When a Good Run Goes Bad

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Yesterday’s run was terrible.  Probably one of the worst I’ve ever had.  I don’t expect every run to be a glorious experience of physical perfection, but yesterday was about as far from that as possible.

It started out on the right track.  I had all of my clothes and gear laid out the night before and got to bed at a fairly decent time.  The alarm went off at 5:30 and it only took me a few seconds to decide to get out of bed.  (Yes, 5:30.  In the morning.  When it is still dark, and smart people are still sleeping.  If I want to squeeze in a long run and get back before my family is stirring, that’s what it takes.)  I laced up my shoes and hit the road.

I took the first two miles at a slow pace, trying to work through any stiffness that had accumulated during the few days of rest since my 10K race.  I felt a little clunky and off-balance, but that happens sometimes.  It’s typical to take a few miles to get warmed up…or so I thought.

But by the end of mile three (and after wrong turn that forced me to backtrack a quarter-mile) my entire left knee and hip had tightened up.  It felt like my left leg weighed 10 pounds more than my right, and was getting heavier by the minute.  Since I was running an out-and-back route, I had to make a decision.  Keep pushing to the 4.5 mile turnaround point (for my planned 9 miles total), or cut it short and start heading back early.

Thankfully my brain overruled my ego and I turned around, because things kept going downhill.   My side cramped up so badly I had to stop running, and even walking was painful.  It was the first time I’ve ever considered calling my husband to come and pick me up, or even knocking on the door of a friend that lives along my route and begging for mercy.  But I kept moving forward, slowly, until I could finally pick it up to what felt like a snail’s pace.

The last two miles was a slow and stiff plod, but I kept putting one foot in front of the other.  I was so mentally focused … but instead of my usual concern about pace, it was now a matter of getting home in one (uninjured) piece.  Let me tell you, the paper box at the end of my street was never such a welcome sight!  I had to restrain myself from kneeling down to wrap my arms around the morning edition of the Chronicle-Telegram in a grateful embrace.

But as I reached home, the euphoria of survival wore thin and I started feeling sorry for myself.  I had fallen short of my goal and only completed seven miles, which was not what my training plan called for.  And then it hit me.  Only seven miles?  Since when is seven miles something to be disappointed in?  And my pace for this seemingly disastrous run, including all of the walking/jogging/limping, was still faster than what my racing pace was last spring over a much shorter distance.

I’m glad I was reasonable enough to slow down and cut my run short, living to run another day, instead of trying to be a hero and ending up with a more serious injury.  (That whole “no pain, no gain” idea is a really bad idea!)  Thankfully, after a little ice and ibuprofen, I’m feeling ok.  Hopefully it was just a result of taking too many days off and then jumping back in to a long run, in combination with slacking off on my stretching and cross-training.  Lessons learned!

No matter how carefully we plan, sometimes good runs go bad.  But giving up is not an option.  So tomorrow morning, I’ll lace up my shoes and hit the road again … carefully.

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