Being an 80’s baby, I am a fan of hair bands, tending more towards Def Leppard and Guns and Roses. Another well known group, Cinderella wrote a song called ‘Don’t know what you got (till it’s gone)’. Written as an ode to love, which generally refers to interpersonal relationships, it can also be applied to those habits, of which running is one, that make life a lot more fun than it would be otherwise. I recently got a crash course in this concept as I am hopefully nearing the end of a 2 and a half month break from running.
I have my suspicions as to where the injury started, a few years ago, and aggravating me whenever my training mileage increased drastically. The final hit came when a pair of shoes broke down and I didn’t replace them soon enough. After a quick 5 mile training run left me barely able to walk, I gave up the ghost and went to see a doctor. After a couple visits and a MRI, the verdict was a stress injury to the fibrous sheath around the shin bone. This issue had troubled me every summer for the past few years, as my mileage would increase due to the warmer weather and preparation for the summer running season. In previous years it resulted in me taking a few days off or backing out of races.
Previously, my longest break from running had been two and a half weeks in high school due to a stress fracture in my foot. Other than that, I would regularly take two week breaks a couple times a year, which shortened to one week the last few years, with the longest break being about ten days after a marathon. I’m lucky that my body tends to thrive on higher mileage and gets more recovery on slow rest days versus taking multiple days off in a row. This kind of training vaguely mimics the Hanson’s Marathon Method and has helped me achieve a moderate amount of success on the race course.
Following the directive to avoid running in the indefinite future, I was lost. Pent up energy and a feeling of too much free time made life difficult around the house. I enjoy pushing myself daily, finding limits and the burn of utilizing muscles. Racing is also a huge part of how I define myself and try to make a positive impact on the people around me. The running community is friendly and inclusive, leading to a lot of shared moments and knowledge. Stepping away from that experience left me feeling disconnected and lost. To help alleviate this, I finally fulfilled a dream of mine and picked up a used road bike. Utilizing it for cross training helped a lot with the mental issues I associated with not being able to run. Obviously more aerobic than running, it takes a lot more miles to achieve the feeling of physical wholesomeness I associate with a tough run. The lack of impact allowed me to continue working my muscles and will be a useful tool in the training schedule after I am cleared to run again.
It’s common knowledge among runners that we can be a bit stubborn when it comes to acknowledging and taking care of our injuries. I’m just as guilty of it. This obstinacy and trying to cut corners in the healing process has put me in this situation. As always, I tell myself I am faster and better than my current capabilities, even when setting personal records as I was a couple years ago before this flared up. I don’t want to be done and I am not ready to slow down just yet. My only hope is that I learned from this, and can keep it in mind when a mild injury may flare up in the future. Success in life to me is defined by what we do when we are happy, and for me this success is defined by coaching and encouraging others, as well as the charitable actions I can fulfill with this hobby.
The last run was April 9th, a 5.5 miler averaging 6:19 pace. That for me was cruising, an aerobic pace that is considered a low end tempo run.
Ever since running Eugene Marathon a few years back in just over 2:47, my goal has been to run a marathon at the above pace. If I can stay healthy and live smart with that goal in mind for two years, I’m telling myself it is doable. If there is one thing I have learned in running, it’s that heart and drive mean more than money, background, genes, environment, etc. I wasn’t born fast or strong. I’m not sure exactly where the stubbornness came from, but it has been a double edged sword.
I find myself already perusing the race calendar for this summer and fall, but I may not do anything serious for a few months. I’m not sure how much of my fitness has help up in the break. The key focus will be to check my base capabilities and build a mileage foundation to start training from. Initial goals will be to run a comfortable half and start to pick up some 5K speed. I look forward to getting out there again and rejoining the community.