Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Runners' Playlist of Hurtin' Songs

"Patience is also a form of action" - Auguste Rodin

The biggest hits on the Runners' Hurtin' Songs Playlist often shuffle back onto replay if you aren't attentive to your body's signals. Achy Breaky Achilles is a chart topper, for sure. While My Plantar Gently Weeps is the most understated of titles if things go bad. And don't download any of the IT Band's headbanger stuff, because it ain't fun at all.

To run or not to run. Is that little pain in your heel a signal that you have developed a debilitating case of Plantar Fasciitis, or is it just the result of running a couple of miles more than you ought to have done yesterday? Is your heartbeat unacceptably high, or is that just Your Normal? These questions are part of a runner's life, and how you deal with them is the trick to how successful your running career will be.

I was constantly beset by Achilles related pains when I first started running. I was doing a lot of things wrong; wearing shoes down to the nub, ramping up mileage far too quickly, striding incorrectly... I was essentially the Runner's Anti Manual. But as I started to listen to the advice of veteran runners, my doctor, masseuse, physiotherapist, I started to correct some of my most glaring mistakes.

Listen to your body. If you have pain, there is a reason. You will learn to understand different aches and pains from experience, from research, from professionals such as doctors and physical therapists, and from fellow runners. And ultimately, you - yes, you - have to decide whether you are going to run or not.

Give yourself time to heal, avoid doing blatantly unwise things that will hamper your progress, but whatever you do, don't stop running and working out. Terry Fox ran a marathon a day for months with a primitive prosthetic and advancing lung cancer, so surely you can find a way to amp up those miles and give your body the work it needs and deserves. Find the balance that's right for you.

Oh, and don't forget to have fun!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

First Toronto Yonge Street 10K

This race wasn't even on my radar before I was talked into signing up for it in 2012. I tend to run very few 10 km races, for one thing. So when a friend whom I had been badgering to start running suggested the Toronto Yonge Street 10k, I reluctantly agreed to run it with him.

See, I had this erroneous idea that running a 10k would somehow screw up my marathon training. After all, I ran ten km training runs three times a week, and longer runs of 20 to 30 km on weekends. What would be the point, right?

So I spiced it up a bit. Stayed at my daughter's place the night before, ran 8 km to the starting line and 5 km back to her place post-race. Made the race part of a long run. I needn't have done that, though, because it was more than enough fun and challenge without that extra mileage.

First and foremost, seeing the excitement and nervousness of my friend at the starting line of his first 10k race was really cool. Talking him down (while also trying to drive him crazy with fear, of course; who said I'm a sympathetic kind of guy??) was loads of fun. And, like every race with a lot of entrants, the excitement and camaraderie of the starting area is always worth the experience.

The Toronto Yonge Street 10k is fast. With a net downhill gradient and a virtually straight beeline down the most famous, most well-known street in Canada, you almost can't NOT get a PR (read that twice). The crowds are impressive in both size and enthusiasm. The weather in mid-April is perfect for a fast race. What's not to love?

So, yes, I gave it all I had and turned in a PR performance. My wife and kid were on the sidelines at about the halfway mark, so it was a great photo op as well. I had one of the most memorable races ever, lots of hoots and hollers and just plain fun running going on all around me. It was a party; runners could just Go For It, unlike the marathons I was accustomed to running in which pacing and control are paramount.

My friend came across the finish line five minutes later, out of breath and ecstatic from his impressive triumph. We hung out for a while with other friends who met us at the finish (and partook of the amazing bagels and other post-run fuel that was better than most marathons offer). And guess what? This focus on speed helped to expand my training focus for my Fall marathon such that I turned in a PR in that baby as well!

I'm excited about running the Toronto Yonge Street 10k in April 2014 in part because it was such a cool experience two years ago. It'll be a challenge coming off a significant injury, which is even better. It also comes at a strategically beneficial time in my training for my Spring marathon this year. Let's get on with the training!