About running

About a year ago, I started running. I needed an exercise I could do simply by walking out the front door, so I went to my local running store, got fitted for shoes, picked up some cold weather gear, and took to the streets (I don’t run on a treadmill, ever. Those who know me well can guess why.).

I surprised myself pretty quickly by working my way up to a mile, then two, two and a half. The neighborhood is hilly, making the run interesting. I think it was the shin splints that hit first. I thought my biggest limitation would be cardiovascular but it turns out that builds up pretty quickly (so don’t give up!). I started icing my shins, rode the stationary bike between runs. The shin splints eventually left me alone.

Then came the knee.  At the end of my run as I tried to climb the steps into the house, my left knee would give way, sometimes painfully, sometimes not.  It got bad enough that I had to take a break from my early morning rendezvous with the neighborhood deer and my late night runs under the stars.

When it didn’t hurt, it felt so good, at least some of the time. Some runs would feel like flying, others like crawling through quicksand. It was the flying I dreamed about at night and searched for on the road.  The road is hard.  The road is cambered. The road kicked my ass.

I spent some time doing my own knee rehab, riding the stationary bike, doing some knee exercises, and staying off the road. Soon my knee got better. And I head back out on the road. And that led to a nice hiatus from running while I leaned the best ways to ice a knee (frozen peas).

I started to read. I talked to other runners (I almost typed “real runners”). I read more. Form, I decided, was probably more important than I thought. I had figured running is like breathing—there’s nothing to it. Except the way I was running was hurting me, and my breathing sucked. As my breathing got better, I headed back out, this time on the trail. I watched my feet, my body, my arms. I looked for ways to land further forward on my foot. My stride shortened up, any speed coming from stride turnover rate rather than length. I kept my knees a bit flexed, letting my other muscles protect them from impact trauma.

My knees loved it. The trail was beautiful. And my feet started to hurt. So did my lower legs.

It turns out that with an activity like running, taking the stress off one part simply puts it on another. If you can move the stress along before a part gives in, eventually, each strengthens.

My speed has been picking up lately. The trail is great in the fall, the hills feel effortless, sort of. And now my left ankle hurts. So do my shoulders; that one surprised me.

So I’ll rest my posterior tibial ligament, keep my shoulders loose, give it a few days rest, and hopefully be ready for the trail in a few day.

Running is learning: learning about the sport, learning about your body, learning about yourself. It’s worth it if you don’t mind getting hurt.


  1. lumbercartel

     /  November 12, 2012

    Fozen peas are OK, but during knee surgery rehab last year I discovered the serious pro-icing treatment: made for the purpose ice chest with pump, hoses, and a wrap. Put ice in the ice chest, add water, and turn on the pump which circulates water through the wrap.

    I went through over 40 pounds of ice every day until I was past that stage, and it was wonderful. I’d tell you the maker but the little darling is back in storage; with my joints and connective tissues I know I’ll be needing it again. Still, shouldn’t be all that hard to find them.

  2. I’ve been trying to run for almost 2 years. For me, it was my knee, then shin splints, then foot pain. I took a break and got hand me down running shoes from my sister. Started again. Then the anemia hit. Several months later my doc said I could try again and the foot pain came back. PA at Student said ligament. I rested again then fixed up my form but still had the pain. Finally got referred to an orthopedic guy who said my left foot is shorter than my right and gave me temporary orthotics. It’s helped but now my ankle hurts. But I love to run so I’m going to just keep figuring this stuff out. Other people make it seem so easy…

  3. Old Geezer

     /  November 12, 2012

    We all seem to think that we should be able to run naturally because, what the heck, we’ve been doing it since we were kids. If you watch kids run, however, you will note that they do it in short spurts and are generally rather gangly. Anyone who wants to be an efficient (pain-free) runner over any kind of distance really needs coaching in the basics of stride, movement and coordination. You wouldn’t enter any serious bicycle race just because “we all rode bikes as kids.” Running mechanics is vastly improved by even the slightest amount of objective input from someone who can diagnose and offer constructive critique.

  4. Lady Day

     /  November 13, 2012

    I always did better running on trails or on the grass next to roads/sidewalks. Running on natural turf is better for building ankle strength, anyway. The only risks are 1.) the occasional animal feces that one may not see in time to avoid and 2.) the occasional bump or hole in the ground that one may not see in time to avoid, either (risk of which can be minimized by walking the route and getting a little more familiar with it ahead of the run).

  5. So far I have an easier time on hard surfaces… the compacted dirt/pebbles/rocks trail that takes up part of my run requires some extra concentration and effort because of unevenness, but I can feel that it lessens impact. Anyway, there is nowhere natural to run near me….

  6. I am so proud of you for all the progress you’re making, dearest Pal. You’ve gone from BMITMI to stone cold fitnessdouchery! Next time I see you, maybe we can share a run and then the sandwich and the pickle!

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