Three years ago, I was training to run a marathon using Jeff Galloway's system -- taking walking breaks, increasing distance by one mile per week, and two weeks between long runs after passing 10 miles. I made it to 13.1 miles with a seriously stiff and sore leg at the end -- but I made it. Two weeks later, I ran 15.0 miles, but was stiff and sore the entire second half of the run. Two weeks after that, I had to stop midway through my long run due to serious pain, and my marathon training attempt was over.
It took visits to two different orthopedists, and finally buckling down and going to physical therapy, but this year my leg finally started to feel better. When I went to Paris last month, I decided to exercise by running instead of buying overpriced day passes to do cardio work in Parisian gyms. My runs were short, but enough to convince me that I might be able to take up running again on a regular basis. I did more running the following week in Orlando, felt great, and my decision was made.
I'm in Charleston for New Year's weekend, and while researching before my trip down, found a rail-to-trail conversion, the West Ashley Greenway -- 10.5 flat miles of packed dirt, unlike the jarring sidewalks on which I usually run. I went out for a 14.0 mile run this morning, and honestly, I was a bit nervous about it given my injury history -- 14.0 miles would be right up in the territory where I hurt myself before.
I shouldn't have been nervous. Though I had some ankle issues, they weren't severe, and my troublesome knee was no trouble at all. I finished my run without any major problems, and a full 54 seconds per mile faster than my 15.0 mile run three years ago. A marathon seems a distinct possibility in 2006.
What have I learned so far from this experience?
- Don't ignore pain. It's your body's way of telling you something's wrong, and it's not going to get better on its own.
- Don't underestimate the value of physical therapy. A good therapist can teach you exactly what to do to correct your problems.
- Don't give up! Life is full of second chances. I seriously thought I would never have another shot at running a marathon. I'm not there yet, but based on how good I felt after my run today, I'm closer than I've ever been.