WARNING: This is a long blog post and, at times, you’ll want to reach through the screen to slap me for some of the poor decisions I made as a runner. Rest assured, this tale does have a happy ending!
When I started running in 2013, I had no goals. I wasn’t sure if I was going to love running or quit after a few days or weeks. As the days and weeks passed and I started to get used to running a few times a week, I started to think ahead.
I wouldn’t register for any races that year because it was already the end of Summer when I started to test my endurance and encroach on 10+ kilometre runs. By Autumn of 2013, it was time to start planning some goals. I registered for both the 2014 Yonge Street 10k and the Sporting Life 10k. Depending on the outcome of these races and how much I was able to improve as a runner, I would decide whether I could move up to a half marathon by Fall 2014. All I had to do was stay healthy!
Some time in late November, I stepped on a piece of broken glass in our kitchen and it pierced the bottom of my foot. At the time, I didn’t think much of it and figured it would heal on its own. I was also playing shinny on Friday nights and made the mistake of not protecting my foot in the shower at the next game. I ended up with a wart in the wound making it painful to walk on, let alone run (sorry, TMI?)! The results were devastating; from the beginning of December 2013 through the third week of March 2014, I ran a total of 4 times. I’m honestly surprised I didn’t quit running following such a long absence. I lost a lot of valuable training time and my first race was quickly approaching. On March 30th, 2014, I tried to come back too quick and tweaked my left knee on an 8 kilometer run; exactly two weeks before the race. I ran one more time the week prior to the race, but it was clear something was not right with my knee.
I battled through my first official race, the 2014 Yonge Street 10k, finishing with a time of 50:13. Whatever issue I was having with my knee got much worse by the end of the race. I made my first physio appointment the following week and treatment began for a strained IT Band. My next race was four weeks away and I was determined to race it! As we got close to race day, my physiotherapist advised me not to race but I didn’t listen. I ran a total of two times in the four weeks leading up to the race, mostly to test out my knee.
On race day, I decided I would take it easy and not try to PB. I wrapped my knee it KT tape, determined to finish the race. I held a steady pace for the first 6 kilometres, then the pain set in; it was awful. By the 8 1/2 kilometre mark, I pulled over to the side of the course, grabbed a street sign for support, and broke down in tears. I had just over a kilometre and a half to go and there was no way I was going to DNF this race. I walked, ran, and hopped to the finish line of the 2014 Sporting Life 10k with a time of 58:18. I know you’re probably reading this and thinking I’m an idiot for running the race and you’re absolutely right. I should not have run that race and the damage I sustained as a result was devastating.
For the next four weeks, I didn’t run at all. I was in physio 2-3 times a week to treat the scar tissue that was building up around my knee. For the next month and a half after that, my physiotherapist put me on a Return to Run program which meant running for 1 minute and walking for 1 minute then building up each week until I could run for 15 minutes straight without pain.
It was now July 2014 and I was finally feeling healthy again. I decided I would register for the 2014 Oasis Zoo Run 10k in September and the 2014 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon in October. My weekly mileage went from non existent, to 10-12 kilometres, and then quickly ramped up to the mid 20s. Just three weeks in to my half marathon training plan I strained my left calf. I put the brakes on my training plan for three weeks and started to receive treatment for the calf strain. The injury stay with me up until my 10k race on September 20th. I finished the 2014 Oasis Zoo Run 10k with a time of 52:35. I didn’t PB only because I went out way too fast and the course is pretty hilly. Regardless, my calf felt great! A month later, I completed my first half marathon!
I managed to stay healthy for the remainder of 2014 and the first half of 2015. I completed a few more races, including my first full marathon on June 20th, 2015. Some time in the beginning of the year, I set a goal of 2,015 kilometres in 2015 on Garmin Connect. I was racking up a lot of kilometres and figured I wouldn’t have any problem hitting this target.
I registered for my second marathon in October 2015 and wanted to crush my PB time of 3:48:39. I started working out at the GoodLife fitness across the street from my office. I was working on my shoulders one day in August and felt a strange pull while I was doing rows. A few days later, I started to feel sharp pains shooting down my left arm. Again I visited my physiotherapist (by now she was on speed dial!) who confirmed I had an inflamed joint in my shoulder that was pushing on a nerve. I didn’t lose any time running, but it was very difficult to swing my left arm while I ran; I resembled a bird with a wounded wing when I ran! I did miss a few long runs due to the shoulder injury and that hurt me around the 26km mark of my second marathon. I did PB by 15 minutes, but I experienced a right calf strain during the race which thankfully went away while I was recovering the following week.
The rest of 2015 was a mix of easy and moderate weeks and I finished about 200 kilometres short of my 2,015km goal.
Running Healthier Ever After!
By the end of December 2015, I started a six week running clinic at The Runner’s Academy and since that time, I have become a smarter, stronger, and healthier runner. I pay much more attention to my fitness and recovery, including my active isolated stretching.
2016 has been a massive year for me. I got huge PBs in the 10k, half marathon, and full marathon distances! In May, I BQd at my third full marathon! I also set my goal for 2,016km in 2016 and this past Sunday, I hit the 2,000 kilometre mark! Just a day later, I reached the 2,016km in 2016 goal! It’s just the second week of August and there is more work to be done including another shot at a Boston 2017 BQ and the NYC Marathon.
I used to think all you had to do was run a lot and you got better. I didn’t understand all the work it takes to really improve and remain healthy. Listening to your body, resting when injured, and not trying to pick-up where you left off before you sustained an injury are some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the past 3 years and 4 injuries.
If you ever find yourself in the same situation as me, hopefully some of the lessons I learned will help you make the right decision.
Until then, here’s to happy and healthy running!