As with most lessons that are learned the hard way, this one stung and completely changed my approach to running.
A few years after completing my first marathon, I started to notice a wave of friends focusing on this new goal: Boston Qualifying. While speed had never been a particular goal of mine, I was simply focused on running longer and enjoying it more, suddenly I thought it sounded like a good goal.
I dove headfirst into speed workouts and focused on a time goal that was probably outside of my reach. But hey “dream big,” right? After a few months of these workouts, I developed IT Band Syndrome.
My first injury after four years of running was literally a textbook case:
— Too much
— Too soon
— Not enough cross-training
Unfortunately, I did what many runners do with an injury. I continued to run, right up until I couldn’t even walk, which lead to a three-week hiatus from running in the month prior to my marathon.
As the weeks passed, I returned to running easy and lined up at the 2007 Rock ’n’ Roll San Diego Marathon ready to run against all the words of caution I’d received from experienced runners and my own better judgment.
Miles 1-12 flew by then we hit the graded incline to mile 13 and my IT Band began to scream. It wasn’t whispering slow down, it was screaming, “if you don’t quit this very instant I’ll make you pay.”
But I’d trained for months, I couldn’t possibly quit. So I began to walk. At first I was maintaining a 15-minute mile, but the pain continued to creep up and eventually I was limping along in an awkward half stride, half leg pull motion at a 22-minute mile.
In the moment, I felt victorious. I’d pushed through and persevered. Isn’t that what good runners do?
Turns out the answer is no, they do not.
They listen to the signals that their body is sending because it’s never about just one race, it’s about a lifetime of running. And as I learned that day, pushing too far doesn’t just mean one poor finish. It means three months of no running and lots of physical therapy.
The greatest thing about this injury was what I learned in those three months:
— 5 minutes daily of quick exercises can prevent injuries
— Dynamic warm-ups are worth the time
— I love running for the pure sake of running
— Audiobooks and podcasts are amazing ways to pass the time
These lessons have served me well over the last seven years and minus a few aches here and there, I haven’t been sidelined for more than a few days at a time!
For more on the Saucony 26 Strong program, which pairs up 13 coaches with 13 marathon rookies, visit 26Strong.com.