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Confessions of a really slow and often achy runner October 2, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in running.
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This month marks three years since I started running.  In May of 2011, I walked a 10k with older son with very little training, and we had great fun doing it.  This was already a big step for me because when I had moved back from Minneapolis the previous year, I’d been having so many problems with asthma and my health in general that I was walking about 2 miles per hour.  That’s all the faster I could go.  After a year of training, I was up to 3 miles per hour.  While that’s a huge improvement, I wanted to be able to go faster, so I started looking on the internet for training plans.

There was a couch-to-5k app, so I figured I could be done with that by Christmas and then start on the 5k to 10k bridge app and be ready to go for next year.  Three weeks into the couch-to-5k app, I started having awful knee pain.  I went into the doctor, and it was basically tendonitis.  They suggested that I not run, just walk.  I was angry when I left.

I didn’t know what to do, so I sat around for a week.  Then I decided to try again and found my knees didn’t hurt.  So early on in this process, my body and I had a talk: we agreed that my body does pretty much what I want it to, and I don’t push it very hard and give lots of rest time.  So when I started having aches and pains after another two weeks in the couch-to-5k, I took another week off.  All told, it took me twelve weeks to do a 9 week program.  I later heard of people who do every week twice.

I realized very early on that most training plans are not going to work for me and that my body needs a lot more rest than most people.  Even when training to do half marathons, I do not run more than three times per week and very often I will only run twice per week.  I always give myself two days of rest after any run that is longer than six miles.  I also give myself two weeks between runs that are longer than eight miles.  In the winter, I don’t run outside if it’s below 20 degrees: I can’t warm myself up enough to make running comfortable, and my asthma acts up.  I use the treadmill for short runs and run at an indoor track for long runs.  (Fortunately, the local high schools have tracks that are open to the public during the winter.)  I’ve found that I don’t really progress well on the treadmill, but it at least keeps my cardio stable.

I know that a lot of people would look at that and scratch their heads, probably saying they’d never progress on a schedule like that.  Maybe not, but I guess I would amend that to say that they would not progress very quickly.  A year after I walked the 10k, I did it again and ran the whole thing.  My pace was 16.5 min/mile and I cut 20 minutes off my time.  I also developed tendonitis in my ankle and had to get custom orthotics.

Shortly after that, I found out about the Jeff Galloway run/walk method.  The following year, I used the run/walk method with a 1:1 ratio of running to walking.  I cut another 15 minutes off my time and dropped my pace to 14 min/mile.

After that, I decided to try doing a half marathon.  That was incredibly trying.  First, I made the mistake of using Jeff Galloway’s ‘magic mile’ in the middle of my training.  I discovered my pace had improved enough to go to a 2:1 running/walking split.  Between that and buying a completely different brand of shoe, I gave myself shin splints.  I have discovered that changing time splits, at least for me, should be done very gradually.  I also discovered that I was better off doing very different splits for my long runs versus my short runs.  When I did my first half marathon this summer, I walked 1:30 for every minute I ran.  I gradually shortened that up for the second half marathon so that I walked 1:15 for every minute run.  I am currently in the process of dropping that ratio by 5 seconds per month on the walking side.  By next spring, I will be at the same ratio for my short runs: walk 30 seconds for every minute run.

During this process, I found out that I have to pay attention to fueling.  If you run as slow as I do, it takes a LONG time to finish a half marathon, and I discovered what bonking was.  I also found out that I needed more rugged orthotics to handle the longer runs.  Finally, I found out that I need a month between races.  I considered doing another half marathon next weekend, but I realized this week that I’m not fully recovered from my previous half marathon.  When I run, I run at whatever pace is comfortable.  I find that when I’m feeling well, I run faster.  When I’m not, such as this week because I’m still recovering from the half marathon I ran a week and a half ago, my pace just naturally drops.  I actually ran a 5k at a slower pace yesterday than I ran a half-marathon a week and a half before, and that was after a week of just walking to help myself recover.

I promised not to push myself too hard, and pace and achiness are both really good ways to tell how I’m doing.

Admittedly, a lot of my progression is probably due to discovering that I have celiac disease and going on a gluten-free diet two years ago.  However, I went from a pace of 30 minutes per mile four years ago to under 13 minutes/mile now.  I also managed to drop by resting heart rate by nearly 20 bpm, which is a good indicator of how much better I’m doing.

It’s agonizingly slow…probably too slow for most people to do keep it up.  The running improvements are like a house remodel: they take a while and involve at least a little planning.  🙂  The time improvements are just a benefit, though.  I found that I really enjoy running, particularly as a form of stress relief.  I used to try to convince myself to run because I wanted to be healthy.  After a couple weeks, though, I found that I didn’t have to convince myself because I really enjoyed having time to myself and, more importantly, I noticed how much calmer I felt when doing it.  I am not running to get faster: I’m running to feel better, and when you do something because it feels good, it’s easy to want to keep doing it.  That’s probably the only reason I’ve managed to keep it up over three years, even with a lot of achy, sore days.

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Comments»

1. Anandi Raman Creath (@anandi) - October 2, 2014

This is great!! It’s been 9 years since I ran and I kind of miss it, but jumping right into Couch to 5K this summer was disastrous. It was too hard and I got discouraged. I’m thinking of designing myself a pre-Couch to 5K 6 week program to “work up” to being able to run a minute straight 😀

I love that you are taking it easy and listening to your body and not giving in to our culture’s incessant pressure of “harder, better, faster” etc.

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