I’m not the fastest runner, but my ego suggests otherwise.
Training for my fifth marathon, I was working out ten times a week. Five of those were runs, three were HIIT classes and two were yoga classes. On each run, instead of including one speed day, I was pushing myself harder and faster each day. Every time was a chance for a PR and if I didn’t attain that goal, I was irritated.
After over a month of pushing myself, it happened. About half an inch above my left ankle, there was a slight twinge I felt when I walked. Being the stubborn runner I am, I still stuck to my training schedule. More appropriately, my overtraining schedule.
Later that weekend, before a long run, I grudgingly promised my boyfriend/sherpa that I would stop at three miles if the pain persisted. And it persisted, alright. Defeated, I walked back home and took then next day off.
I waited two weeks before I saw an orthopedic doctor, who was also a runner. I took her advice by buying insoles, an ankle brace, and KT Tape. I iced the spot multiple times a day and divided up my long runs into shorter ones.
Unfortunately, the pain persisted and ended up turning into shin splints. Having not experienced this since high school, I took two weeks off all exercise. Those 14 days dragged on longer than I wanted them to. I felt frustrated, anxious, and worthless. I then made one of the most difficult decisions of my brief time as a runner: I downgraded from the marathon to a half marathon.
Ironically enough, those two weeks off were what I needed both physically and mentally.
It was an essential swift kick in the ass. I missed running more than ever, and realized that if I wanted to run till I’m elderly, I need to listen to my body. I need to respect running. Running doesn’t owe me anything, but I owed my body the rest it needs.
I slowly but surely started training again at three times a week. I crossed trained only three times a week with yoga and one HIIT class; my two-a-days were eliminated completely. There was one rest day with no physical activity, which I did not have prior. Stretching was mandatory, not optional, and occurred after every run.
Fast forward to race day. It was a brisk, cool day in early November. As much as I yearned for a sub two hour race and PR, I understood that this was a recovery race and the goal was just to finish.
I started with a smile on my face and ended with an even bigger one. My time was 1:55:03 (it would have been 1:54:39 had I not stopped to pee, but nature calls). I ran for enjoyment, slowing down for a brief 5 seconds when I felt a stitch in my side. Listening to my body during training and the race led to a goal I did not think was attainable at that time. I went on to PR at both a 10K (51:11) and 5K (24:10) later that month, totaling three personal bests for me in 30 days. I reached faster speeds in less time, with less pain.
I can truly attest that less running is more for me, and will follow through for my fifth upcoming marathon in Berlin.
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