The Hazards of Running

Runners are prone to injuries because of the constant pounding their legs, feet and knees are subject to.  Picture a grand piano dropped from a second story window, which then bounces upward as though tied to a bungee cord and is then dropped –  again  (I don’t know of any scientific studies which have actually tested this theory but then I don’t know how to play the piano either).

That’s what it’s like – or so I’ve heard. In the year and a half I’ve been at this game, I have never been injured (though I hesitate to admit that to both of my regular readers – my mother being one of them – because saying a certain has never happened to you is a guarantee that it will happen to you – except in the case of being named People Magazine’s Sexiest Woman Alive). Runners suffer injuries with names like: Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, bone spurs, iliotibical band syndrome, shin splints and bursitis.

common-running-injuries

I attribute my excellent running health to the fact that I have no idea where any of these body parts – or their associated injuries – are. When I’ve felt an ache or pain, I just attributed it to malaria, the bubonic plague or an enlarged prostate.

A friend of mine, who knows about such things, told me that since I didn’t start running until my mid-50s and my joints, tendons and knees are still intact, I may very well have 30 years of running ahead of me.

I just laughed. After all, I intend to qualify for the Boston Marathon one day. I figure that at my current pace, I’ll finally reach a qualifying time (which increases by age) by the time I’ve turned 106.  Which is actually some 40 years of running ahead of me.

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Last week I logged only 12 miles – an 8 and a 4 mile run – because of afternoon obligations and – call me crazy – an inability to rise at 5:00 a.m. before work 5:00 to go out in the 40 degree temperature to run. I did set my alarm but when it went off I pretended it was the starter’s gun and ran my half in my dreams.

Death and Couches

I thought I was gonna die - Rosanne Rosannadana

I’ve been a cerebral runner for 30+ years, meaning I’ve thought about it a lot and watched the Summer Olympics on tv. I would snack on a Costco-sized jar of Nutella with a ladle spoon -oh hell, it was a ladle – and if I felt particularly thoughtful, I’d add a dollop of peanut butter with a front loader. I enjoyed my career, but I wasn’t getting any product endorsements, at least not from any manufacturers whose products didn’t arrive in plain brown wrapping.

Then last year I learned about a little program called Couch to 5K. (Note: if you don’t own a couch, do not even THINK about using this program.  Go get your own damn running program). It’s a download from the App Store (listen to me, all Google-this and Google-that) and it takes you through an eight week regimen mixing walking and running. You plug your earbuds into your IPhone, turn off the Henry Mancini orchestra and off you go!

I had the choice of 3 or 4 voices to talk me through the program: a sweet American-accented woman named Heather, a drill sergeant, an Aussie rancher and Hedvig, a German hausfrau who did not suffer fools gladly (or so she told me). In the end I chose Heather, because we had the most in common and I figured I could sweet talk her into bathroom breaks.

On week 1 the program dictated 30 minutes of walk-run, starting with a 5 minute walk warm-up, followed by half a minute of running, one minute of walking, another half minute of running, rinse and repeat until the final 5 minute walk cool down. This was to be repeated 3x a week, with an least one day in between for carbo loading (see “Nutella” and “front loader” above). The next week – and in successive weeks – the walk time decreased and the run time (or the “agony,” as I like to call it) increased.

As the late, great political commentator Rosanne Rosannadana once said, “Ah thought Ah was gonna die.” And that was just bending over to lace up my running shoes.

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I logged 19.2 miles this week (Sunday through Saturday) which is fairly prolific for me. Not all runs are created equal, though, so I’ll describe each of this week’s runs below:

Monday – 3 mile negative run. This means that I ran each successive mile faster than the previous mile. This kind of run is supposed to be good for me, developing some skill or another, but I have no idea what.

Tuesday – 3 miles of “fartleks” (which means “speed play” in some Scandinavian language). You run at whatever speed you want then suddenly accelerate, decelerate and accelerate again in no particular order and for as long or as short as you want. Again, I have no idea why this type of run is a good idea, but apparently it is.

Thursday – 5 slow (are there any other kind in my world?) sweet miles, absolutely my favorite type of workout.

Friday- 5 slow

Saturday – 3 sorta, kinda, a little faster than normal miles on the local Catholic school track.  This type of run is also known as the “I’ve already run 15 this week but want to get closer to 20 because I like round numbers” run.

Starting Line

I’ve committed to running a half marathon six months from now because I’ve been reading a ton of inspirational women’s magazines (like Cosmo) advising me to follow my dreams AND buy a push-up bra and because I want my funeral eulogy (currently scheduled for mile 11.5) to be more meaningful than simply praising my killer tilapia. And remembering that I used a lot of run-on sentences.

A half marathon – or half, as we elite runners like to call it – is 13.1 miles. I’ve been running for about a year and a half now and I’ve already “conquered” the 5K (3.1 miles), 8K (about 5) and the 10K (6.2, though in this case “conquered” gives a whole new meaning to the word, well, “conquer.”). In training, I’ve run 7+ miles. Very slowly I might add.

I’ve been told that to run 13.1 miles one need train for “only” 10 miles, and then the cheering of the crowd (if there’s any semblance of a crowd left when I reach the 10 mile point) and adrenaline will carry me along.  I have the distinct feeling that it might be an ambulance carrying me along for those last 3 miles, but work with me here please.

My half takes place on May 1. That gives me plenty of time to train, procrastinate, whine and, if I’m really lucky, break one or both of my legs.

I’d like to thank my very supportive friends at the Facebook group Women Who Run the World (cue Sally Fields at the Oscars.  Or the Emmys.  Or the Country Music awards.  I can’t remember which). They answer all my questions, like whether or not it’s appropriate to bring along a personal chef or sports psychologist or even the CBS Evening News to the race, without making me feel like the rank beginner I am (“Of COURSE, EVERYONE wonders about that at their first half”). This group includes some very accomplished runners and I appreciate their support more than they will ever know.

So that’s what I’m doing – a little project to keep me busy this winter. If you see me running away from you, don’t take it personally. I’ll eventually trip over my own two feet and then we can chat.