Out There: The Knead To Run

After 90 minutes on the massage table, Susan Lacke is ready for a nap. Photo: Competitor.com

A visit to the massage therapist isn’t always the most pleasant experience, but it does put us back together.

There’s a constant ache in my lower back. The arches of my feet hurt when I step out of bed each morning, my IT band is stretched tighter than Joan Rivers’ face, and I yelp in pain every time something pokes my hamstrings. So what’s this pitiful runner with a wonky limp to do?

The answer: Pay someone $60 to poke said hamstrings—repeatedly and with excessive force.

Forget hill repeats and vomit-inducing speed workouts—nothing exemplifies a runner’s grit better than when he’s naked and face down in a cushioned donut. If you’ve taken an elbow to the IT band, you know this is true.

The runner’s massage is not a Zen experience. There are no plush robes, nor candlelit waiting rooms. The classical music piped into the room is only there to drown out the soft whimpers of a runner who refuses to cry, “Uncle.” And yes, it is a game of Uncle—only instead of being put in a headlock by your big brother, there’s a grimacing Dick Butkus look-alike with his thumbs in your Achilles tendon.

The framed diplomas on the wall aren’t fooling me—I’m certain my massage therapist really learned her technique at Ye Olde Medieval Torture School.

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Even if the bodywork experience were a peaceful, lavender-scented event, I’m not sure I could actually relax. There are too many thoughts running through my head:

Did she notice I forgot to shave my legs? Are the bottoms of my feet gross? Is she going to do that thing with her elbow? Gosh, I hope she doesn’t do that thing with her elbow. Can she hear my growling stomach? Does she think that was a fart? Crap, she’s doing that thing with her elbow. SHE’S DOING THAT THING WITH HER ELBOW! Don’t cry, soldier. Buck up. Never surrender!

Relaxing? I suppose, in a backward way. After 90 minutes on the massage table, I need a nap.

When I exit the studio, I exchange a knowing glare with the nervous runner in the waiting room: You can do it, buddy, I whisper telepathically. I believe in you. We are comrades now, or we will be, as soon as he goes through the same experience.

So why do we subject ourselves to such insanity? Because the right massage therapist can undo all the things we do to ourselves in training. After a good massage, the IT band is agreeable once more, the feet stop hurting and the wonky limp suddenly disappears. It’s nothing short of magic. Black magic, maybe, but magic nonetheless.

Which is why, when all is said and done, we offer up $60 and a “thank you for poking my hamstrings.”

And then we dig out another $20—a tip for that thing with her elbow.

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About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke

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