Q: Ever come across folks that are just too rickety for running? I'm 31, 6' 2" 185 lbs. I always get geared up to beat the tar out of friends in spring races and I end up cutting my training due to injuries. I make it through the race on race day to hear their mocking 150 lbs. laughter as they beat me year in and year out. I usually finish this April 5k in around 22:30 and they in the 19 - 22 min range depending on which mocking friend it is. I'd like to run a half marathon again.
For fun I hit the track and do quarter miles and I can do that once a week and not get injured. Last year I got down to 4 quarters under 1:20 at the end of the summer. What kills me is the distance running. 1 to 2 miles as I build up mileage, I feel knee aches and pains, but they are manageable. As I train up to 5k, hamstring tendonitis rears it's ugly head, one year it was IT band, currently it's Achilles. I'm training up now for an April 5K. It seems like I can only run 2 days a week before something pops up.
For 5 years I've experimented around. Sometimes gearing up very slowly with running and walking as prescribed by Galloway. I've gotten motion control shoes after having my gait analyzed in Bob Kennedy's store here in Indy. Seems like he's been getting hurt a lot lately too. I've gotten orthotics for slight pronation. And then stopped using them because the same injuries sidelined me that year. I iced after workouts.
When I was a yute, I didn't use to be such a violet. I played football, swam, and ran track as a sprinter/ polevaulter. In P.E. I ran a 5:30 mile as a test back then. I do a sprint triathlon once a year and the running training is always the lagging piece. This stinking deskjob is a lot of my prob as it shortens my hamstrings. But I've been working a lot on flexibility and strengthening my quads the last couple of years. I'm popping fish oil as a natural anti-inflammatory because a chiropractor suggested it. I've taken glucosamin chondroitin for cartilage issues and that worked but then the IT band hit. Soon I'll be shaking a rattle over my knees and rubbing in ground up rhino horn. Time to call it quits? Know anyone who had 5 bad running years like mine and then was able to run happily ever after? - Rickety, 2/25/05
A: Yes. I do know someone who's had some bad running years and coped with injuries. That would be me. Like you, I am nursing a sore Achilles as we speak. First time I've had that one. What's my story? I have had a tough time coming back from back surgery only in terms of my desire to run competitively like I used to. Coincidentally, this latest injury I actually think I hurt not by running but by trying to stretch my notoriously tight hams that my P.T. worked so hard to finally loosen after surgery.
Aside from the fits and starts I've had in trying to get back to competitive age group racing, I've been doing real well, but what I sense the first thing that comes to mind when my name comes up these days might be "poor Rage." Some have suggested I might think about biking. That's not how I think. I am a smart runner and will always be a smart runner…and am looking forward to quieting the "poor Rage" talk in the future. However, smart runners can make mistakes, too. I need to be continuously mindful of re-thinking my approach as I get older or I can expect to hear more of that "poor Rage" crap. That's probably the best tip I can give you. Finding what works for me is a continuous process, and I won't ever give up. As frustrating as it can be…that one day, when everything clicks and I'm hitting fairways and greens and draining putts…and Manciata, Hadley and Durbin witness the whole thing!!!! Need I say more?
Today, I went on a 16 minute run with my 13 year old son. My goal was to finish without limping to the car like the other four runs I've done since late January. Running with my son was exactly what I needed. It forced me to run responsibly. This time, I was especially smart not to plan a test run with my usual running partners, because I would have tried to keep up with them. It was a nice trail run…gentle slopes, trees, sunshine and shade… and it felt like butter. Just me and my boy.
Because I was patient and managed my expectations, I now feel the best I have in 6 weeks.
I must confess the Achilles thing has me spooked. At first, I thought it was a deep calf and I've had plenty of those. No big deal, right? Ten days of rest or so and I am ready to go. Wrong. My misdiagnosis set me back a month. I finally figured out it what it was and that Achilles take at least 6-8 weeks. I didn't know that. As a result, all I have accomplished from the four runs I attempted in the last 6 weeks has been to set me back almost all the way back to square one in my recovery.
Mentally, I must confess that I've had negative thoughts. All the conditioning I had gained was now gone. I was just getting fast again. Worse yet, was this finally the chronic condition that would send me to the bike shop once and for all? Believe me, these thoughts cross a 48 year old runner's mind from time to time. At 31, you are wise to be asking yourself this question. However, it's critical that you have a plan. As you know by reading Galloway's two step advice on injuries: 1. Identify the problem. 2. Attack the problem.
Before I even try running after an injury, I don't run a step until I feel no pain for several days and I always am extra cautious, providing ample cushion on top of my minimum rest period. However, the mistake I typically make is the belief that this added rest somehow authorizes me to run faster sooner. Wrong. That's what I did wrong two weeks ago when I last tried to run with my normal running group. I was planning on cutting it short, but ended up with a painful two mile limp back to the pickup. I thought I was ready, and I wasn't. My bad.
Also, I quickly found out that Mr. Achilles demands a helluva lot more respect than Mr. Calf does. The other thing I learned from Ben E. Benjamin's "Listen to Your Pain" is that Achilles absolutely doesn't like to be stretched. I didn't know that, either. All this time, I've been doing so. The book says:
"Your Achilles tendon doesn’t like to be stretched, but for some reason, people are convinced that stretching is good for it. Runners are especially convinced of this and injure their Achilles tendon through poor stretching techniques."
'Nuf said. That's exactly what I did.
My goal is now to simply be there for my son and have him in the best possible shape for soccer tryouts next fall. I can't do that laying on the couch with an ice bag. My goal isn't going to be to run a fast 5k by mid-summer. That doesn't mean I won't enter a race. I am just not going to let anyone define success for me on some other terms that won't work for me at any given point in time. I will be the sole judge of that. I've got nothing to prove to them.
And just maybe…with no guarantees mind you…because I will continue to be smart and patient, I will have the last laugh on all of that "Poor Rage" talk.
Good luck to you.
The Rage, 2/26/05
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