Understanding How Athletes Can Thrive in Pain

If you’ve never seen someone push his or her body to the absolute limit for personal satisfaction, you’ve never been a trail driver. Not familiar with the name? We’re the ones that run the supply in gear wagons. We’re also the ones who make sure endurance athletes get to their destination, managing all the details along that lengthy, winding road.  

If you’re choosing to volunteer for this unpaid pastime, understand that you’re a critical member of the team — not an added benefit.

Simply being available at an aid station is actually the smallest part of your job. Besides handing them their next glass of water, trail drivers are really the lifelines to keeping athletes healthy and moving toward their goal. You serve as the voice of reason. You also act as cheerleader, tour guide, photographer, statistician, reporter, admin, medic, and even savior.

Told ya! There’s a lot resting on your shoulders.

Veterans to the trail may not get a lot out of the rest of this post, but those new to the world of trail driving will find it useful and could prove to be an epic warning of things to come.


Endurance athletes have a weird, twisted sense of what’s doable when in pain, and this mindset doesn’t come close to matching that of normal humanity. I’ve watched people literally run with broken bones, blown-out knees, and blisters the size of New Hampshire.

To them, the largest monster to overcome is the mind. If they’re able to conquer the mind, they often believe they can do anything.

Because of this, endurance athletes make a habit of tricking their bodies into moving forward when it looks like it shouldn’t.  Every time they push though and overcome awful obstacles, they get some sort of mental merit badge. Just make sure you let them win it (and wear it, for that matter).

But this badge doesn’t mean they’re not thinking about the pain and tiredness — as well as that pesky little word that often comes with both: NO.

Whenever interacting with athletes, you want to tell them more good news. Anything that’s good news will help get them to the next place. Look for anything positive to tell them, like the trail is clear, the wind is at your back, or the like.

As athletes close in on the finish line, they’ll put up with insanely miserable physical and mental conditions just to reach that goal. Give them the tools to live through it. It’s part of the job.

Trail well.

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