Tuesday, December 14, 2010

With A Little Help From My Friends...

As this year draws to a close I have to pause and reflect.  2010 has been a great year for me regarding my running.  I have put up incredible mileage, approached paces I only dreamed of previously, and won age group awards in races.  Let me repeat that - I WON age group AWARDS IN RACING!!!

And the biggest changes in my training came in the second half of this year.  My motivation is up.  The satisfaction I get from running is immeasurable.  And my confidence as a runner is limitless.  When I line up before a race I am certain I will finish strong.  I approach a 5k knowing I will get something.  My 10k time only needs a race to prove how strong I have become.  Marathons and ultras are frontiers I hope to explore for decades to come.

The great leap in my training can be directly attributed to my interaction with other runners.  You don't race in a field of one, so why train alone.  I'm sure some people fare better alone.  Running is not necessarily a team endeavor.  Reflecting on the past six months I realize that running with others instills a sense of competition and assertiveness that is growth inducing.

If you run with folks putting up big miles, you have to put up big miles.  If you run with folks putting up fast miles, you have to put up fast miles.  My only exposure to team sports were one year in Little League baseball and a few years of club rugby in college.  The group thing is a little intimidating.  So I feel I have to really show what I'm capable of to prove I belong.  To prove I am worth their time and camaraderie.

By pushing myself I have improved in so many areas.  While not always easy, the miles are getting easier.  While not always fast, the miles are getting faster.  And while not always smooth, the miles are starting to smooth out.  In fact tonight my form really felt "locked in".

But I owe this moment in time to so many people within my running community.  I have developed connections in Myrtle Beach that mean a great deal to me.  The miles logged with the North Myrtle Beach Running Group have meant more than any solo plan.  Those predawn Saturday runs gave me the idea and the confidence to volunteer as a pace runner for a half marathon.  This was in fact the first half marathon I ever entered.  The support, the jokes, and the technical advice have helped me greatly.  I even owe "The UnaRunner" to this cast of characters.

I also owe a debt of gratitude to the worldwide community of The Daily Mile.  If you ever need advice, motivation, support, or a good laugh you need to check this place out.  They even announced a "Secret Santa" initiative this week.  How cool is that.  What humbles me about the community within The Daily Mile is that I know so few of the "friends" personally.  The outpouring of well wishes when I perform is a huge boost to my confidence.  But the greatest gift is when I received so many words of encouragement and genuine concern.  This touched me beyond any thanks I could ever extend.

Growing up I never really "tried".  I hoped but never pursued.  Athletics were something to be watched.  Participation was not for me.  However, the last year has witnessed my evolution into an "athlete".  I see something of myself that did not previously exist.  And I know other people see something of me I never imagined would be discoverable.  Some of these friends have pointed out how and where I can continue to grow and develop so I may become the best runner possible.

My turn as running for friendship has knocked me for a loop.  I am astounded by the people seeking me out.  To know that people watch me is intimidating and pressure-packed and motivating.  But it is also odd.  Had these people seen me even a few years ago they may not have seen the potential?  How many of them would have looked twice?  The fact is that my past no longer matters.  The person I was no longer exists.  Some of you have learned personal things about me outside of running.  A few of you have shared private moments with me outside of running.  Some of you are becoming the brothers or sisters I never had.  These connections will be held in my heart forever.  And I owe it all to running.

So the next time someone asks what I do I will answer "I run".  And it has made all the difference.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Waiting for the snap-back

Runners often say that running is our drug of choice.  This activity provides many things, but first and foremost it is mood altering and personality enhancing.  Yet sometimes even a "good" run has no affect and brings no relief.

I struggled for years with self-image.  I have an overactive imagination and tend to read into situations and see things that do not exist.  There was even a time I sought professional help and chemical relief.  That's what a crap job with no support from management will do for you.

Thankfully running has given me something no doctor or prescription could ever provide.  Time to myself not in darkness and self-loathing but time in sunshine and self-development and the company of people who see the good in me and support me no matter the "issues" I am dealing with in my life.

That's why this past week was so difficult.

One thing I noticed as I have dealt with bouts of depression over the past seven years is that there is no trigger.  No moment or event that sparks the slide.  I just know that its coming and feel the world tilt beneath me.  My world has been pretty level for some time now.  But not so much in the last two weeks.

Two weekends ago I was feeling really dark.  No reason other than the usually stresses in life.  Money.  The approaching holidays.  Kids' schedules and fitting work into the cracks.  The only thing going well had been my running.  Then I developed a pain in my heel which required a visit to the doctor.  I don't like to mix running and doctors, but this one was cool and runs and did not preach.  The relief was immediate and my spirits was up.

I have made some solid friendships outside of running recently.  These folks are online buddies and are separated by miles and will probably never meet me in person, but already they feel like family.  And the best part is sharing aspects of life that need an unfiltered, unobtrusive, nonjudgmental view of a situation.  No agenda. Just questions and answers and hopes that things get better.

Each friend is having relationship issues and I tried to be the sounding board and ask the questions that each needed to ask.  Maybe hearing the questions and answers out load out provide a different perspective.  I know that my own thoughts sound different once they pass my ears.

Being a father put their issues in a perspective I had not anticipated.  Boys can handle themselves.  This is a man's world, as James Brown once sang.  But girls are different.  Tell them they "can't" and either they believe or take the challenge and try to prove the world wrong.  As the father of two girls I choose to tell them they can.  I told my oldest to set her own path.  Do what she wants in the world.  Make her own labels in life.  Do not become what somebody wants her to be if that label prevents her from being herself.

But this is getting off the point of the post I guess.  I've not adjusted well to the recent cold.  I ran a few nights after the kids went to bed.  The second night was awful.  My pace was fine, but the dark and cold and clothing I had to wear created a crushing claustrophobic effect that sunk me into the most depressive state I've felt in years.  Not suicidal, but it doesn't have to be that bad to be bad.

I unloaded on dailymile.com.  I wasn't looking for too much sympathy (ok, maybe I was).  It seemed a good play to turn because other outlets are like speaking with a stone wall.  My wife knew I wasn't right and we talked a little about it.  But I think I needed to hear the support of other runners.  She helped my through the worst of my depression, present for the breakdown in sunday school (that was such a bad day) and is my smile when I feel nothing.

I got tons of advice.  Don't know why.  I got tons of support.  Can't imagine why.  Read tons of kind words and even a few harsh yet necessary words.  Message received.  I knew I had to get out of the dark, literally and figuratively, and find my sunshine.

Before I took that next run I saw a dailymile challenge called "One Mile For Miranda".  She was little girl, not sure of the age, who died this week.  A challenge was created to run a single mile in her memory.  You know about me and dedicating runs to others.

I set out in the middle of the day.  I was still cold, but not so cold as the previous night.  The sky of clear and the wind was slight.  And I set a fast pace.  I thought again of my friends and their issues.  I thought of my family and our issues.  I kept coming back to my form and how I was feeling physically and emotionally and could feel the break coming.

I realized in this run that mental illness in less extreme cases is like jumping with a bungee cord.  Stretch it too tight and the cord snaps and you don't walk away.  Hang on and stay loose and just maybe the you'll get a bounce back and return to vantage point where you started.  Just get back up.

My GPS chirps at each completed mile.  As I returned home Mr. Garmin told me I had one mile to go.  And my thoughts returned to Miranda.  A little girl I'll never know and would have never heard of were it not for dailymile.  As if by a "higher power" my legs went of a pace reserved for speed work.  I knew I was running hard and found an unbridled joy in taking flight with this newest angel.  And with a half mile left in the run I nearly broke down and sobbed.  There was a convulsive spasm in my chest.  The kind you get in some great tragedy in life.  But I was not sad.  I was happy.  And for no real reason.  I'm not given to pray or church these days, but I do get the power of shared human experience.  Maybe sharing in the passing of Miranda's life kicked my brain into thinking I am not in such a bad place.  Doesn't work for everyone, but it may have worked for me.

Not really sure what the thread to this post is.  Probably just random thoughts and a deeper view into my brain that most of you could do without.  But I also like to thing that a glimpse into my mind will tell someone they are not alone, not so different from other people.  Whether you care to share or not, know I'm with you in the struggle.

Dailymile asked this week what its members would do if the website crashed.  I know I would still run.  I would still run with local folks.  I would still "talk" with running friends I have outside dailymile.  But something would be lost.  I like to think the Mirandas' of the world need places like dailymile.  To work their magic on people like me.


Live for today.  Run for tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Other Meaning of Dedication

Ok, I'm gonna be totally honest and if that's not cool then please stop reading now. This is me as Logan and not The UnaRunner so I hope y'all understand. And I'll try to keep it short to not waste anyone's time or bore you beyond tears.

I do not believe in God but do believe in the power of prayer. Knowing you are the intense focus of another person's positive thoughts is a powerful feeling. Whether a being intercedes and corrects problems that solicit the prayers is another subject.

I do think there is something to releasing positive energy into the world to share with others. A college friend suffered a heart attack from some sort of viral or bacterial infection over the summer. Freak occurrence. Over the following weeks I dedicated several runs to his healing. My release of energy to his gathering of energy for healing (go ahead and laugh). I recent spoke with his wife, another alum, who said he is doing well and working again and being the husband and dad his family needs. Maybe there is something to this...

I sometimes run for a friend who died running. Not long after we moved to Murrells Inlet.  Our oldest daughters were born the same summer. Heart attack. No ID. Wife found out he passed while calling hospitals hoping he may be in the ER with an injury. Two kids left with memories. One son with no memory, except in photos. And a widow who struggles but needs to do something to get in good health for these children. But I sense she fears leaving them the same way their father did. Taken too soon and with no good-bye...

This Thanksgiving marked twenty years since my maternal grandmother's last.  We always spent Thanksgiving with that side of the family as Christmas.  So this was our last Christmas.  And it was the last time I saw her outside of a hospital, other than the funeral home... Needless to say there have been a lot of tough memories for my mom this past week.  So I'll add a few more names to the list, for comfort and rest.

The point of dedicating runs and miles to others is not for self-gratification or self-fulfillment.  It is just a way for me to remember and burn some energy and be positive.  Remember the vibrant times.  The laughter and smiles.  The cheerful days.  And if it helps smooth out the miles or soften the sun or blunt the blustery cold then I get something out of it as well.

If you have never dedicated a run to someone give it a try.  Maybe give each mile to a different person.  Does not matter to whom or why.  Just think of someone other than yourself and the pain you may have at that moment.

Makes me smile just thinking about it.

Dot, Becky, Wayne, Mary, Will, Farra & Bob - you were all in my thoughts and on my miles this week.  Be well.

Monday, November 29, 2010

I'm not as sick as I feel.

I guess running while sick is like running when injured.  Your family and "friends" tell me to slow down and take it easy.

You gotta rest.

Don't push to hard.

Continuing to exercise while (insert ailment here) will only cause more problems down the road.

All valid reasons to not exercise and risk overdoing anything.  But I am not that amenable to "rest" when I haven't "earned" it.  I like to think I know my body and tell the difference between feeling icky and being truly sick.

For the past two weeks I have suffered in stages, from the nagging sore throat to drippy nose and finally occasional cough.  It really sapped my energy a few days.  But I can say that when I laced them up (actually my VFFs use velco, but the reference isn't as cool) I had the energy to run where and how long I wanted to go.  I'm proud of that.

Why stay inside and stew in my own germs when I can get outside and give my lungs a solid air exchange for one to two hours.  My sinuses cleared out in the process as well.

This takes me back to running with an injury.  I think my focus on doing so has shifted somewhat recently.  I blogged previously how I try to run no matter what.  Injury and pain were things to be ignored.  Now I see the scenario in a different light.  The pain I have dealt with in the past few months were not injuries in the clinical sense.  No stress fractures.  No sprains or strains.  Nothing torn or ruptured.  And nothing broken.  What I have dealt with have been the result of lazy form and poor focus on the details of running.  Form is an art.  Form must be catered to and constantly supervised.  Allowing form to break down is a sure way to developing bad habits which lead to pain and injury.  But by running through the pains I experience I have learned to course correct and run through the pain to something better.  I am not ignoring and running from, rather I am running along with till the form improves and the "issue" goes away.

If you develop an overuse injury, rest will not cure the injury.  The injury in locked in your form and motion.  Once you resume running, or any form of exercise where form in vital, the old form habits will resume and the injury shall return.  It is only a matter of time.  Learn about your body.  Learn how to move with efficiency and grace.  Learn to listen to you body and when it tells you something is not right.  Then you can learn to correct and overcome the type of overuse injuries that lie in wait for most runners.

The injury you suffer does not spell doom or mark an end your efforts at better health.  It merely is a sign post to take a different direction to a path of more informed movement.  When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Imagine living life without labels.  How would you recognize the policeman or fireman?  Who is the doctor or teacher?  And what about the other important labels like mother/father, sister/brother, parent/child?  Labeling is an important function in that it sets our places in the world and establishes how we each contribute to the global community.

But there are other labels which reinforce negative thoughts.  Being labeled fat, slow, dumb, unworthy are horrible things that unfortunately begin early in life.  Kids learn from adults and do not have a social filter, so labels are tossed around or applied to peers with frightful honesty.  Malicious intent is sometimes part of the equation but usually the negative labels simply pop out.

Hear and see negative labels enough and you may begin to apply those labels to yourself.  It is tough to bear.  When things don't go your way it is easy to sink into acceptance of the labels.  You know no other way.  Maybe you are doomed to be fat because you are.  You are fated to be slow or incapable because you lack the confidence to prove otherwise.

Labels can be self-fulfilling prophesies.  Hear it enough, whether the statements are internal or external in origin, and eventually the label becomes fact.  You are slow because you don't try to go faster.  You are fat because you don't try to get fitter.  You are incapable because you don't explore for hidden talents or unknown aptitudes.  The weight of negative labels can seem crushing.  Even if you have positive people in your corner it can still be difficult to see opportunity for self-improvement.

This was my life.  I never measured up.  I was always near the back of the line.  In fact negative self-talk still dominates in certain areas of my life.  Every morning presents a new challenge to either be what I have been or become what I should be.  Will I escape impending doom or be crushed by the pressure?

Let me share with you a little secret.  From the moment each of us is born we are dying.  While our cells are dividing and we are growing and developing and learning we are all doomed to the same fate.  Morbid I know.  The amazing thing about that fact is that it has the potential to free the mind from fear.  Be cautious, yes.  Be concerned, yes.  But be bold.  Be strong.  Find your focus and make the effort.  Give honest effort in a goal you find worthwhile.

Find a new label you want to wear.  This label could be something you once wore but no longer applies.  It could be a completely new label.  The point is to find something to pull yourself out of self-doubt and negative thoughts.  Find a label that pushes you to be something you currently are not.  Something stronger.  Something better.  Something "more".   Be the light at the end of the tunnel.

This is why I proudly wear the label of "runner".

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Do you stomp or sweep?

I used to be a stomper.

Who learns to run?  Unless you are gifted and talented and part of a high school or college program few of us are able to get the coaching needed to develop proper running form.  Since college I tried running on occasion and was in constant pain.  And because of that pain I never saw running as a joyful activity.

There was even a buddy I went to school with from kindergarten through 12th grade that I could hear running from the end of the block.  I was a thin dude but he stomped like he weighed four hundred pounds.

So I read Chi Running (that again?) and began to get my form in order.  Then I read Born To Run.

The interesting thing about BTR is the multitude of points a reader may take away from the book.  It is a great "story".  It had anecdotal information regarding running form and running shoes.  It even has modern day investigations into our ancestral development as running people.

But for the purpose of this blog and my run this morning my thoughts today went back to BTR and the retelling of the 1994 Leadville Trail ultramarathon.  An American runner was pacing a Raramuri racer though the late stages of the one hundred mile ordeal and noticed something so slight that most people would never perceive its presence.

While running as a pair for several miles through the dark of night along wilderness trails the American noticed that the Raramuri's stride had a very easy wisking sound to it.  As if his feet were brooms sweeping gently across a floor.  For miles nothing but "wisk, wisk, wisk" and the sound of breathing.  However, as they progressed through the night the American became aware that the wisking sound was replaced by a slight crunching sound.  The Raramuri had developed a knee pain and altered his stride ever so little, but it was enough to change the sound of his foot fall.

This can happen to any of us.  Most runners (and I was one of the masses) adopt iPods and earphones as mandatory running gear to survive a run.  The noise (my word) is required to drown out the sound of our breathing.  The sounds of traffic.  The unwelcome conversation of other runners.  And the plaintive cries of our own mind to cease this ridiculous endeavor and go find the nearest air conditioned (or heated) couch.

The problem is that your body is urgently trying to communicate with you.  It has vital information to relay about the terrain, stride length, form, and energy levels.  Ignore or miss any of these cues and you may be heading down a blind alley to disaster.  Don't fear the sounds you make when running.  I like to run as silently as possible.  One guy I ran with briefly in my marathon said I was like Bigfoot drifting soundlessly through the forest.  A compliment I suppose.

My goal with each run, regardless of planned distance or desired pace, is to be a sweeper.  I must be light.  I need to smooth.  I have to run easy.  If I run outside of my best form my feet began to slap the ground and suddenly I'm on my heels and setting the stage for any number of setbacks.

Be a stomper and pound your body to dust.  Be a sweeper and clear away the debris to increase the odds of running pain-free.  When running we use sight and touch to navigate through the world.  Add the sense of hearing and discover where running takes you.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Now what?

I am five days removed from my first marathon.  I still marvel at the notion of completing this goal.  However am itching for something more.  I feel like the mountain climber who had just summited to only survey the horizon for the peak.  This is not to say that I have pushed aside the accomplishment, or forgotten anything about the ordeal I endured.  As I retreated down "the mountain" I have replayed the training cycle and the race itself for mistakes made and lessons learned.  These lessons may not apply to everyone.  These lessons work for me.

A high octane life needs high octane fuel.  

Are you a garbage disposal or do you choose what you eat for maximal metabolic efficiency?

I dropped soda and (most) junk food.  Fast food rarely touches my lips.  Beer is an occasional treat, not a daily staple.  Once I committed to running twenty-six point two I knew things had to change.  For too long I was overweight and slow and sad.  If I am to train for a marathon I need to train my diet, I needed to get control of urges and impulses.  I knew that to run farther and faster I had to run better.  For me that also meant eating better.

Denial and sacrifice are not bad things if I enjoy the results.  

You can't always get what you want.  But sometimes you find that you get what you need (where did that come from?).

Someone once said to eat, drink and be merry for we are not promised tomorrow.  I say live like tomorrow is guaranteed, so that you may make tomorrow better than today.  I am happy to have replaced the hangover with muscle fatigue.  It seems a worthy reward for the person I want to be.

If you are afraid of losing the enjoyment in life, sacrificing the foods and drinks that make life fun, review what you do eat.  What on that list aids your training?  What on the list makes you better at whatever you do?  And what holds you back?  Then decide if being "held back" is worth refusing to change your habits.  Like I said some time before, I want farther and faster.

Respect the distance.  

Any distance is difficult when you add the element of racing.  Six point two miles through a park is pretty easy.  No pressure.  But add a race bib and a start/finish line suddenly nerves creep in.  You have to prepare physically and mentally.  Unfortunately most people overlook the mental aspect of race training.

Two different friends from dailymile in the wake of my marathon disappointment said to "respect the distance".  Truer words were never spoken.  Twenty-six point two miles is no joke.  Nor is it a walk in the park.  Some people are natural runners and other people struggle with running.  But all runners have to cover the same distance.  With each mile lies a chance for failure.  To avoid failure is to stay focused on the task and reach the finish line while reaching as many goals as possible along the way.

Respect the training.  

If you don't train for it you can't race for it.  Avoid hills while training and you will lose your "race" on the hills.  If you don't train for speed you can't pull it out when you need the kick.

In response to "respect the distance" I said that it is more important for me to respect the training.  This is not to belittle the previous statement.  And there was a misunderstanding about that as well.  But if a runner does not take training seriously the runner's goals will remain out of reach.

Some runners wing it through a cycle.  Others build meticulous plans that must be followed at every step to ensure optimal physical and mental preparation.  I learned that training is serious business, especially with long distance running.  Run fast.  Run slow.  Run short.  Run long.  But run according to plan and at the right times.  Peak too soon and race day will be a failure.  "Try something different" on race day and you will suffer.

Now that Chickamauga is done and I have turned my attention to Myrtle Beach in February I am setting my plan in motion.  Base.  Tempo.  Intervals.  Hills (yes, I count highway overpasses as hills).  And the dreaded Recovery.  Every part has a role to play.  And every training day I shall work on some aspect of my program.    What I learned on Saturday is that there is never an "easy" run.  Good runs, yes.  Great runs, certainly.  And just maybe, if I stay smart and focused, I can have that great run.

I know that my running will not change the world.  I know that my running has not even changed me all that much.  What running has done is to expose aspects of me that I did not know existed.  It has opened up parts of me that even my wife and parents did not know were present in my personality.  Running shows what I am capable of when I let go of fear and self-doubt and worry of failure.  This is personal and subjective.  All my thoughts are directed toward making me a better "whatever".  Decide what your better "whatever" should be and get after it.  No one can do it for you.  Good luck.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The devil when down in Georgia...

Kidding me right?  Can't say I was not warned.

"In long-distance running the only opponent you have to beat is yourself, the way you used to be."
- Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Where it all went down.  There may still be a chalk outline on the road from last year.

I'll save you the boring crap about the drive from Myrtle Beach to northwest Georgia.  The expo was forgettable other than the Daily Mile connection made with Gordon H. from Alabama.  He is a great guy and I enjoyed our visit before and after the race.

Hey, UnaRunner?  What's your real name?

So we got to the start/finish area around 6.30am with plenty of time to warm up and hit the bathroom (twice) before the official start at 7.30am.  There were lots of people like at most races.  All shapes and sizes.  Untold number of reasons for starting and goals for finishing.  There were 50-staters and green-horn first-timers.  I lined up with Gordon and Drew T. also from Daily Mile.  Always great to see friendly faces before (and during) a race.

The cannon roared and we were off.  The course begins with a loop around Barnhardt Circle then directs the runners on a local road before quickly shooting into the park.  For approximately one mile we were on broken asphalt "trail" closed in by trees.  A slight downhill slope was cause for early restraint on speed.  Got to go easy.  Once in the park the course became an eleven mile double loop.  We ran on blacktop through narrow forest and sunlit fields and monuments to states and soldiers whom gave blood and sweat in service to a cause greater than any little race.

The Chickamauga National Military Park is the site of a battle between Federal and Confederate forces as General Sherman's army attempted to break out of Chattanooga and head south for Atlanta.  While "Johnny Reb" won the day at Chickamauga, the loses where so heavy that when the Union forces made a second attempt the next spring they met little opposition.

The first loop went fairly well.  I ran for a few miles with a runner who's name I cannot recall.  But he is memorable in that he ran New York the previous Sunday.  His only goal this day was to enjoy himself.

The course is very windy with lots of banked turns.  Running the tangents is very important to minimize the distance you could run if you hugged the white line.  I think I would eventually run 26.4 miles in total.

I shared time with another runner from Atlanta.  Sam appeared to by older than me and was a capable strider.  He had not trained much lately but hoped for a good time and whatever time to day allowed.  I eventually pulled away from both Mr. New York and Sam.

Last year I DNFed on this course.  The pain, physical and emotional, of that day let me forget just how hilly the course is.  Because of this I had not trained for hills.  That would prove to be my undoing.

Let me clue you into a little secret.  Myrtle Beach is flat.  The only true hills are bridges and highway overpasses.  I could have gotten hill work in had I felt it necessary.  My gut let me down.  I realized how wrong I was as my dad and I drove through the park on Friday afternoon.  In the span of three miles there were at least four rises, the last of which was long and straight and high.  Probably not much for local runners or folks used to hilly terrain.  But this flat lander was about to get cooked.

I am a follower of Chi Running, a running style developed out of Tai Chi by Danny Dreyer.  I have spent the last sixteen months working through the forms and techniques to improve my running form and efficiency.  The process reduced or all but eliminated any joint pain that used to plague me as a runner.  Chi Running allowed me to enjoy running and excel as a runner.  But Danny is adamant in his commandments of "gradual progression" and maintaining focus regardless of the distance, pace or workout.

The thing to know about Chi Running for those unfamiliar is that it is very specific in how to move or hold every part of the body.  From head to toe every part has a slot or way to move to draw out maximum efficiency on the move.  During most run on flat ground the arms swing in a very short zone, from wrist to elbow always along the torso.  The arms act as a counter-balance to the legs and aid in forward momentum.  See pages 102-106 of Chi Running for greater detail on arm swing.  But one must understand that the elbow never comes forward of the rib cage.  Except when on a full sprint or on hills.  On up hill runs one will swing the arms forward as if punching ones self in the chin.  This aids upward momentum.  However it can apply greater stress on muscle along the spinal column from the neck through the shoulder blades.  Not good if one has not "worked" on hills during the most recent training cycle.

Even saw my dad on Mile 12.  Nice moment.

But, and its a big "but" the likes of which Sir Mix-a-lot pens hit songs about, I felt something "off"  by Mile 11.
I used get awful neck and shoulder pain early in my running.  I have been able to reduce the tension and run without pain in my upper back for several months.  This development was not good.  Anyway, I still had asphalt to kick.

By Mile 15 I had to hit pit road.  Just a quick stop to empty the tank and then back on the road.  Great thing about a park course is that will all the trees I don't have to wait for a port-a-john.  Whoo-hoo!!!

However that were things went off the tracks.  Permanently.  The pain in my neck and back moved into my shoulders and upper arms.  I never thought pain in my arms would affect my running but I was nearly in tears from the cramping.*  Unfortunately things would get worse.

Drew T. passed me somewhere around mile 19 or 20.  He asked how I was feeling.  Guess it was obvious but I answered with "I feel like shit".  His response was "same here".  And off he went.  Go get it Drew!

I had to walk in stretches beginning on Mile 20.  Only a 10k to go** and I know it will be the hardest 10k of my life.  While dealing with my shoulder pain I finally was forced to notice a new pain in my right foot.  There was a spot on the ball of my foot was in pain.  Toward the outside.  Right where I was planting with each stride.  By Mile 22 the run at 3.15.00 was over.  I could not run more that 100-200 yards without walking.  For a while.  I passed 22 miles at 2.55.38.  My shoulders didn't hurt as much as my foot anymore, but the overall effect on my body was overwhelming.  And because of pressure from my foot my calves were starting to cramp up.  Not in the funny sort of cramp either.  And I knew 3.30.00 was gone also.  Now all I hoped to do was get to the finish line.

My only explanation for the foot would be to blame the curved, banked road on the course.  Most of the roadway sloped downward left to right, so my right foot was usually lower and may have been planting harder than I thought at the time.  Could never get past it during the race.

Say my dad on the second loop on Mile 23.  I stopped to walk a minute and let him know I was not well but would be ok.  He needed to get back to the finish line as soon as possible.  Still have not seen my daughter or mom since before the race start.

I considered quitting.  I questioned if I really want to run.  At all.  I wondered if I was good enough to run far.  That is what I want more than anything.  I like the shorties.  5k and 10k are fun.  Quick and done.  But The Marathon is a whole other thing.  And an ultra is like a dream I don't dare dream.  But running far is what I want.

Running is my health outlet.  It got me into shape.  It made me healthy.  But I need a race and training to stay focused.  Without wanted to be a marathoner I would still be fat and unhappy and not what I want to be now.

My new goal, in the moment, for the short term, was to get back to Barnhardt Circle.  Two turns and done.  All down hill.  I can do that.  I think...

"Why couldn't Pheidippides have died here?"
- Frank Shorter, 22 miles into his first marathon, in 1971.

As I entered Barnhardt Circle for the final quarter mile I knew I had to run.  No matter how slow I went I absolutely had to run.  No matter how badly my foot hurt I had to run.  And since the final quarter mile was downhill I a little assist when I needed it most.  The road straighted out on the final stretch, and I know it sounds cliche, but I heard nothing and felt nothing.  Tunnel vision directed me onward with little thought other than to finish.

With only twenty yards to go I noticed movement to my left.  My daughter Lochlyn burst from the crowd and joined me for the final push.  I don't remember anything else till I was handed the finisher's medal.  Couldn't tell if the clock was even working.  That is how happy I was that my daughter stepped out.

Finishing with my "best eleven year old in the world"!

After I crossed the finish line I was handed my medal and "first-timer" plaque.  Then I stumbled to where my parents were on the road side and fell onto the grass.  My mom later told me she thought I was dead.  No, not yet.  But I laid there with my eyes closed and not moving for what seemed like a half-hour.  Maybe longer, maybe not.  I occasionally moved my arm.  I had to cough once and couldn't.  A lower abdominal cramp prevented that from happening.  I tried to get up once and couldn't.  My mom knew I was breathing.  Thank goodness for the auto-response systems in the body.  

I still cannot fathom that I met one of my goals.  In spite of much talk or bluster about wanting a Boston Marathon qualifying time the mostly likely and realistic goal was to finish.  And after nearly two years of planning and training and trying I could proclaim myself a "marathoner".  My name is on the list.  No DNF.  No omission from the shared struggle of a common cause.  Regardless of the reason or the result***, I did it.

There may be more to write.  More detail or emotion to get down.  Things to commit to "paper" before time erases the day from my memory.  My wife watched me type most of this and has commented about the length.  Maybe I am long winded tonight.  Forgive me for having a lot to say.  And there is even more to say about that day and the three days since.  There may be a few updates as I think them necessary

"...some people take to marathons in testament to the fact there is still substance and life in them.  
For others, it's simply a celebration of their life or perhaps the lives of others."
- Amby Burfoot, as interviewed for The 2,500-Year-Old Man
Sports Illustrated, November 15, 2010

* About four o'clock in the afternoon it hit me.  The excessive arm swing on Mile 7 aggravated a set of muscles I rarely need in running.  Had I not used the forward arm swing, or actually used hill work during the training cycle I may have avoided this problem.  For my mental state I was stoked to hit on this little pearl of wisdom so quickly.  It took me two weeks to work through my ankle issue from last year.  Things are already looking up.

** That final 10k took about 70 minutes.  The final two and a half miles about 40 minutes.  Consider me humbled.  Pushing through when there is nothing but the finish is an amazing thing.  Elites sometimes quit rather than risk injury.  They must be ready for the "next race".  For myself and others on that course Saturday the 2010 Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon was the only race.

*** My split times for people who may want to analyze such things.  Roscoe?  Greg?

One final note.  Today I ran.  Two days after Chickamauga.  I ran over seven miles and finished that run like a kid chasing summer.  Easy and painless and free of worry.  Or as free as I could be only days removed from my first marathon.  The calf soreness was moderate.  The foot pain was minimal.  The shoulder pain was non-existant.  I may have learned a few things regarding training and race day but one thing is certain. 

I am a runner.

The numbers of my first marathon

I'm not going to argue with this gun time.
My pacing went as follows:

Mile 1    7.06/ 0.07.06                                         Mile 14    7.34/ 1.42.24
Mile 2    7.04/ 0.14.10                                         Mile 15    7.56/ 1.50.20
Mile 3    7.19/ 0.21.29                                         Mile 16    7.40/ 1.58.01
Mile 4    7.24/ 0.28.53                                         Mile 17    8.00/ 2.06.00
Mile 5    7.14/ 0.36.08                                         Mile 18    8.26/ 2.14.26
Mile 6    7.26/ 0.43.33                                         Mile 19  10.00/ 2.24.26
Mile 7    7.15/ 0.50.49                                         Mile 20    9.20/ 2.33.45
Mile 8    7.17/ 0.58.05                                         Mile 21  10.34/ 2.44.19
Mile 9    7.16/ 1.05.21                                         Mile 22  11.18/ 2.55.38
Mile 10  7.14/ 1.12.35                                         Mile 23  11.44/ 3.07.21
Mile 11  7.31/ 1.20.06                                         Mile 24  11.46/ 3.14.00
Mile 12  7.18/ 1.27.24                                         Mile 25 & 26.2 (Garmin 
Mile 13  7.26/ 1.34.51                                      crapped out) 40.58/ 3.54.49

Half Marathon is based on my watch at the 13.1 sign (no clock on the course) - 1.36.30
2nd half time is this time subtracted from the reported chip time                        - 2.18.19

Official stats are based on the gun time of 3.54.58
  • I was 127th out of 502 finishers
  • I was 20th out of 57 in my age group
  • Had I ran the race I wanted I could have place around 15th to 17th but still out of the top three in my age group.
  • The winner crossed at 2.39.44
  • The last runner crossed at 7.27.54

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Waiting sucks.

Christmas.  The wait is unbearable, especially when the music hits the airwaves in October.

Birthdays.  Can't stand waiting.

Paydays.  What are those?

And "race day" to that list.  Many of you dear readers are racers in your spare time and understand the frustration of waiting for that next race.  Some of you are fortunate and can afford to enter numerous races.  Some of you have no interest or cannot afford the fees associated with races.  That is ok.  But you probably have at least one race in your shoes and can appreciate the pain of time sloooowly ticking by till the starter's gun fires.

I am two years into waiting to finish my first marathon.  That finish will hopefully come mid-morning this Saturday.  Fortunately I have entered several shorter races this year.  There was little anguish surrounding those events because they were part of scheduled training.  Just another day in the life of a runner.  I may not be an official "marathoner" but I have done my share of long, intense miles.

If I have learned anything in the past week and a half it is that waiting is worse than any run.  I still get pains in weird places.  I still get tired.  I still talk to myself (sometimes out loud, and occasionally answer back).

The great thing is that I resume training for the next marathon on Monday.  Yes, I am taking Sunday off.  We have a long ride home with no time to run.  Maybe a lap or two around a convenience store while pumping gas.

But I will be through with waiting to get started.

Right now I am just ready to finish.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Let what you fear make you stronger.

What scares you?  What makes you lay awake at night tossing and turning?  For most people it is the job, money, kids, government, etc.  There are too many fears, irrational or otherwise, to list here.  My point is that runners and athletes in general have to face our fears to push through and excel.

I have a fear currently that may seem irrational given the time and mileage I have logged in training.  My "first" marathon is next week.  (You may laugh about that considering how much I write about running.  I probably know less than most of the people reading this post.)

Single digit days to go.  One more possible group run for a little pep talk and motivation.  Nothing left to do really but eat, sleep and hydrate.  The mileage plan is in the bag.  So what am I afraid of tonight?

Not finishing.

I know it is the journey and not the destination.  I know that time goals are an illusion and if my plan goes to hell I need to focus solely on crossing the finish line.  Save your breath.

My fear is not seeing my name on the results sheet.  Ultimately I do not care where my name falls on the list.  First would be awesome but not probable.  Last would be acceptable if it meant I actually finished.

You see, this marathon is the site of my DNF last year.  I know this course.  I visited the host site many times as a kid so I have history here.  But last year's non-finish means my name did not appear on the results list.  Did not even rate a lowly "Logan Hejl - DNF".  No official record of being there.  The mind equates that with not even starting.  As if the previous year of my life had been wasted.

What the last year has taught me is that there is no shame is finishing last.  Someone has to do it.  Walking is as good as running if time is not important (till I get caught by the course sweeper that is).  I also understand my form and style better with another year on the road.  I should be able to correct any form issues that arise.

I don't fear pain.

The past year taught me to deal and accept and move forward. 

I don't fear speed.

Someone is alway faster than me.  But if I am out front I can't worry about losing that lead.  Next Saturday is not my time to lead.

I don't fear expectations.

I am my toughest critic.  My most demanding coach.  But if the day does not meet the goals I laid out I am comfortable with scaling back and moving forward.

So in spite of whatever time goals I have talked about, my primary goal is finishing.  Head high and heart light.

Now if I finish the way I have it planned, and can do what I hope to do after I cross that finish line...  oh the story I will have to tell.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

You spoke, I listened. Here is what I have to say.

l wrote a blog post this week about my thoughts on pain and pain management.  As runners we have to know when to keep pushing and when to back off.  The difference between "injury" and "hurt" can be big, and learning to tell the difference is important.  Stopping in time may mean avoiding debilitating damage and a long layoff.  Stopping to soon may mean losing out on how strong mentally and physically you have become.  To paraphrase "Know when to say whoa."

The comment below is a response I received via the Daily Mile.  

I have mixed feelings about this note and another one you posted not so long ago, which was also about hurting and injuries. I no longer agree with the idea that one should run through pain just be tough. I am going to say that if you suspect that you may have a real injury, you should certainly not be running. My goal is to run for life, and I will be very careful not to hurt myself again, just because I thought I was tough enough to run through pain.

The commenter has had his own issues with injury this fall and is doing his best to deal with the situation.  His words knocked me back a bit.  I wondered if I were pushing bad advice.  I wondered if I was enabling injured runners to create worse situations.  After rereading his response I decided to craft my own reply.  Directly to the commenter.  As a friend.  Here is what I wrote:

I think I did qualify some of my statements in the post. If "it" is broken or torn seek the treatment you need. But with two years of running I am learning much about myself and how I need to move to be as free of injury as possible. I don't claim to be bullet proof and cannot claim to eliminate all chance of injury, though I believe I can reverse the course of some injury before the damage sets in.
This is the power and beauty of form development and correction through Chi Running. It is why I recommend Chi Running to anyone that will listen, and to many that should listen.
I too wasted time to injury. I trained for four months to see if I could run the distance. I did and it hurt. Then I began to study form and running efficiency and committed to running smarter. Then one week prior to my first official marathon I felt 'it'. A tweak in my ankle. Nothing at first; just something that was not "right".
As the week progressed I ran less and with more pain. Stubbornly I dragged my family (wife, 2 kids, and my parents) from Myrtle Beach to northwest Georgia to the race. I could barely walk. Then like a moron I decided to shoot baskets with my high school aged cousins. Needless to say, I was done ten miles in the race. One year wasted.
I quit to prevent further damage. The bike medic that called for my ride out said I was smart. His wife ran through an Achilles strain that resulted in a full tear and a year off. I freaked out.
Then weather cancelled the Myrtle Beach Marathon in February. Not an injury issue, but more time wasted.
But what I learned in the wake of the ankle injury and the marathon DNF was invaluable. I returned to Chi Running. I searched for answers. I wanted to know if there was some nugget I missed in the previous six months.
I also began to doubt switching to Vibrams Five Fingers. I loved them and loved the concept but wondered if I were right for them.
I then saw a general practitioner to get a ortho referral. Another waste of time. The ortho was a joke too. Rubbed my ankle. Looked at me standing. But did not want to see me run. Or walk. Or hear my story and how I came to be sitting in his office. He said "you run too much, you don't cross-train (but he didn't ask if...) and you are too old (at 36?)
Prior to the ortho appointment I scoured the Internet. I found sketches of the foot and ankle to see what my problem specifically might be. I located the focus of the pain. I could see the swollen tissue. It was most likely the tarsal tendon, similar to the carpal tunnel in the wrist. But it was swollen and huge. However the ortho said Achilles and that ended the discussion.
Prior to the appointment I also poured through the Chi Running book and website looking for missed technique. I discovered a diagram of leg/foot turnover on the website that told me what I needed to know. I was running off my heel. While I needed to reduce heel strike, I had gone too far in the other direction by running too high on my toes. By running too hard and far with improper form I caused the pain. Now I needed to know if the damage was permanent.
My strength test was a one-legged heel raise. I could do it unsupported with my left foot. The heel could clear the floor and I could stand on my ball with no problem. But my right heel would not lift at all. No strength. All pain.
I hit the neighborhood gym for 5 mile bike rides and light weight training. I would walk (limp) around the neighborhood to keep moving. But I tried to use the form tweak I discovered to slowly get back to running.
And within the few weeks that I learned the missed form point and seeing the ortho
Then in early January I spent a few hours with a certified Chi Running instructor. She reviewed my form and gave me a few other techniques not found in the book. What I did not tell her was how much pain I was in that morning. I was a month from the Myrtle Beach Marathon and feared missing it.
Two weeks later I ran a local 10k to shake things out. I finished under 50 minutes and was pleased with my steady pace. The ortho had said the marathon would be iffy, only if I committed to his plan and advice. But when he would not listen to me I chose not to listen to him.
Anyway, snow caused the marathon to be cancelled. But I witness hundreds of people running the streets that afternoon with bibs pinned on. So Sunday morning I did the same and ran the course. It was cold and windy and difficult but I did it. And the ankle was not a problem. I did develop pretty bad pain in my left knee, from constantly turning to look over my right shoulder for traffic. I stayed on the right sidewalk and had to stay vigilant as I approached parking lots and intersections. The constant torquing really screwed my knee, making the final two miles the most painful thing I have ever done.
Afterward I reviewed the run. I recognized where the pain came from and promised to correct it on the road. I took a few days off then hit the road. Straight ahead. Legs, arms, head and torso aligned properly. Over the next two weeks the pain in my knee lessened and came later in the run. The first day it showed up in Mile Two. After a few weeks it waited till Mile Ten. Then it never came back.
If a runner is earnest in learning proper form and commits to developing that form many injuries can be corrected on the run. That is my experience. Is this good advice for all runners. Probably not. I will concede that point and thanks for pointing it out. But I will also point out that some runners look for any excuse to get off the road. They blame shoes and weather and running surface and anything else imaginable.
I learned that my injuries came from within. Poor form led to poor performance. My current calf injury came from a cool morning with inadequate warm-up. But maintaining my form carried me to two consecutive great performances. And I believe it is why I can run with less pain that I have when walking.
Could your shin splints been avoided. I say yes. Could the subsequent stress fractures been avoided. Again I say yes. Please don't interpret these statements as an attack. I don't know how you run and will not diagnose your condition other than to say you need to "see" how you run when you return.
Have someone photograph your stride. My camera has a burst function where the camera shoots constant shots with the shutter button held down. Family pictures from Sunday revealed some heel striking that I have to work on.
I will close be saying the fixing the form will fix the condition more often that not. I hope you heal soon and fast. I hope you can make up for lost time. I also concede that most people will think it through as carefully as I have.
If you think I am full of shit or a menace to runner tell me. I will have a good laugh, problem agree with you to a point then cheer you on even harder in your recovery.
And I want to thank you for speaking up. I write as a form of self-expression. I want to share. If what I have experienced helps another runner avoid my mistakes then I have not wasted my time. Thanks for reminding me to think of the person that may not be like me, committed like me, or as beautiful as me (did I type that?).
Good luck and no worries. And keep your chin up.
I posted this entry at Stephen's request.  I welcome his candor and ability to deal as a grown-up.  There's a lot of childish behavior on the Internet.

Can't grow if we can't listen. Everyone has something to learn and something to teach. I can't wait to read your responses.

The UnaRunner

Friday, October 22, 2010

Do I Have Something To Prove?

An exchange on Facebook overnight got me to thinking about why people choose to do what they do.  Or choose to avoid things they dislike.  Exercise seems to be a big "avoider" by most people.  And there are plenty of excuses; some more valid than others.

It seems to me that the "do-nots" get riled up by the "do-ers".  Like we are showing off.  Please.

Running at 5am is not about showing off.

Running in freezing temperatures is not about showing off.

Running in boiling humidity is not about showing off.

Running a distance I have no patience for driving is not about showing off.

Running in those conditions and at those times is not about the "do-nots".  It is about me and what I need to do.  The following is a posting to daily mile dot com I wrote this morning.  To understand a runner I believe you have to be a runner (or at least have lived with a runner for a long time).
An open letter to Daily Mile - thank you for congratulating my successes, sympathizing with my setbacks and encouraging my efforts. Someone recently told me they have nothing left to prove (to whom?). I think it is the challenges in life that define us throughout life. Whether you are a teenager or eligible for the "senior discount", there may something out there nagging at you, making you think "What if..."
Nothing I do now is with the intent of proving my self to you. It is all for proving something to myself. I am capable. I shall realize my goals. Failure pushes me to work harder. Success pushes me to set harder goals.
Again, Daily Mile, thank you for all your kind, warm, sympathetic and at times humorously abusive words. Not just for the comments directed toward my posts but toward all members of the Daily Mile. This community lifts me up at times that I most doubt myself. For that I am forever grateful.
Miles run and times posted are great for assessing fitness and personal commitment.  The goals of a runner are not established to show how awesome the runner is, but to see how awesome the runner could be.  And sharing this information is great for realizing goals met.

So... do I have something to prove?  To you?  No, probably not.  To myself?  Everyday for the rest of my life.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Time - Komen Race of the Cure 5k at Daniel Island, SC


We can always use more.  We have too much time on our hands.  We waste time.  We save time.  We burn time.  And in a romantic sense we may even "make time".  But what is time really?

Time is a number.  Scientists much smarter that I say time is relative.  Five minutes for you may seem like seven minutes to me.  Our reality is clouded by perception and included by emotion.  Time drags.  Time flies.  Am I really having fun???  You get the picture.

I drove to Charleston this morning with a goal in mind.   Run this 5k in under 19 minutes.  Doable but iffy should anything not go well.  Weather, the crowd, the stomach, the nerves, etc.  But I told myself to imagine a lonely road.  An empty field where I am the only competitor.  I know I will not win (that guy set a course record at 15.06) but winning was not the goal.  Beating the time established in my head was the goal.  I wanted to know what I am capable of by running this race.  I have successful shut out the mind during long runs.  When the mind screams stop my legs respond GO!  But this time the mind would have to win the battle.  It would cry out GO GO GO!  The legs would be uncertain.  Is the pace too much?  Is the distance too far for the lungs to handle?  Questions of the body to be ignored by the mind.  My singular focus was the clock at the finish line.

Things started out curiously enough.  I hate to sound snobbish or elitist or anything of the sort but some people need to be a little further back of the starting line.  A ten year old planted himself right in front of me.  From the start he tried to go but I needed to get around him and was boxed in.  He burned up after 100 yards and fell away.  I guess my biggest fear in any race is getting tangled up and having a spill.  I hope the kid finished well though.

After a half-mile I pulled up with what I guess was a high school kid.  Great effort and easy stride.  I tried matching my breath to his and really zero in on my form.  Was I leaning properly.  Heel striking or full foot striking.  Were my arms swinging in the slot or waving about wildly?  I could leave a occasional surge and slight fall-back.  The first mile was 5.39, a personal best EVAR!!!

I stayed with the high schooler (???) for a while.  By the half way point I figured we were friends (sharing an epic surge through this lovely community) and I asked "are you going flat out or saving a kick for the end?"  I wanted to know if I would be able to use him to pace me through the finish line if I needed the "rabbit".  He responded that he was going all out AND hoped to sprint to the finish.  Opposing statements but he had courage.  At this point I know I am really scooting along and appreciate the effort all around me.  I being encourage my running mate and others on the course.  "WAY TO GO!"  "KEEP IT UP!"  "COME ON RED BIKILAS!  TURN IT OVER!"  Encouraging others, even as some runners past me, kept me in the game.  Positive karma would have to pay dividends.  Second mile was a bit slower at 6.07 and 11.48 after two miles.  Still on pace for a personal best.

Suddenly the high schooler was gone.  But I was not the once left behind.  And "Red Bikilas" fell back too.  That guy from The Citadel did hit 6th gear and disappeared.  I thought he fell off the course till I realized how far ahead he was and that he was shielded by another runner ahead of me.

I made the final turn with only a half mile left to go.  At this point the course is a two way street.  Thousands of walkers are making there way out.  I am heading in "hot".  I did what I thought was the most appropriate thing to do at that moment.  I began raising my arms.  Like a linebacker or defensive back trying to get the home crowd into the game.  Get that emotional lift.  The best thing about being close to the front is also the best thing about being last.  You are usually alone or with just a few others.  People see your struggle.  They recognize the effort.  And my gesture was met with a roar and cheers and screams of encouragement that propelled down that final straight-away.  The third mile ticked off at 5.58.  17.43 with one tenth of a mile to go.

I have run long straight-aways before.  My first 5k of the year in March featured to long segments.  And that final one was looong.  On that day I knew I was in good position and hoped to medal (of course they only handed out firsts in overall and age group categories and I was fourth, behind another guy in my age group).  I did not look back for fear that I would see something I did not like and would falter.  Today was different.  I was not racing a person.  I was racing time.  Did I have enough?  Did I use too much?

I honestly do not think I could run any faster today.  Form and endurance can improve.  The lungs and throat are a little burnt from the pace, but I'll live.

That pre-race goal was sub-19.  I wanted to believe.  I hoped against hope.  But I was ready to concede defeat to the clock if you caught me in an honest moment prior to the race.  However it is days like today that you truly see what you're made of.


18.31 beats my previous personal best by more than a minute and a half.  That translates to 5.53 minutes per mile according to the official time keeper.  I averaged less than six minutes per mile over the five kilometers (3.1 miles).  I don't know how long it will take for that to sink in.  And to realize that I could absolutely do no better than that.  I won my age group, by 64 seconds.  I was also three minutes behind third overall.  No complaints and no criticisms.  Just sweet satisfaction.

Now I'm off to celebrate with friends in running.  I hang with a good group.  They understand the desire and commitment to push beyond.  I may never hit 18.31 again.  But I did it today.

In the weeks ahead I have half-marathon and a full marathon.  I am leading a pace group for the half.  I am on someone else's clock.  Personal goals take a back seat to the needs of others.  Maybe I can help someone to a PR, or an age group award.

The marathon is another story.  I have Boston on my mind.  I might not make the time.  And I might never be able to make the trip.  But I will certainly make the effort.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What kind of runner do you want to be?

I used to be a pained runner.  Jogging was not a comfortable activity.  I thought it was required to become more "healthy"' self-inflicted torture to be endured.  Boy was I wrong.

Most runners experience pain from running.  We think it is because running is "bad" for our bodies.  While physical activity may help with weight loss, doctors love to tell the general public that running is a high impact activity and that injuries are inevitable.  And if you want to prevent injury you must run less and buy expensive shoes and special inserts.  But the ultimate goal should be to run "free".

We should be able to run free of injury, free from self-doubt and free from the need to buy expensive crap.  And believe me I am familiar with all of that.

At one time I used to run with orthotics in my shoes.  They were the result of a repetitive use injury with my knees and working on concrete everyday.  The pain in my knees would keep me awake at night.  Even sitting on the floor with my legs crossed was unbearable.  The orthopedist felt that the inserts would aid my knees.  OK.  The orthopedist said my knee pain was due to degenerative cartilage and that I should not run.  OK.

Nine years later I am running farther and faster than ever.  I have no knee pain.  I wear no shoe inserts.  My "shoes" have no built-in arch support.  But how is this possible?

Last year I stumbled upon Chi Running by Danny Dreyer while at the bookstore looking for running books.  Danny believed that if we recapture the ease and joy of running similar to children then injury and discomfort associated with running can be reduced, if not eliminated.

Danny does offer trainer certification to teach Chi Running.  I even took a class with an instructor.  While I hope to one day become certified I am not and currently have no financial incentive to spread the "gospel" of this program.

What Chi Running has done is teach me to run in a more efficient manner.  I know how to move when I run and am able to self-diagnose causes of discomfort when they arise.  I am more mindful of tweaks and missteps and misalignment of my body.  Minor adjustments on the run can make a big difference.  Many of the pains I have experienced over the past year have been corrected without the help of motion control shoes, orthotics or the quackery of most orthopedic specialists.

I corrected a tough Achilles/tarsal tendon strain with a minor adjustment to the way I lifted my heel at the tail end of my stride.  The orthopedist I saw after this injury recommended rest, therapy & pain killers.  He said I was getting old and pushing too hard.  But he never asked to see how I run.  He did not care to know what I may have done to acquire such pain.  Treat the symptom not the cause.

Recently I thought I may have had a stress fracture in my foot.  With paid entries to several races on the horizon, skipping upcoming events will not happen.  I reviewed the previous weeks of running and remembered stepping into a hole during a long run.  I also remember running hills during one session particularly hard and fast.  I felt a lot of pain when flexing my foot but did have any issues when pressing directly onto the top of my foot.

My concern was that I was running too hard, pounding the pavement with too much impact force.  The answer was to stride "lighter".  Pick it up as I'm putting it down.  After yesterday's 20 miler on rolling hills of pavement and single track dirt trails I can see that running "lighter" has eased the pressure and pain on top of my foot.  The foot is nearly normal again.  All while increasing mileage and pace as part of my overall training schedule.

Fractures and other major injuries should be treated by medical professional and treated quickly.  The type of injury I write are the nagging issues with joints and muscle strain, like hip, knee, ankle, foot and back.  You have to study your body and your form.  Shoes don't dictate your running story.  Your body shape or size does not predispose you to any sort of future injury.  Doctors do not have every answer or any answers for that matter.  Only when you know how the body should move do you how to correct improper movement.  You owe it to yourself to take the time to learn about your body.  See what you are physically and learn how to become what you what to be.

My dream is to help anyone who asks to become a more confident runner.  I'm no trainer.  I am still learning about marathoning and conditioning and general health issues.  But if you want to run pain-free ask my how.