Rest and recovery take time!
“According to the brain-centered model of exercise performance, a runner achieves his race goal when his brain calculates that achieving the race goal is possible without catastrophic self-harm.” ― Matt Fitzgerald
Each year, more than half of all runners experience some type of injury. This is a higher percentage than in any other sport. The reason may be that unlike football, baseball and countless other sports, running has no set season. For both the elite runner and the weekend recreational competitive runner, this lack of a sport season leads to a cycle of endless running. We train and run constantly without allowing our bodies to have a break for rest and recovery. It is the constant push to attain faster speeds and run longer distances which pushes our bodies to the breaking point. Pain is our body’s way of telling us something is wrong even though our mind refuses to accept the reality of the situation as we attempt ‘just one more lap’.
The number one goal of most new runners is to run a marathon. A marathon is 26.2 miles (42.16km) and this distance is very hard on the body of the newbie. Scientific research has concluded that after running 26.2 miles you experience significant muscle, cellular, and immune system damage which can last for 3-14 days post race. Notice that the range of recovery differs from as short as 3 days to as long as two weeks. An experienced marathoner can recover much faster than a runner who attempts their first marathon. The more fit you are, the faster your body recovers and heals itself. This level of health and fitness takes time to achieve, there are no short cuts! This is why all training programs for runners gradually increase the distance on the short and long runs over time to allow the body to grow strong and adapt. Compare and contrast training schedules for novice runners vs elite runners if you have doubts.
Given enough time and training, your body can be conditioned to endure physical achievements that would have been impossible when you first started out. When I began running in 2019, it took me a month to fully recover from my first half-marathon.
By mid 2020, I was capable of running a half-marathon every weekend, usually setting a personal record (PR) with each race I ran. By Fall of 2020 I had placed 5th in my division twice on 5Ks!
This all changed in 2021. Suddenly I was ending races in last place, and hitting my worst times ever, slower than when I began. Yet I kept pushing myself because my mind was telling itself that I was capable of running 10 minute miles even as I struggled to run 18 minute miles. Eventually this constant over-training lead to a hamstring injury in July. Still I tried to force my body to heal itself faster. THERE ARE NO SHORT-CUTS! I re-injured my hamstring in August when I attempted to run the DOUBLE TROUBLE 15K Trail run at French Creek State Park in Elverson PA. I tripped on an ‘invisible rock’ at mile three, twisted my leg the wrong way to avoid slamming into the rocks, and then limped in pain to the water station where I pulled myself from the race. My first DNF (did not finish). Last month, I forced myself to run The Bird-in-Hand half-marathon. I struggled the final four miles, but I did actually finish. Dead last, 1169 out of 1169.
It was worth it, but it also forced me to accept the reality that my mind was rejecting. My body needs to heal and this is going to take time. The Bird-in-Hand half-marathon is my last long race of this year. For the remainder of 2021, this has lead me to the difficult decision to STOP ALL long distance running and focus on strength training, short distance runs, and speed-work. Sadly I will not be able to run in 3 upcoming half-marathons, nor will I be able to run the Philly Marathon, The OLEY Classic, and the Dirty Bird 15K either. For the next 90 days I will not run any distance greater than a 10K. It’s the only choice I have at this point as I have tried EVERYTHING else to avoid this drastic decision . THERE ARE NO SHORT-CUTS! The sad fact in that the endless 60+ hour work weeks at my day job have left me in a state of perpetual exhaustion, and I cannot properly train under these conditions. My mind keeps telling me that “today would be a beautify day to go for a run”, but my body is screaming “are you out of your mind?!”
The Road to recovery.
The plan for the rest of 2021 is to take it easy and stick to the three goals of strength training, short distance runs, and speed-work. Hopefully I will be able to get my 5K times close or better than my PR of 33min 22sec. Come January, I will re-initiate the Hal Hidgon training plan for novice runners with the goal of running the Gettysburg half-marathon Sun April 10, 2022 Gettysburg, PA 17325 US and setting a PR. Forcing myself to not run is a hard thing to do, but when you’re confronted with the choice of sacrificing a few upcoming races verses never being able to run again, it’s definitely the smart thing to do.
You can find me at these upcoming races:
Third Thirsty Thursday 5K Race Series – Race 7/7 October 21st @7:00 pm Reading PA (The last TTT of the year is a night race in the dark followed by Halloween Dress Up party!)
Be sure to check back on October 31st for another article.
As always, I wish you success and happiness!