I used to run. A lot. I ran high school cross country my sophomore year and have identified myself as a runner ever since. Even during those twenty or so years, raising kids and chasing career, when I rarely ran, my self-image was still of a runner. This photo marks when I got back into road racing in 2010. See that old man behind me who looks like he’s a few steps away from death? This is at the five mile turn-around during the Garden of the Gods ten miler. He was 68 years old while I was 48. He finished two and a half minutes ahead of me.
I was just getting back into running then. Returning to form was a journey. Debilitating injuries. Plantar fasciitis. Arthritis in my symphysis pubis. Lost weight at a rate of five pounds per year. Worked my way up to a hundred miles per week. Never ran more than seventy in college. I started running a couple of marathons each year and became competitive for my age division. Then my running came to a stop.
A year ago, I determined to focus on my career again. I expected an impact to my running but not the addition of twenty-five pounds and two inches to my waist. Damn. The real surprise though has come in the last couple of weeks when I’ve tried to increase my mileage. Simply trying to run five miles was leading to pain in my left leg. It’s an insult to my pride that I can only run five miles now, but injury too?
I think I understand the cause. My left foot pronates. That’s fine until a runner over strides. Modern shoes, as in shoes since the late ’70s, promote over-striding. As a response to overcoming injuries after I got back into running, I trained myself to shorten my stride. That wasn’t as easy as I just made it sound, but it remedied my plantar fasciitis.
What I discovered is that I am so flipping fat, I can’t run with a shorter stride. A shorter stride requires a quicker cadence, and I’m no longer in shape enough to run with a quick cadence. My muscle memory has me trying to run with a shorter stride, but I start breathing so heavy that I scare walkers in front of me as I come up behind them. I believe my legs autonomically corrected my stride to be longer, so that I can breathe. This lead to pain building from over striding.
I was able to figure that out on my own. And this week, I’ve run with enough repetition that I think I’m improving. For the first time since I ran my last marathon, almost a year ago to the day, I’ve run four times in the last seven days. I do well with repetition. I’m pretty excited. I feel like my mileage is trending in a good direction. I don’t have to run a hundred miles a week, but it will be nice to firm back up again.