You may have noticed I have been oddly silent about running these days.
When people ask, “How’s the running going?” I would love to say “Great!” or “I’m up to 22K each time,” but the truth is more like “Sporadic at best.”
I have learned a lot in this running journey. My most recent discovery is the line between running enough and not running enough.
It took months for me to build up my strength and endurance to the point it felt good to do 5K each time. I’m not one for races or for going vastly long distances, but doing 5K without feeling breathlessness or pain and without needing ice, ibuprofen or A535 was a victory. I felt great when I finished, and that was success.
I discovered that even if you get off your routine a bit, it takes a long time for all the strength you’ve built up to diminish. In fact, sometimes running was even better after a rest period. I was amazed how when I missed running for three weeks in the summer due to holidays and various other things, my body could still go that distance without any trouble.
You can only push your luck for so long, though.
The start of the big trouble was mid-September. I was still running, but not two or three times per week as before. Even so, I wasn’t intimidated by the 5K I planned to do for the Terry Fox Run. In fact, I was really looking forward to it because I had pledged that this year I would run the whole thing for the first time ever.
A few days before the big day I was a little sniffly, which I attributed to some mild allergies I sometimes encounter in the fall. I didn’t think it would affect my run in any great way.
Can you guess where this is going?
Run day arrived. I was part of a team and we congregated and set off.
Right off the start I was in trouble. Weird trouble. I couldn’t catch my breath. That hadn’t happened since the early, building-up days. What the heck?
By the time I reached the halfway point I was really struggling. I wanted to stop and walk, but I was too stubborn. There was an argument in my head:
“Walk for a bit – catch your breath,” said the sensible one.
“No! I am running this route!” said the psychobananahead runner.
“Shut up, wimp. It’s the wind.”
“Your chest hurts like it is on fire.”
“Run through the pain! It’s not a heart attack, just a fire.”
(Sometimes runners are idiots.)
“You feel awful. Stop running, moron.”
“It’s only 5K! My usual 5K! I can do this. I want to run with the team.”
At about the 3K mark the Voice of Reason broke into my head, which turned out to be one of my running mates announcing she was going to walk for a bit.
I nearly hugged her. Possibly she was alarmed by my wheezing and realized I was too stubborn to stop on my own accord. Whatever the reason, it was a good thing.
We walked a good while and ran the last few hundred metres. Then I spent the next several hours coughing in an I-think-I-might-be-dying kind of way before I realized the sniffles I had been experiencing were, in fact, the start of a chest cold that afflicted me for nearly two weeks. I didn’t run again in September and I’ve only run two or three times so far this month.
And that, apparently, is the line. I have officially crossed from building up and maintaining my running strength into regressing and having to rebuild.
Now when I run I breathe like a freight train. (It’s so glamorous.) My legs feel lead-like. My knees and some small angry muscles sometimes voice their opinions, which hasn’t happened since the early days. Worst of all, 3K is about all I can muster.
A key component to the rebuilding is to turn up the music so I can’t hear the discouraging sound of my own breathing. Ibuprofen is on standby.
Maybe NEXT year I’ll finally run the whole Terry Fox route.
Published in The Perth Courier, Oct. 21/10