This weekend I finished my first ever 13.1 mile run in preparation for the half-marathon in February. It was tough mainly because it was freezing outside so I had to do the run on the treadmill at home. Completing the run is still an accomplishment, though not as true of a practice as running outside.
In its own way, I think running on the treadmill was more challenging for me. Sure, there are environmental factors that cause resistance when running outside. Running on the treadmill at home, though, makes it even easier to quit. I was literally three feet from a couch, 12 stairs from a warm comfy bath, 12 stairs from my television and a cup of hot cocoa yet instead I had to force myself to run 13 miles on a hamster wheel. It was probably the hardest run of my life for that very reason.
With that said, I have a wonderful announcement: the pain behind my left knee is gone, even after 13 miles!
After my injury, I began experimenting with different approaches for preventing a recurrence. After learning more about hip and knee alignment, I took up yoga again. Most knee pain starts in the hips. Yoga “hip openers” and sanas to help stretch my hamstrings were really helpful. Then I remembered how much I enjoyed yoga and started using it for total body stretching and toning.
In addition to practicing yoga more regularly, I soaked for about 20 minutes in icy water after my long run. After a shower and a meal, I iced my knees before bed and then woke up the next morning feeling just fine! The original injury is gone and a little TLC has successfully prevented recurrences.
I feel a lot better about the half-marathon now. The struggle to finish was completely mental for me and now I know that I can do it! Between now and then, I will do short runs during the week and longer runs on the weekend (6-10 miles maybe) though I doubt I’ll pull another 13-miler until race day.
I’d love to help anyone else who is embarking on the same journey: Below are a few pointers that really helped me:
- It’s true what they say about setting reasonable goals. I am NOT built to run, nor do I really enjoy it, so I started slow and just focused on finishing the race rather than making an awesome time. I aimed for 15-minute miles at first, rather than more traditional 10min or 12 min-miles. That kept me from feeling defeated and I actually surprised myself when I ran faster than my goals.
- Setting small goals during each run really helps. I’d tell myself, “Just make it to the stop sign and then I can die.” I made it! “Well if I can make it to the grocery store, then I can die.” I clearly never died, so I felt empowered to keep going, realizing that I was stronger than I thought.
- Never lose focus on your form. When you’re tired, it’s natural to want to slouch and just chug forward to try to finish the run. Doing that throws all sorts of things off of alignment and you’re more likely to get injured, which could ruin your training schedule or oust you from the race. When you keep good posture, you breathe better and improve your body’s efficiency.
- Wear stuff that makes you feel good! Everything that improves your esteem and morale is worth doing.
- 9.98 out of 10 times, you aren’t actually going to die.KEEP GOING!