(photo by Martins Zemlickis on Unsplash)
Several years ago, I ran my first and only marathon. But I only trained for half a marathon. And that was a mistake. My knee pain began at the fifteen mile mark of that race. And that was also the end of my running career, as that was the start of my chronic knee pain.
The first twelve miles were a breeze. I purposely took it easy to save my energy for the second half. At the fifteen mile mark, I hit the wall. And the rest of the race was painful. With a few miles to go, my brother and a friend found me and ran with me. I was so exhausted that I would continually bump into each of them. I walked and stumbled through the last 1oo feet or so by myself, and did cross the finish line at mile marker 26.2.
And the timing of my solo trip to England the day after the marathon added to my pain and suffering as I hobbled around for ten days in Europe with a backpack on my back.
Later on, when I realized that my knee was not healing and that my running career was probably over, I went through a depression. For me there was no better feeling than running a race. I was forced to find other sports. Road biking, soccer (my childhood game) and ice hockey filled the running gap with no knee pain.
One of my favorite races was the Broad Street run in Philadelphia, where my brother briefly lived. We left his apartment expecting to take a subway to the race. But the subway was closed when we got there. We lucked out by finding the bus stop, and took the bus to the start. As soon as we got off the bus, we heard the starting gun shot. We instinctively ran from the bus through the starting line. We were literally the last runners to cross the starting line. I had a song in my head, was in the zone for the entire race, and kept passing runners left and right. I crossed the finish line strong at the ten mile mark, and felt great.
The reason I only trained for half a marathon is because my leg muscles got very tight during my training. I physically could not run anymore. Instead of delaying my marathon race into the future, allowing for rest, recovery, and better training methods, I chose to rest and run it anyway.
I had never run a marathon distance of 26.2 miles before. The longest race I ever did was a half-marathon, with 10k and 5k races my sweet spot.
A coworker who wanted to run a marathon, asked me if I wanted to participate. I said yes, and we trained together. But during one of our runs, my training partner twisted an ankle, and was out of commission. I continued training on my own, in a sense doing the race for both of us. That was part of my motivation to do the race, even though I really should have dropped out.
I have done limited running in recent times. And I would like to get back at it, in moderation. I plan to do some light weight lifting exercises that build up the muscles around the knees, and make stretching/yoga a regular routine. I have found that my body (and knees) enjoy short sprints around the local high school track. I have also been able to run short distances with no discomfort. Time will tell.
Lessons I learned:
Follow proper training methods. Marathon training plans are available. They reflect exactly how much to run (or rest) each day of training over several months.
The importance of Nutrition: water and sports drinks are not enough during long races and training runs. Easy to digest, nutrient dense foods are necessary too.
Stretching is very important after, and in between, workouts.
Listen to your body. Had I listened, I would not have run the race. Or I would have stopped running during the race.
What small steps can you implement to train smarter?