Monday, July 4, 2011

A Need to Go the Extra Mile

It's pretty clear that I love running. My t-shirts are 90% race shirts. My walking shoes are old-running shoes. My "sweats" are just loose running apparel. I have a drawer devoted entirely to running gear. I attribute my uh, [cough] svelte look to running... as well as my sanity. I enjoy lacing up the Brooks, turning on the Runtastic app on my Blackberry, bidding adieu to my hubby and child, or just the cats if no one else is home, and escaping my life. At a recent half-marathon I saw a sign that said, 13.1 miles of peace and quiet. Amen. And I'd like to add of no diapers, crying, whining, or general chaos - at least from my child & husband. I may do 3 of those 4 items at any time on a run.

Unfortunately, running has not always loved me back. After I birthed a small child, it took awhile for my 10 month stagnant body to warm up. Postpartum running went as fast as an 80 year old speedwalker, who often beat me [mentally]. And my knee developed this nagging pain that has since been successfully treated with Hyalgan shots.

Feeling like I needed focus, I trained for and ran the November Philadelphia Half-Marathon. It was invigorating to be running a distance again. I felt whole, finally back to me. During the 13.1 mile trek, my friend Amy & I talked about life, our daughters, and running. We wanted them to grow up strong and to see the importance in activity. I felt like I needed to share running with the world. Like I needed to stand on roof-tops calling out its glories. This pull led me to Students Run Philly Style, an organization that mentors youth through long-distance running, and over time, we train the students to run a full marathon. That's 26.2 miles, a distance even I have never beaten.

Running with the students has elevated my running, physically and mentally. It doesn't matter what kind of awful mood I am in; when I run with my students, I am immersed in excitement. Plus, my body has reaped the benefits of this conditioning. My pace has improved, and I found myself capable of quick turnarounds due to improved recovery on challenging runs.

Over the past few months, I was up to running 20 - 25 miles per week - an all-time high, especially as a working mom. I ran Broad Street in early-May, turned around and ran the Oddyssey Half-Marathon in late-May, and then the King of Prussia 10-miler in early-June all without a solid break. My pace has increased to slightly below 11 mins/mile. I was ecstatic.

But, it laid the groundwork for a physically tired anatomical me. During the KOP run, I landed funny coming off a curb. The immediate effects went unnoticed, and I finished the challenging 10 mile race under my goal. For several days, the ankle was sore, and I thought, "It's nothing." When I tried to return to running, it screamed at me. I figured, a minor sprain and took some time off, using a grocery store brace to offer home-made stabilization. Low impact exercise, ice, rest, repeat. After a week or so, I tried treadmill running... still pain. Back to the formula, walked with the students when I could, and this time kept the brace on always. Running with the brace, while it looks ridiculous, goes well with little to no post-run pain... as long as I am on a treadmill. I learned that latter factor when I decided to push my luck and run the Swarthmore Independence Eve 8K - a lovely, local run which usually has no more than 100 - 150 runners. It is also a very challenging 8K.

I ran it, in its entirety. My ankle starting talking to me around 2.5 miles. When I got to mile 4, it was yelling at me, cursing really, but by this point, I was a mile from the finish and determined. The recovery was tough, especially since I turned around and did a 6.6 mile run/walk with the students the following morning. Smart? Probably not. But I have a few students who would have been fine walking with me, and I don't want them to lose their conditioning so we walked a block, ran a block and enjoyed ourselves. Not wanting them to see bad habits, I minimize the effort I put forth around them. They need a role model that listens to their body, rests when rest is needed, and tests their limits cautiously. So while I may not do that in reality, I promise that when I am around the students, I am not reckless. In fact, this was the first time they have seen me run in weeks. Pinky swear.

The frustrating thing is that it only hurts when I run. With the brace on, I can do a stationary bike, the eliptical, walking, and even short-distance treadmill running. But that is not what my body craves. I have a problem: I need to run. I yearn to get out the door and spend hours hovering between 10 & 11 minute miles. It's a strange rush, but it's mine. I already have my sights set on the Baltimore Marathon's Half-Marathon, sponsored by Under Armour & sure to be filled with amazing swag. As fun as cross-training can be, it's not the same. It's not running.

I have a doctor's appointment Thursday and am hoping for the best: minor sprain. At its worst, it could be a stress fracture or even need surgery. Either way, I am developing a mental argument for why the doctor should treat the injury in a non-restrictive way. Maybe I really cannot run, but let me swim, bike, walk, move. Anything. Just let me do.

And when I return, I can continue saving my sanity, one mile at a time.


  1. Good luck at the doctor! I actually see a physician who is a serious runner because he is best about not completely restricting all activity unless absolutely necessary.

  2. Thanks! My doctor is usually pretty good about that, too. He specializes in sports medicine and only once has told me to lay off everything (because of my knee). I am hoping that he will follow suit here, too. If not, I may be calling you! :-)


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