Running is hard. Training is hard work, logging countless miles, testing speed, stamina, endurance. But for me the only thing that’s harder is NOT running.
For the past 3 weeks I’ve been on the injury list. It’s one I’ve been on before, and I hate to say this time probably won’t be my last. My “injury of choice”? IT Band Syndrome. It flares up every so often and the only thing I’ve found will help me heal is to stop training and just patiently wait for the pain to stop.
Easier said than done. I’ve read all the research- running (and other exercise) can be an addiction, and I totally relate. When I’m running, I go through all of the addiction phases- withdrawals, depression, anger. It’s true, I am ferocious when I can’t get out for at least a couple miles every day. But with the IT Band, specialists have always advised me to just stay off of it, stretch, ice, and strengthen. So, I did.
The first week was a challenge- every day seeing Pam leave the office for her run, track workout, etc. Being injured in a marathon office is like being a diabetic in a candy store. To add to the frustration, I’d just signed up for 2 fall marathons- Portland and New York City. It was torture to resist training for the races, but I knew that if I didn’t take the time now, I’d be taking a lot more time off to heal later.
Since I couldn’t run, I did every other form of exercise that I love but sometimes neglect. I biked, hiked, did yoga, went kayaking, swam, and did strength training at the gym.
I took a week long vacation up in the mountains and it could not have come at a better time- being able to do all of these activities that I usually just skip to go for a run was kind of nice for a change. But, I was also tempted by the gorgeous running trails and running path along the lake. Finally, the last day of my trip, I went out to get some new gear and start fresh.
All of my cross-training had seemed to help with my injury and I wanted to be sure I got back into running steadily and with sturdy new shoes and inserts. I headed over to the local Fleet Feet and asked for the usual- Brooks Adrenalines in a Size 9 and some Green Super Feet. Tempted not to even try the shoes on (this is my 5th or 6th pair of this style and they’re pure magic), but they insisted I test them out on the treadmill. I’d originally planned to wait to run until I got back to San Francisco, but after hopping on and taking a few strides on the treadmill, I couldn’t wait to hit the trails. I was like a junkie, scrambling to get my gear and sunscreen on so I could get out the door. It wasn’t more than 30 minutes before I was soiling my fresh white shoes on the dusty path.
So I may not have resisted going out on the run, but I had learned my lesson during my 3 weeks off. I ran slowly, careful not to shoot off too fast, I walked the steep downhills- knowing that the impact would put me right back to where I’d been. I kept the distance short, focusing on the sights of the river and the sun setting over the rolling hills, the smell of the pine trees, and the sound of the birds and wind and my feet rhythmically shuffling along. It was a perfect first run back.
Now, back in San Francisco, I’m running more, building the miles back up slowly, and paying attention to stretching and cross training. I have to ease into “training” and focus on just running for now.