I had mentioned in a hat I wanted to write a post about patterns that I have observed about the sport of running. Patterns of health in contrast of injury, of PRs in contrast of DNFs, and “runners high” in contrast to burn out. There is a very fine line in running, and I have sloppily blurred the lines many times. My hope is to learn from my past mistakes and become a smarter runner. I have been running for about 18 months now (obviously not too long in comparison to thousands of other bloggers), although I ran a few marathons in my young 20s. I didn’t run for six years during my mid and late twenties (why? I honestly don’t know! I just didn’t run.)
So, since you now know my credentials of being a runner for 18 months <insert sarcasm>, I will tell you that I have experienced everything that I listed above.
- Major injury- check.
- Months of injury free running- check.
- PRs that I didn’t think would ever be possible- check.
- DNFs- check.
- Runners high- BIG check
- Burn-out- check
Here is my biggest tip: Listen to yourself and don’t compare yourself to others. I have experienced two major injuries: a hamstring pull and a stress fracture in my heal. Both experiences have been not only been physically painful and frustrating but also mentally challenging too. Before both injuries, I thought that I was just “pushing myself” on certain runs, but not with an excessive I-am-about-to-get-hurt reckless attitude. I thought that I was making progress in becoming a better/faster runner; I wasn’t.
In the case of my hamstring pull, I ran with two runners that I had just met a few days prior on my last twenty mile run before a marathon (my first marathon in 8 or so years). I had trained by myself, primarily on a treadmill, but I met some runners who invited me to run with them at a local arboretum. Mistake #1- changing terrains (the path was very hilly) Mistake #2- running with people that I didn’t know too well. We were running way too fast for what I was training for. We were running 7:15 pace for the entire run (Mistake #3- running too fast on a training run). I was exhausted and too tired to speak during the run. I didn’t know the area, so I couldn’t leave them. And, I wasn’t confident enough as a runner to ask them (both extremely experienced and fast runners) to slow down. I was a newbie and didn’t know what I was doing. I was intimidated by them. It was a horrible day. But, I finished the 20 miles and took it easy for a couple of days. Then, a few days later, I was on an easy run with a good friend, and- literally- in a matter of seconds- I went from running to crawling on the ground. My hamstring had pulled so badly that I could barely walk, and I had bruising behind my knee. It felt like somebody had shot a bullet through the back of my leg. It was incredibly painful. I took a little over 2 weeks off, felt better, and tried to run the marathon. Mistake #4: if you take over 2 weeks off from running, don’t start a marathon! This is probably obvious to most runners, but I didn’t realize this at the time.
Please learn from my lesson. Listen to your own body. If you can do a high milage plan- great. Do it. If you can only run three days a week- great. Do it. If you love speedwork- great. Do it. Find out what works for you and stick with it. There are a million good ways to train for a marathon, so find what you like and do it. And do not- I repeat: do not- get caught up in what others are doing.
Once you find out what you like and what works for you, pick a marathon plan and follow it. Stay on course. Don’t jump around. Some runners can make up marathon plans and still get a PR. I am not one of those people. I enjoy looking at marathon plans and writing each workout on my planner. Perhaps I’m a little neurotic, but I just love doing that. After 8 or so months of running, I discovered that I like running at a conversational pace of 7:30 to 8:30s with other people (although not the same people from above!). So, when I looked at plans for my fall marathon, I found the advanced marathoning plan that emphasized long runs and slow(er) “general aerobic” runs. It worked great for me and got me an easy pr Some of my running friends, love track. So, they will pound out twenty 400s (or thirty-two 200s!!) as part of their marathon training. That is not me. Will their plans work? Yes. Will my plan work? Yes. If I switched to their plan in the middle of my training, would it work? Maybe. But I could get injured. Each marathon plan is made to account for rest/easy days and hard days, so jumping from plan-to-plan can be dangerous.
So, if you see another runner or blogger doing something else, think twice before doing it. It might be ok, but it might not depending on how many rest/easy days that you have taken. For instance, in December… I did a tough running workout that I read about online, followed by a tough BodyCombat class (lots of kicking and hard-stomping on the feet). The next day, I ran “hills” on a treadmill at an easier pace, but I took one step and felt like a knife went through my foot. Yes, the injury was probably long and coming since I have experienced mild foot pain for months (plus I recently found out that I am low in vitamin D), but that workout put me over the edge. Four weeks of not running was painfully hard. Lesson learned.
Lastly, recognize that running is a lifestyle. It isn’t just about getting a PR or losing ten pounds (although I don’t run for weight control, but I am aware that many female runners do). It’s about taking what you are given each day, and making the best of it. Do I want to PR? Hell yeah! But, if I had to choose PRing versus running for years, I would definitely choose the longevity of running. I once read something that went like this, “I don’t run because I want to live longer, I run because it makes me feel like I’m living.” It makes me enjoy my day. It gives me something to work on and continually try to improve. And, I just like it.
That’s all my ramblings for today. But, since every post needs at least one picture, here is my daughter’s first pedicure (from her babysitter!)