Liza Howard

Liza Howard

Liza Howard is a long-time is a longtime ultrarunner who lives in San Antonio, Texas. She teaches for NOLS Wilderness Medicine, coaches, directs the non-profit Band of Runners, and drives her kids around in a minivan.

February 2015
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Fifty percent and pain and the point of running long.


Asa came rushing into the kitchen yesterday in his underwear saying, “Guys!  You’ve got to see this!!”  I’d only had one cup of coffee, and I don’t know what I thought was coming next, but I was pretty relieved he just wanted to show off the size of a bruise on his thigh.  He’d whacked his leg getting out of the car the day before.  I’m not sure what he whacked it on;  When he started hollering, I was entirely focused on trying to remember that quote about appreciating pain as I moved my thighs out of the minivan.

“One could say that life is at least 50 percent pain.   If we do not relate to pain, we are not relating to half our life.  … When we are able to work with pain and understand it, life becomes twice as interesting.  Relating to pain makes us more fearless and happy.”

– Sakyong Mipham, Running With the Mind of Meditation 


You know I started this post yesterday and I was all set to write some self-depricating humorous sentences about pain, and 50% of Rocky, and carrying around a fussy, teething, drooling baby in my arms for seven hours straight etc. etc., — and then I found out a sweet friend of mine had a miscarriage.

“Life is at least 50 percent pain.”


“Relating to pain makes us more fearless and happy.”

My friend is already fearless and happy.

“[L]ife becomes twice as interesting.”

How glib.

When my life disintegrated over a decade ago, I wrote a group of NOLS friends for comfort.  One of them, an African from Tanzania, told me to make sure to drink water.  Reading his email, I almost smiled.  What a useless thing to advise someone in my situation.  And yet, in retrospect, it’s as good advice as any.  Words don’t fix anything.  They don’t soothe a loss.  There is nothing that can be said and nothing that can be done.

You simply keep living, and you try to make peace with the pain.

Drink water.


 The only real use of running ultramarathons is that they allow us to practice endurance.  They ask us to tolerate adversity and uncertainty.  We keep moving forward despite physical and emotional pain.  And we hope the exercise gives us the grace and fortitude to do the same through life’s actual trials.

My friend is an ultrarunner.  She was full of fortitude, perseverance, courageousness and grace before she was an ultrarunner.  Still, I hope the constant practice helps her in the coming days, weeks, months and years.

Comments 7
  • UltraPom44 .
    Posted on

    UltraPom44 . UltraPom44 .

    Reply Author

    That’s a tough one Liza – but well put. Many thoughts for your friend at this time.

  • Kel
    Posted on

    Kel Kel

    Reply Author

    I am so so sorry for your friend. The best thing to do is probably listen and be a support for her.

    I do believe ultra running must prepare you to endure other physical pain. Only time will tell – but I think that if I faced some sort of health scare, that enduring the pain through endurance events might help my mindset at the very least….

  • toughasnails
    Posted on

    toughasnails toughasnails

    Reply Author

    My running (marathons and ultras) prepared me to make it on my own when my ex left me for a younger model. It also helped me through my tough teaching and single parenting days. Or maybe it was the other way around…?

    • Liza Howard
      Posted on

      Liza Howard Liza Howard

      Reply Author

      Glad to hear that. Not about the younger model! 🙂

  • toughasnails
    Posted on

    toughasnails toughasnails

    Reply Author

    So sorry for your friend too…