I should clarify that I mean failure in terms of running. I know lots about other kinds of failure. But a real running failure was new to me. I've struggled somedays, but I've always gotten through it and finished the day's workout as indicated by the couch potato plan. But not today - as we on twitter like to say, I got the Fail Whale.
For all intents and purposes, today's run should have been great. When I woke up, it was only 16 degrees outside, so I decided to postpone to a lunch run instead. When I headed out, it was 46 degrees and beautiful - sunny, on the warmer side, only a little bit of wind headed in a northwesterly direction so I wouldn't face it on the tail end of my run. I'd found some new running friends on Twitter, and was reading their comments about running, what makes them runners and why they run (more on that later), and it was definitely inspiring me. I was excited to get out there, enjoy the weather and see how I had improved after two 25-minute days. My hip was a bit sore, so I iced it early, put some heat on it before I headed out, and it was feeling good. I still had the pain in my right foot, but I was planning to work through it.
So with optimism in hand, I put some new tunes on my playlist and headed out the door, ready to run!
Yeah, it was all downhill from there.
As soon as I started to run after my five minute warmup walk (and I mean the first running step I took), I knew it wasn't going to go well. My foot was really hurting, sending a message of pain every time it hit the pavement. Sometimes, that kind of thing will work itself out for me, so I figured I'd stick with it and see how it went. Unfortunately, it didn't get better and subconciously, I was compensating for it the whole run, so by the end, all the muscles in my right calf were in agony. During the first two minutes, I also felt like I was struggling to get enough air in. I focused on slowing myself down, which helped, but my chest still felt a bit tight. I kept telling myself that I always hate the first five minutes, so I should just hang in there, but this definitely felt different. I decided I would run the full 25 minutes, but that I'd break for a five minute walk in the middle. Knowing I was going to take a break was the only thing that made me run more than those first five minutes.
I must have been pushing myself harder than I realized, because I ran further than I ever have, despite trying to consciously slow myself down. Maybe my brain was telling my legs to hurry up, as if it would make the time tick by faster. At any rate, I got to run right by my little beach area which helped to cheer me up and after 12:30, I slowed to a walk. That's when I realized how tight and sore my hip really was.
It's a bit hard to describe my hip trouble, because it sort of has two parts - the first, and most annoying, is the bursitis, which affects the outside of my upper thigh. It's not really in the hip, because the hip joint is more central, but basically, as About.com says:
"A bursa is a fluid filled sac that allows smooth motion between two uneven
surfaces. For example, in the hip, a bursa rests between the bony prominence
over the outside of the hip (the greater trochanter) and the firm tendon that
passed over this bone. When the bursal sac becomes inflamed, each time the
tendon has to move over the bone, pain results."
The bursitis started when I was in college, from repeated lunging during my short-lived and rather unmemorable fencing career (I do keep my third place trophy in my office though and pretend it means more than best three out of five fencers, when two had never fenced sabre before). It comes and goes, and the more active I am, the more it bothers me. But physical therapy started to make it worse, so I mostly manage it with Advil, ice, heat and yoga. It normally doesn't affect my running too much, though running affects it, so even though that's what I was icing/heating this morning, I knew it wouldn't slow me down much.
The second type of pain is more in my hip joint, and involves my hip flexor - that's where my tendonitis is (BTW can I just say how much I love having hip problems at 29? It makes me feel like a senior citizen!). Reading about it now, apparently it generally happens to people who do a lot of forceful kicking. Hmm. That's not really me, so I wonder how I actually ended up with this injury. I guess I'm just special.
But anyway, I've done all of the things that are supposed to make it go away, from icing to anti-inflammatories, to stretching to limiting physical activities, even as far as getting a cortizone shot there - painful, but worth it! And today, it just seemed to be back with a vengeance. As soon as I stopped running and started walking, I could feel how short my stride was on that side, because my hip flexors were so tight. It ached enough to cause a limp, but not so much I had to stop running altogether. The five minutes of walking helped, and my stubborn self told me I could finish that last 12:30.
It was a struggle, let me tell you, and I was so disappointed when I finished. Everything hurt, and I was so slow at the end, that I wasn't even worn out. I was thisclose to crying. And that's why I think running is such a social activity - because you need people around to help pick you up when you fall. I posted a message on Twitter, and within moments, had a number of messages that cheered me up. MissIve told me "I have A LOT OF THOSE. I've found it's all about the hips. If you let them lead, rather than your feet, much smoother." SKDickey told me "It happens to us all..doesn't make it feel any better, but you're not alone." And Kimokali reminded me "sorry you had a bad run today, but you ran, and that's good." It's good to know that everyone has bad days, and that bad days are just experiences to learn something so that it's better the next time.
So now, I'm icing my hip and my foot, feeling less mad at myself, and looking forward to Friday. And because I'll want to look back at this post someday, and remember why I run in the first place, I'll talk a little bit about what runners think makes somebody a "runner" and why they run. SmellyCents asked everyone this morning to define "runners" and there were some great responses:
@27marathoner: "a runner lives for their next run, automatically tracks mileage even when driving and is always competing..." (Oh good, I thought I was the only one tracking mileage)
@LadyMeouw: "Running is a matter of testing your own limits and overcoming them over and over again."
Coach J: "A runner is an individual who through a repeated pattern 'running' challenges themselves physically and mentally"
@wiremanart: "A runner takes each day in stride, and with each stride they grow stronger." Also "To the non-runner running is frivolous and exhaustive pastime, to a runner it's a way of life."
@biscuiterie: "When I'm driving, I think, I can run this, I should be running this."
@jharpold: "To me, a runner is someone who runs and is not being chased!" (I agree.)
@runnrgrl: "To me, a runner defies expectations with every step. even their own" (This one I should remember, since although I had a tough day, I'm still running more than I ever expected to!)
@hadzip: "Somebody who seriously debates whether to fit in an interval workout while feeling sicker and sicker 26 days before Boston."
So I wanted to know WHY people run:
@PattyGale: "I run..I don't compete, except for local 5K's. It clears my head, keeps me fit and it feels good."
@jasondouglas: "To get in shape/improve overall health, prove I can, meet new people, expand my interests/try something new"
@robburnsetc: "I run to get back to where I started in the quickest time possible." (Ha ha)
@jazzwerewolf: "enjoyment, challenge, fitness, social aspect and the views at the top of the hills" (Love that)
@frozentriette: "I lrned to run last yr - was told in hghschool I didn't hv an athletic bone in my bdy I run bc I LOVE it & bc I can. I crave it." (I am getting there...)
@jaredpsmith: "best stress relief avail. plus after a run you feel amazing mentally and physically! It's a healthy form of competition"
So for anyone having a tough day running, or thinking about starting running, as Linus says in A Charlie Brown Christmas "Those are some good reasons!"