As with most lessons that are learned the hard way, this one stung. It was a wake up call to my invincibility and eventually required me to put my pride to the side if I ever wanted to run healthy.
A few years after completing my first marathon in 2007, a wave of friends began focusing on this new goal: Boston Qualifying. While speed had never been a particular goal of mine, I was simply focused on running longer and enjoying it more, suddenly I thought it sounded like a good goal.
I dove head first in to speed workouts and focused on a time goal that was probably outside of my reach. But hey “dream big”, right? After a few months of these workouts, I developed IT Band Syndrome.
My first injury after 4 years of running was literally a textbook case:
- Too much
- Too soon
- Not enough cross training
Unfortunately, I did what many runners do with an injury. I continued to run, right up until I couldn’t even walk, which lead to a 3 week hiatus from running in the month prior to my marathon. Lesson 1: That old adage is around for a reason, we have to give the body time to adapt
Lesson 2: Discomfort vs pain
RACE DAY MAKES IT WORSE
As the weeks passed, I returned to running easy and lined up at the 2007 Rock N Roll San Diego Marathon ready to run against all the words of caution I’d received from experienced runners and my own better judgment.
Miles 1-12 flew by then we hit the graded incline to mile 13 and my IT Band began to scream. It wasn’t whispering slow down, it was screaming “if you don’t quit this very instant I’ll make you pay”.
But I’d trained for months, I couldn’t possibly quit. So I began to walk. At first I was maintaining a 15 minute mile, but the pain continued to creep up and eventually I was limping along in an awkward half stride, half leg pull motion at a 22 minute mile.
In the moment, I felt victorious. I’d pushed through and persevered. Isn’t that what good runners do?
Turns out the answer is no, they do not.
INJURED RUNNERS GET SMARTER
They listen to the signals that their body is sending because it’s never about just one race, it’s about a lifetime of running. And as I learned that day pushing too far doesn’t just mean one poor finish it means 3 months of no running and lots of physical therapy.
The greatest thing about this injury was what I learned in those 3 months. Lessons 3-6
Physical Therapy: Turns out this isn’t just for injuries, it’s actually one of the keys to preventing it! PT focuses on ingraining good movement patters and strengthening week areas. 5 minutes daily of quick PT exercises can prevent injuries.
Warm-Up: Dynamic warm-ups are worth the time. Not only have studies shown it can allow you to run farther easier, but of course injury prevention!!
Double duty:I love to spend time thinking on long runs, but while I spent months walking for hours to recover I realized that it was a great time to get inspired, motivated and smarter as well! Audiobooks and podcasts are amazing ways to pass the time, checkout my favorites.
Mental Pain: During one of those podcasts, I learned about the idea of physical pain being caused by our thoughts and that has been a game changer. Read all about that here.
These lessons have served me well over the last seven years and minus a few aches here and there, I haven’t been sidelined for more than a few days at a time!
I know how hard too much, too fast, too soon is not to do as I’ve watched myself peel back runner after runner that I’m coaching from making the same mistakes. While the lessons I learned have helped me tremendously, they really are avoidable from the get go!
Final lesson: I love running for the pure sake of running and sometimes that is all that matters. My pride may want the PR for all my efforts, but my heart prefers knowing I have a long running life ahead of me.
What’s the worst running injury you’ve had?
Did it make you a better runner?
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