore them and keep going?

3) When you imagine yourself running without ever having these pain signals, does it make you a little envious of horses? What do you think you could achieve?

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6 thoughts on “Running Until Your Heart Explodes: What could you achieve if you never had the ‘pain’ signals from your brain?

  1. I’d never heard of Seabiscuit in book or movie form! (I hope that isn’t too embarrassing to admit :P) But I do love the points you make here and have definitely learned over the years that my mind gives up much sooner than my body, even though I might not think it at the time.

    • awww, don’t feel too bad it was based on a true story but the horse was Stateside. 😉 i’ll give u a free pass on that one…BUT, i would recommend the book if u were able to dig one up. 😉

    • don’t worry, it sounds like u are NOT alone in not knowing the Biscuit, but i do recommend u try and scrounge up the book or watch the movie. 🙂

      • wow, i’m an idiot, i’m sorry, as i lost track of the replies i did!! i’m working from the back-end and now see i double replied…i guess that means i just like u double time. 😛

  2. I haven’t read the book or seen the movie! A shame because I love Tobey Maguire. Anyway, I think if I didn’t have that pain response there would be far more miles on my running shoes that there are now! I think that sometimes that voice isn’t necessarily pain, but doubt. If I could turn off that voice, there would be no stopping me 🙂

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