On October 19th I did something I had not done in a long time with surprising results. It promted me to start a journal which you can read below.
Friday Oct 19 2012
Went out for my second attempt at running this morning since Sunday’s very painful 26.2 mile run. Tuesday was a failed attempt. After about 200 yards of running my right knee hurt too much to be able to run and I ended up walking for an hour. This morning I was feeling good and I was running well but after just over a mile and a half my left ankle suddenly started hurting again and I came to a sudden stop and walked a little further, then turned around. I felt it was best to take it easy and let the body heel. As I started walking back towards home I decided to try running again but at a much slower pace. As I started running a thought crossed my mind; what if I force myself to run with a heel strike like I used to three four years ago. That’s just what I did. Having worked very hard for several years to transform my gate from heel strike to mid foot strike I had to concentrate on each step and almost use an exaggerated heel strike. What happened surprised me. It felt almost like putting on a pair of comfortable old shoes. Almost like my body was saying ha yes here we go this feels like home. My pace quickly picked up and I ran all the way back home without a hint of pain anywhere.
Four years ago I was having health issues. I had constant bloating, gas, and heart burn. I couldn’t keep a regular exercise routine going. Every time a tried I would burn out or get injured and instead of getting in shape I was quickly putting on weight and my fitness was on a steep decline. At 46 years old this was disconcerting for me who at one point had been a very serious road bike racer and in very good shape. I saw numerous doctors, had numerous tests done and tried numerous medications, but saw no improvements. Finally on a recommendation I saw a doctor that steered me in the right direction. He addressed my diet and the way I train. I switched to a low glycemic diet and started using a heart rate monitor to make sure my heart rate did not go past my maximum aerobic heart rate. I was shocked at how out of shape I was. I could not even run at a very slow jog without my heart rate rising to high, so at first I just had to walk. Within a couple weeks I was able to start incorporating some slow running. As my fitness improved I was able eventually to run the whole time and not have to walk. At first I ran, not because I liked it, but just to get back in shape and because it was easier to fit into my schedule than cycling. However as my running improved I started to get a deep appreciation for it, even a love of it. I decided to find a running club and do just a few small races. At first it was very painful, but as my lungs started to adapt I got faster and by the end of the first year I had run my first half marathon.
Being the type of person that I am, when I get really interested in something I feel I need to educate myself as much as I can about whatever it is I am into. So I started reading about running. For instance I wanted to make sure I had the best possible shoes for me. I read about over-pronation and supination and stability shoes and high and low arches and cushioning. So I went and got specially fitted inserts and ran on treadmills while being video tapped to see what kind of shoe was right. Mind you I had no problems or injuries to address but having read about the cornucopia of injuries that runners get I wanted to do whatever I needed to avoid those. Then I read about how the shoe industry had caused many of the running injuries in runners by over building running shoes thus allowing us to become heel strikers instead of having a natural barefoot stile of running where you land on your mid foot. So I studied Chi running and pose running and started to run in minimalist shoes and learned how to have shorter quicker steps that land underneath me and not in front and to land on my mid foot and not my heel. All the while I’m getting fitter and my runs are getting longer and three years into my running I ran my first marathon with a time of 3:45. Not bad, but then something else had started to happen. At this point I had already had a case of plantar fascitis and some knee pain. Precisely what I had been trying to avoid. By my fourth year, 2012, my running was regressing I had some kind of pain almost all the time and my race times were off. Just running twenty miles was a huge effort and I realized running another marathon was not going to happen, I just couldn’t run that long anymore. I canceled my plans to rerun the marathon I had run just a year earlier. Then I decided to just run a pre marathon run with some runners I knew. This wouldn’t be a race with the pressure of setting a certain pace or coming in at a certain time; I would just run easy and take breaks if I needed to. I did just that and ran it in 4:37, but the last 3 miles were incredibly painful. My fears had been answered. I just could not run that far anymore. Not being able to run at all two days later sealed the deal. For whatever reason my marathon running was over with only one marathon under my belt. Until this morning any way, I felt pretty sure that was the case, then I started to heel strike again and I wondered, what if?
Sun Oct 21 2012
Went for a one hour run today. My legs were still a bit sore from the squats I did yesterday during my weight lifting. I concentrated on making sure I continued to run with a heel toe type of running gate. At first I felt sluggish but the last couple miles felt good and my last full mile split was a sub 8. I ran 6.3 miles in all. It occurred to me that in a way I am going to have to learn to run all over again, sort of how I had to when I started to learn how not to heel strike. I think the learning curve this time will be less steep and go faster. I am also going to start using my heart rate monitor again for a while. Let myself get back up to speed nice and slow. It worked for me before so let’s get back to basics.
Sat Oct 27 2012
3 hours and 20 min of running this week including a 1 hour 10 min run today. Although pain that has been with me for a long time seems to have gone away, I’m not sure that it’s not getting replaced by new pain in other places. We’ll see.
Thru Nov 8 2012
Today was my first day of exercise in ten days. I had decided to take a week off completely from running to let my feet and ankles and knees heal. Then Monday night came Hurricane Sandy and on Tuesday we lost power at the house. Without power we have no water which means no showers or laundry so I decided that I would not do any exercises until the power came back. Just take a few days off, a week even. But the power did not come back on till yesterday, ten days latter. Not being active for that long was hard but I figured this would really give my body a rest and give me a chance to be pain free for sure. Well that didn’t happen. After ten days of no running I still feel pain in my knees, ankles, and feet. I just don’t know what to think. Do I feel pain just because I’m getting older or is it because of my running. Long runs do definitely make the pain worse so I have decided that marathons are not in my future. On the other hand I can’t stop running completely.
This morning I did weight lifting and rode my rollers and ran on the treadmill. It felt so good to run even if it was just on the treadmill. My new training program is this.
Monday through Friday my daily workout will be;
10 min rollers, one set of weights, 10 min on treadmill, one set of weights, 10 min rollers, one set of weights, 10 min treadmill, stretch.
Sat; 1 hour 40 min of running
Sun; 1 hour 40 min of riding road or mnt bike
Sun Nov 11 2012
Well went for my run Saturday and today went for mnt bike ride. The whole time I was on the bike I was wishing I was running instead. I can’t believe I ever liked mnt bike riding. Ya the racing was fun but what a pain in the ass just to go for a ride. Put the bike rack on the car, pump up the tires, don’t forget extra tubes and a tire pump and the helmet and gloves and shoes, strap the bike down drive to the where the trails are, then there’s rocks and ruts and mud and trees in the path some you can get over some you can’t and had to stop several time to pull branches out of my spokes, close to the end one got stuck in the derailleur so bad it bent it and the part of the frame it attaches to. It will never be the same. By the end of my ride I knew I didn’t want to ever ride my mnt bike again. But if I was cold on the mnt bike at higher speeds when going down a hill a road bike is out of the question in the winter. Plus my road bike is a very special 34 year old Stella. It needs new tires and I really don’t want to start putting a lot of miles on it and I really don’t want to buy a new road bike, I just want to run.
So new plan. No more rollers no bicycle.
Monday through Friday the ten minute intervals between the sets of weights will only be five minutes and will be running on the treadmill. This still gives me the same amount of time running as before, 20 minutes a day or 2 miles. On the weekends I’ll run my 1hr 40 min run either Sat or Sun and the other day will be a day off, which I should be taking any way. This will also give me a little bit more time to get my workouts in on week days. If things go well and I can be pain free I can always start adding time to my runs.
Nov 19 2012
Yesterday I ran 1hr 40 min, 11 miles exactly. Last night my right foot was hurting and I thought that might be the end. But this morning the pain was gone and I was able to do my 2 miles on the treadmill during my weight lifting. So we’ll see.
Sat Nov 24 2012
All men must die, but not all men ever really live. For me to really live is to run. I wont give up on that dream yet. I not only want to be a marathon runner but I want to be an ultra runner.
New game plan.
run 5 days then take a day off, then start again. 5 days on, one day off. I’ll start with one hour a day and SLOWLY build from there. I will also add strength training on those days when ever time permits. I will do this till I can walk no more, till it kills me.
Wed Dec 12 2012
Since that last post a lot has changed. The pain has persisted and I have practically stopped running. Every morning, none the less, I get up and I have pain in my feet. I have stopped running and I have lost my taste for life. I decided that I would never run an other marathon and when I did that I fell into a pit of depression that I can’t seam to climb out of. I always said I would continue to live as long as I could do what I wanted to do. Now I feel like my life depends on my being able to run. If I can’t run, the way I want which is to say, to run marathons then why would I continue to live. I can live with the pain, I can’t live without running. My thinking was, it is better to decide to stop running, than to keep running until I am forced to stop due to a really bad injury. Now it seams to me that I have to try. I don’t even care about my time any more. Even if it takes me more than 4 hours to run it, I want to be able to do the distance. It’s my only hope of reclaiming my peace of mind. It’s just that if I fail; I may lose it all…
OK the thought of trying again is the only thing that gives me hope in the future, even if the thought of the pain in my feet getting worse is a little scary. I will run as long as I can.
Here is my game plan; run three days in a row, then one day of weights, then another three days of running then one day of weights. I will start with 30 minute runs, at no particular pace just a comfortable running pace. Each time I start a new three day set I will add 2 minutes. I’ll keep doing this till I get to an hour and a half on week day runs and three hours on weekend runs, if I last that long. Once I get to that I will start to take on once more the marathon.
A new pair of shoes came for me today. The are light weight neutral shoes but are fairly stiff with a good deal of cushioning under the heel for such lightweight neutral shoes. Maybe they will be the ones, to help me get it back.
Dec 28 2012
“A letter to a friend”
Hey Ron. Thank you for the e-mail and article. First, yes we survived Sandy but had no power for 10 days. I’m not going
to complain, some people lost everything. No work for a week because there was no power there.
As for the article about running marathons aging you prematurely, I would take it with a grain of salt and say
every one is different and all thing don’t apply to every one. Also why did they single out running?
What about cycling at the Tour DE France level? We all have limitations
that we must discover and live with. I have been dealing with that a lot.
In 2011 I finished the year with about 2030 running miles under my belt. This however may have done more
harm than good.
My running has not been the same since then. I ran my first marathon in Oct of 2011 in 3:45. Now I cant run that far in
4:30 without being in serious pain. My feet, ankles, and knees just can’t take the pounding anymore. I’m down now to
10 to 15 miles a week. I have had to accept that marathons for me was a brief experience that I may not be able to have again. I currently am running only every third day. I have just recently taken up hiking to try and fill the void. I went
for a one hour hike this morning before work. I hiked up Bear Mountain overlooking the Hudson river. It was very nice, (see attached photo).
So run one day, then hike the next, then weight lifting the third, then start over. We’ll see how it goes, I’m still hoping
that by not running as often the pain will go away and I will be able to get back to being able to do long runs like before
but I don’t think so. As long as I can run some I’ll be able to live with it, and I’m looking foreword to doing more hiking
like going back to Mount Katadin. I have come to think that the source of my problems with pain comes from when I was
younger and badly sprang both ankles (almost needed surgery). They have never been the same. Like I said we all
have our own limitations in life, we have to make the best of it.
Jan 21 2013
So I end a chapter in my life, at least for now.
Yesterday was my longest run in a long time. Six miles just under an hour.
A far cry from the 16 to 20 mile long runs I used to do. I don’t even enjoy the runs as much because all I think about is rather the pain is going to come back and when. After this run my right foot was hot with pain. Latter that day I felt pain in my right knee and my plantar. To think I can ever get back to marathon mileage is just silly.
So I will go back to my cycling. Just as I was once a bike racer, back to my bike I go. Hopefully I can be at peace with and close this chapter of my life as a runner and look ahead at a new chapter of my life. Perhaps truly a return to the start.