Sunday, February 06, 2005

Injury time

There have been no posts for a few days due to a computer meltdown. Somehow Windows managed to completely garble itself and in the end would not open at all. I have just spent most of the weekend repairing it and then uninstalling and reinstalling drivers and some programs, Now that is all finished life can resume again - except for one very important detail - the running.

Now I might have given the impression that this blog is written by a runner. It is not. It is written by an injured runner - a completely different sort of being. Injured runners are full of envy and frustration and tend to feel rather stupid because they know that mostly their injury was caused by lack of proper care (well at least this one does). The depths of my stupidity are rather frightening and I am embarrassed to admit to them but have to, if only to show what happens when you break almost all of the golden rules.

Mistakes of the Amateur part 1 - Getting injured

Rule No 1 - Do not change what works
I have always been forefoot striker, wearing cushioned shoes and running mostly off road, with very little hill work. This has been good and I have felt easy and relaxed doing this. However I have a tendency to tinker with things. I became quite interested in the threads on POSE (mainly because it seemed to be quite similar to my native style) and the idea that to run this way properly you needed to be as close to barefoot as possible. I thus followed a wave of enthusiasm for Puma H Streets and bought a pair of shoes that are no more that a soft mesh top stuck onto a thin strip of rubber. I took them for a jog round the park and found their lightness entertaining.

I had also been thinking that the lack of hills in my training was a weakness. At Abingdon I had no strength in the last 5 miles and I thought this was not only due to too few training miles but also to a lack of hill work.

Rule No 2 - Introduce change gradually.
OK I did give the shoes a short break-in but their arrival coincided with the plan to change the training, so the next run was a long, on a hilly route and all on pavements. So 3 things were changed at once breaking the scientific rule of of only changing one variable at a time.

The run felt fine but there was a problem running down some rather steep slopes. My usual way is to go floppy and run heel first. With these unpadded shoes I did not feel like doing this and ended up putting tremendous strain on my calves.

Rule 3 - Listen to your body
Although this is obvious I was in a state of denial. When I felt a little pain in my left shin I still went for the planned 45 minutes at steady pace (albeit on the flat). I thought that the way I ran should have been protected me against injury (thinking that is classified under the heading of pathetic fallacy) and that the twinges would be run off and amount to nothing. The first part was almost right but as soon as I stopped I knew that the left leg was a bit of a mess and I could not deny a classic case of shin splints.

Mistakes of the Amateur part 2 - Impatience

Rule 4 - come back gradually
I rested for a couple of weeks and things felt OK, not fully normal but OK. Instead of trying to build up my mileage gradually. I went straight back into my schedule as if nothing had happened. After a rather tough long run I knew this was an error. The result was a bit more rest and then a period of managing the running - just doing what I could. But all the time the twinges never fully went away.

Rule 5 - Don't make the same mistake twice
I then had flu and did not run for two weeks. This had two consequences. The first was that my leg felt quite a lot better because of lack of use. The second was that I was increasingly anxious about my lack of training. My plan was to run the Lochaber marathon and be in as good a shape as possible. But the running had been messed up and I felt out of condition. I felt I had to get back as quickly as possible. As a result I repeated my error and ran too far too fast and now my shin is still hurting.

Mistakes of the Amateur part 3 - Consequences

You cannot lie to your body - it does not understand the wordsyou use to try to convince yourself. If it is hurt and you tell it is not it will reply with a shrug and say 'suit yourself, play your own games but I will not be party to your delusions'. My state of denial only made things worse so I now have to be realistic.

The Lochaber marathon was a big thing for me - it was one of my targets for the year, something I wanted to do feeling that I had prepared properly. Now I know that this is impossible. There is no way I can put in the necessary miles. I now have a new strategy: rest for a couple of weeks, cross training, and then getting back very gradually ( 3 miles 3 times a weeks and the upwards only when I think everything is fine). The long term is more important than one race and I want to make sure that I do not blow up and then give up.

I think that the essence o f running is continuity - and I have to find a way to maintain that. On Friday (when i made the decision to give up on Lochaber) I was incredibly low about quitting. However over the weekend I have come to believe that I am being positive - I am committing myself to the long term.

Reason No 11 for running: One race doesn't matter


bz said...

Im sorry about lochaber-would have likd to meet you
but you are right
we are in this for the long term
not for us the frantic training for one marathon, then thats all

I think its why i dont get injured
i just keep plodding on

(and hating myself for being so slow)

beanz said...

Thanks for this - I should listen to my body too!!

Hope I have not left it too late.

Highway Kind said...


I was looking forward to meeting at Lochaber but there will be other races.

I think that your way of steady progress is the correct way and I have great admiration for your consistency. I really believe that speed does not matter - it is the act of running at a comfortable pace for a longish time that is transforming.

Now that I have decided to quit I feel much more relaxed and believe I will now get better. Before I had lost faith in my body's ability to heal itself. It just show how anxiety can distort things.

Highway Kind said...


It sounds from your blog that you are making good progress but make sure you are healed.

My problem was that I was trying to keep up milage whilst telling myself the the leg was OKish and not really getting much worse etc etc. It was never fully better but I could keep going. Last week I suddenly realised that this was stupid.