Written 6th of October 2014
Soon after my second Half Marathon finish
Until this weekend, I really did not know what I was doing. I have run two half marathons and I still know nothing. Ok that is a bit harsh, change that to ~ I know next to nothing!
That picture you see, the smiling happy one at the finish line? It belies all the pain and the looong road to get to the FINISH. Honestly, looking at someone’s finish line photo does not give anyone an idea, not an iota of what went on behind the run ~ the gruelling hours of pounding the pavement. If the finisher completed a half marathon, he/she would have averaged 20Ks every single week for at least 12 weeks of training. And a full marathon? That runner with such relief and joy at the finish line ran over 40Kms+ for 4 to 5 months just to get to the start line. 40Kms is like 4 to 6 hours every week on the road ~ solitary, enduring, and oh so lonely. But this is what makes runners happy. The suffering on the road, and the endorphin rush at the end of a long run.
I had no idea.
So we talked about weekly mileage during training. There are also injuries that plague an average runner unless one is a superman or wonder woman. What a noob I was. I thought I can just get up on Saturday mornings, lace up, and fly the heck out into the road. Sure, that is the right idea, if I was doing just a 5K every week. But once I tried to increase my mileage, say to a 10K, my knees started to ache, my ankles were in pain, I experienced stomach stiches, my shins hurt, even my butt was now sore! I felt my age, like a lola (grandma)! And what about my breathing? I huffed and I puffed like the magic dragon!
So I started reading up, I subscribed to Runner’s World magazine, I trawled Youtube and I immersed myself in figuring out what I was doing wrong. In the meantime, I had great difficulty walking. So I decided to see a physiotherapist for the first time. My physiotherapist wanted me to return for at least 3 sessions, then like magic, my pain would go away. Only to return after another long run. In the meantime, the expenses pile up!
So I bought a foam roller, I learned how to use kinesio tape on my knees, I even bought all sorts of contraptions to support different parts of my legs ~ Hello compression apparel (compression socks, calf sleeves and full length tights). I even braved ice baths, risking hypothermia, because I’ve read that ice baths assist in muscle repair (read: prevent lactic acid build up). I visited another specialist called a podiatrist, because I thought perhaps I was wearing the wrong shoes. What is overpronation and underpronation again? I spent hundreds of dollars buying more than one pair of running shoes because I’ve read that I must rotate at least two pairs during training. And why not get a third pair, preferably of a different make, just in case! And yes, I better get one of those fancy Garmin watches. I gotta have the correct time and statistics so I can obssess over my split times and speed charts! After all, I love facts and figures. Oh, and I also devoured all the running books that I could get my hands on!
Did you think running was a cheap sport? I thought the same. You just go and run, right? No membership required, they said. But then I decided to sign up to a gym because I needed to attend yoga (be flexible), Pilates (core strong), lift weights (stronger arms to keep swinging for the length of time required!), ride bikes (stronger legs)… and on and on it goes. All of which are necessary if I wanted to improve my time, endure and stay in one piece, unbroken.
This is “the process”, the real journey, the “behind the scenes”, of every finish line photo.
I haven’t even shared the social and relationship impacts of “the process”. After all, before we decided to become runners, we were doing something else… What happened to all those things that we were doing? Did we suddenly drop the ball? Did we suddenly make time out of thin air? Is anyone being neglected while we selfishly went on our long training runs? Is the family dynamic suffering? Or did we watch less TV? How did the long runs fit in the family weekend schedule? The family life changes, big time, to accomodate every finisher’s dream! So it’s not just us who is involved in the process. Friends and family don’t see us while we chase our selves!
The story continues…
After getting two medals under my belt but still running “lost”, all my readings came together suddenly. One day, the planets aligned and I finally found a physiotherapist who is a runner herself. She subsequently told me things that I have been reading here and there. Things like running to a cadence of 180 beats per minute by using a metronome; or the correct running posture of bending from the ankle and not the waist; or elongating my body by keeping my head and chest up and not hunching down when tired. I needed a real person’s advise to make all the (confusing) pieces come together in my head. My runner-physio/running muse turned on a switch that cast a bright glowing light into my running future. More of the Rachel (my physio’s name) story in another piece that I haven’t written yet.
Finally, Rachel showed me how to correctly self-massage and what muscle points to target. Since then, I have some semblance of injury management. I can now “fix myself” while on the run. When I feel a slight niggling knee pain, I simply adjust my form into the correct posture then the pain fades away like magic! It’s unbelievable really. I don’t mean that I am now invinsible, it is just that I have reduced my injury tendencies by a significant factor.
I now know something.
From here, I can only grow and expand. I can start again on a clean slate. It’s like going back to square one. I feel blessed to be allowed to start over again.
I start over again with humility, excitement and brightness!
UPDATE: My third Half Marathon was the best run I had. I had no cramping, no side stitches, and no knee issues. For the first time, my run went according to plan with a new Personal Best time to boot, besting my old time by 11 minutes (massive in running terms)!