I’ve been running more lately to get in shape to train for a half marathon this fall. I found a new 4.2-mile route through Papago Park that I love, but it has more hills that I’m used to doing. Even though I’ve been diligent about my running form, my feet and legs hurt â€“ especially on my left side. When I roll the golf ball with my foot or roll The Stick across my lower legs, the pain is a 9 out of 10.
Last night I put the shin splint and plantar fasciitis applications on my left leg. They’re making the pain much more manageable. This morning I did a 4-mile run on a flatter route and the pain wasn’t as bad. Every day now I stretch my calves and arches multiple times at work and every night I use The Stick and foam roller on my lower legs. Thank goodness I’m a masochist because this stuff hurts.
The only downside of living in KT Tape again is I can’t be barefoot except when I’m in the shower. I wear socks all the time to help keep the tape in place longer â€“ even when I’m sleeping. The upside of living in Phoenix is it’s so warm at night that I don’t need covers in bed so there’s less of chance of snagging my tape on my sheets.
I hope stretching and running on flat ground for a few weeks will be enough to bring my pain under control. KT Tape is awesome, but I prefer not to live in it full-time, especially with my race being 4 months away.
I was so giddy and nervous to run again. Would I remember my new running posture? How will my pace compare to my last race? I love the energy of race expos – everyone’s friendly, helpful, and bubbling with anticipation for the race. I’d never done The Night Run before and didn’t know what to expect. I was definitely surprised by the number of people. A friend said he’d heard that there were 1800-1900 signed up for the race.
The race started after sunset at 7:30 p.m. Â We got glow bracelets in our goody bags but that was more being seen than being able to see. I was grateful for the police cars that blocked traffic with their lights flashing and the volunteers who waved multicolored light saber-esque sticks to guide us along the route.
The Night Run was a 5K and a 10K – one loop through the course for the 5K, two loops for the 10K. The first lap was super crowded. I weaved through the herd of people, fighting for a position where I could maintain my pace. Â The second lap was much more relaxed since there were only 705 people who opted to do the 10K.
My new running form felt great. I was more thoughtful about what my feet were doing when I started getting tired. That helped keep up my pace. I’ve been running 3-4 days a week for the last few months, but I’d only done one 6-mile run, and this was my first time really pushing myself for speed.
I love the playful competitiveness on the course. There were a handful of people around me and we went back and forth on who was the leader. I amused myself by staying right with a guy who was trying to pass me. I got the vibe that he didn’t want to be beaten by a girl. We switched places a few times during the race, and around Mile 4.5 he really seemed to want to get ahead of me. I kept up and egged him on by kicking up my speed so he’d have to run that much faster to hold his position.
Part of the race hand a strong head wind. It probably started around Mile 2/Mile 5. It was so windy it dried all the sweat on my face into a salty crust. My lips felt so chapped. And since this race was two loops, I got to experience this twice.
Somewhere around Mile 5.5, I almost started crying. I had the thought that my coach and mentor who died last year would have been really proud to see that I was back out running and happy after going through three months of physical therapy and the frustration of learning a new running form.
My goal was to finish the race in under an hour. I was ecstatic to see that I finished in 52:31.
I try not to care about where I place. Ultimately, running is about me competing against myself. I could to a personal best and finish last or have the worst race of my life and finish first. The real winning is with me – being prepared, running a solid race, pushing myself to leave everything I have on the course.
Somewhere along the race I asked myself if running was what I was supposed to be doing, and I think it is. There is something very satisfying about getting out and pounding pavement, and I genuinely enjoy the race experience.
So what’s next? I’m not exactly sure but the plan for now is to do the Rock â€˜n’ Roll Arizona Marathon in January 2015. Historically, they have a special on National Running Day in June so I’ll wait â€˜til then to register. Training for the race will start in early September. Â I might do another 10K or half marathon between now and then if I find the right opportunity, but we’ll see.
When I finished the 2013 Rock â€˜n’ Roll Half Marathon, I had excruciating pain in both shins and feet. I was pretty sure I had multiple stress fractures from shin splints and plantar fasciitis. My coach suggested I do some work on my running form before my next race to prevent these injuries from recurring. I thought he meant I should take a half-day interactive running seminar. I had no idea that I needed 10 weeks of physical therapy.
My physical therapist, Eric, filmed me running on the treadmill, from behind and from the side, with and without shoes. He showed me the footage in slow motion which clearly showed that I had a heel striking problem and that my hips were uneven when I took a step with my left foot. I had no kick on the back side of my stride, and I was barely picking up my feet, (which explains why I frequently trip on cracks in the sidewalk).
My physical therapy regimen included stretching, exercises to strengthen my legs, and ASTYM to break up the scar tissue in my lower legs. We also did exercises on proper running posture. It feels kinda dorky to practice going through the motions of running without actually running.
Once we got the scar tissue mostly broken up, I got to practice running with the new form. Eric started me on the Alter-G treadmill – it’s a treadmill with a built-in air bubble. I love this thing. It’s a great device for practicing new running form because you tell it how much of your weight you want to run on. He started me on 60% of my body weight and each session increased it by 10%.Â It gave me a chance to practice running on my toes without pounding on my joints.
The best part of running on the Alter-G treadmill was I was literally zipped into the air bubble so I couldn’t fall down when I tripped – and I tripped a lot. When we switched me the regular treadmill, I was petrified of tripping over my feet and falling – which thankfully didn’t happen.
After a few weeks of treadmill running, Eric finally cleared me to run in the real world again – just for a few miles. Eric told me to alternate between using the old running form and the new running form – one minute stretches of each – which I thought was weird until I started to run. Holy crap it hurt to run with the new form. I don’t think I’d really used my calves to run long distance before. Switching between the old form and new form gave those muscles a chance to rest a bit.
I worked up to running 3 miles every other day. I started giving equal time to the old form and new form and I’m slowly increasing the amount of time on the new form and decreasing how long I run on the old form. The new form is way more effective and doesn’t put as much pressure on my joints.
Eric’s re-checked my posture both visually and by videotaping me again and tweaked my new form a few times. He said I needed to kick more with my hamstrings on the back side of each stride. It feels like I’m trying to kick myself in the butt with each step, but I’m sure it looks normal to anyone watching. When my arch started hurting, he told me to stop pointing my feet when I run. I’m not used to picking my feet up and I think they’re reaching for the ground a bit, plus I was a gymnast for 17 years so pointing my toes is natural. Relaxing my foot is helping give me more of a mid-foot strike, and decreasing the pain in my arch. And thank goodness for that because Eric’s been massaging the crap out of it, which is excruciatingly painful. When he works on it, I grip the pillow and utter â€œJesus Christâ€ and â€œFuckâ€ through clenched teeth.
It’s so weird and mentally taxing to run – thinking about relaxing my foot on the front end and kicking my butt on the back side. I expect it will take years for my new running form to feel normal. It still hurts to run with the old form and new form but that will get better with time. I’m curious to see what this will do for my race time. My half marathon PR is 1:52 and that was with bad form and pain in both feet and shins. I’d love to see how much I improve with proper running posture.