Running and Walking Back to Physical and Mental Health

I’m a run walker. I’m not ashamed to admit it, although some people seem to find it a difficult fact to accept. Since experiencing problems moving from 5k up to 10k I’ve followed Jeff Galloway’s Run:Walk system and to great effect. My first half marathon race came in at 2:22, a very respectable time for anyone, not just a 48 year old previous non-runner.

Jeff has produced apps for the iPhone designed to coach your through 5k, 10k, half and full marathon distances in preparation for races. I’ve used all of these bar the full marathon one, which I don’t think I’ll ever use. Well maybe when I’m retired and have more time to train. The apps are fully adjustable for age, weight, height, pace and the all important run:walk ratio. When you start they recommend running an 11 min/mile pace at 3:1 intervals.

I’m also a medal slut and a stat junkie.

I have to get a medal and a good time. In my perverse desire to be better and faster, I ramped those up to 10 min/mile pace and 4:1 intervals and then 7 min:40 sec intervals. I was wrong to do this and now I’m broken.

I am playing this game all wrong. 

I should be listening to my body more, altering the ratios and pace to suit, slowing down when I’m not in the zone or feeling sluggish. Instead I’m punishing myself for not being the machine I obviously  want to be. Do I really want to be a machine? Of course not.

Here’s the deal.

I want to enjoy running. I want to head out and be pleased that I’ve run 3, 6, 14 and 17 miles, not disappointed that I only ran them in x amount of minutes. Really who the hell cares, other than me, how fast I was? I’m not training for the Olympics here, I’m just trying to stay healthy.

And, of course, by pushing myself far too hard I’ve done the opposite. I’ve hurt myself good and proper.

I am a fool.

Now that I’ve realised this, I need to act on it. I need to stop this headlong hurtle into oblivion and give myself a good talking to! When I started training I was a happy 3:1 ratio runner. I achieved loads running in that way. I coped well with 4:1 and completed the Great North Run and all the prior training using that. Going away from that has made me a less content runner. And a slower and less healthy one. So why did I stray from something that was working?

Guilt.

Not all runners accept the Galloway System as a proper running programme. They see walking as a cop out and deride run:walk devotees. I fell into the trap of thinking that by running the entire distance it would make me a better runner. They are wrong and so was I to fall for it. They made me feel a lesser person. I experienced guilt for the first time in a long time. Way back when I started my “friend” Jack would mock my run:walk programme. I ditched him as a confidante, but the guilt he instilled was still there.

No more.

I am a run walker. I will continue along this path because I know that it works and I know that if I don’t I will get hurt. Today starts my renewed passion for Jeff Galloway and his miraculous programme.

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Ode to the Hills of Jedburgh. And there are many.

Those of you who often read my reports will know how much I adore running uphill. How that when I am racing and I see a hill I shout for joy and put my little head down and run my ass off enjoying every footfall.

You will also have gleaned that my humour is both sarcastic and dry.

Having run this course twice already I knew what to expect. If I’m honest my knowledge meant that I was wary this time. I knew that my calves were going to be under tremendous strain and that was the worst possible thing for my plantar fasciitis. If my calves tightened, my Achilles would soon follow and then my plantar fascia would too – it was a line of dominoes waiting to fall. I had no idea how to run this race so that I could finish it in the least amount of pain.

Even on the way I was playing with different scenarios. Should I run:walk the distance or just run it and walk when I had to? Should I run really slowly and just try to run without any walk breaks? It was a dilemma and one which wasn’t being helped by the weather – it was wild; wet and windy. I knew that once I’d turned at 4 miles I was going to be running uphill and into the wind. It’s always very windy on the A68 road and it’s a long steady climb into the wind.

In the end I decided to play it by ear. I would set my Jeff Galloway app to “just run” at a 10 min/mile pace, with the GPS switched on and walk as and when I wanted. No one would be telling when to walk and I could assess my fitness/pain and run accordingly.

We arrived slightly later than usual, not helped by following a string of traffic seemingly unable to overtake a cyclist on the way into town. The usual car parks were packed solid so we had no choice but to find a road side gap. This took some doing and we eventually parked on the hill going up to the gaol. I hoped that my handbrake was good. We walked down to the town hall and I collected my number, chip and T-shirt. Unfortunately the number didn’t have holes in it, so I couldn’t use my Event Clips – they just wouldn’t break the paper to form a good hold. I resorted to using the safety pins that the organisers always so thoughtfully provide.

Next stop was the loo.

We met friends, George and Linda, as I left the toilets (great municipal loos, by the way – warm, plenty of toilets and hot water!) George was running the 10k too, faster than me though. George is extremely encouraging and after one holiday George and Linda bought me back a headband to match the one he always wears in races. Together we are now ‘Team Headband’, although my text to Linda last night said that going by the weather we should rename the team “Team Wet and Wild’!

With ten minutes to go I wandered down to line up near to the back. I hadn’t had chance to warm up properly so I did some dynamic stretches and decided to start off slowly. When the gun went off we had a walk up to the line before we could start running. We ran up past supporters and the abbey, round into the town square where the pipers were playing something suitably Scottish and stirring, whatever that might have been. It was nice, whatever it was.

Running on cobbles isn’t ideal, but it sounds great when hundreds of others are also running on them!

The first surprise was that they had added an extra hill. Obviously 5 miles of going mainly up hill wasn’t enough. No. The organisers decided that we should have an extra one at the start. Excellent! My strategy of walking up the steepest parts of each hill was immediately put to the test! The rest of the hills came thick and fast. I was maintaining a great pace, despite walking the hills in an effort to spare my calf muscles.

Mile 1 came in at 10:23.

I was running as much as I could, trying to bring my overall pace down. When I walked up the hills I was usually overtaken by the same people I passed on the flat or the way downhill.

Mile 2 came in at 20:27.

I was slightly envious of the folk who were trudging up the hills, not stopping to walk, but running a slower pace than me on the way down. I was having to work hard on the flat to make up the ground that I was walking up. However, I was delighted to see my third mile pass by in a very respectable time.

Mile 3 came in at 30:41.

At the turn for 10k runners (the half marathoners carried on at this point) I caught sight of number 1003, my Daily Mile friend Helen, who I’ve never met before. I shouted a greeting across and was relieved to see that she wasn’t far ahead of me. I like to gauge my progress against folk who are my contemporaries and Helen runs at a similar pace to me. Despite everything I was running quite well.

This is when my race became a race of two halves and it was nothing to do with my PF, which was actually pretty good thanks to the ibuprofen, the bandaging and the insoles! The wind became my enemy which when coupled with a long slow hill pretty much zapped my strength. My fourth and fifth miles were very slow in comparison to the first three, both being 11:44. This slowed my pace right down and I knew that I would struggle to recoup the loss.

Having battled up a mile long hill against the wind when I reached the top I was expecting to simply hurtle down. What greeted me was a blast of air that took my breath away, literally. I started to gasp and realised that I was about to have another asthma attack! Hubbie had suggested that I took my inhaler with me after my last race and I was grateful for his insight as I stopped to take a few puffs. These enabled me to pick up my pace a little and use the downhill how downhills should be used!

The last mile is pretty much on the flat. It’s a lovely run back into the town, through the autumn leaves. I was tired by then though and running much slower that I can run. I was walking far more often than I wanted. I needed someone, at that point, to run with. Just someone to spur me on.

I crossed the line (I think, because there were two mats) at 67:59* (Garmin time) which is my slowest 10k time in a long, long time. I’m OK with my time though because at the finish I was not limping. My calf went into a spasm once I’d stopped walking, but I wasn’t in pain like I was after my last race. I was given my medal Olympic style, which was lovely!

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My bling!

Helen found me at the finish and we hugged a hello and exchanged race stories. She had done well to finish a couple of minutes ahead of me – it’s not an easy race.

My white trainers are no longer 'white'!
My white trainers are no longer ‘white’!

After collecting my banana, Lidl Mars Bar, a bottle of water and Caribbean Lucozade hubbie and I walked up to the leisure centre where I got a well deserved shower before we walked to meet George and Linda for lunch in one of the local cafés. After lunch I was limping quite a bit, but a couple of ibuprofens later I was fine(ish). I’m now happily relaxing at home with a cuppa, a cosy fire and the thought of cheese on toast on the horizon.

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A lovely new T-shirt to wear when I’m not running just to prove that I do!

Next year? Yes, I’ll be there. I like this race. It’s tough and testing, but it’s good to pit yourself against Mother Nature’s hills and weather now and again.

My foot is OK. I have been sitting with it up for a while now and I’m about use the Shiatsu foot massager to loosen things off and release some toxins before icing it. Fingers crossed that this together with my nightly dorsal splint will mean that tomorrow morning is fairly pain-free!

My next planned race isn’t until January now. Maybe that’s a good thing. Some treadmill and trail running will help to build up speed and strength before then without causing further damage to my foot (now that British Summer Time has ended and the clocks have gone back outdoor evening running here is a no-no on the roads, unless I want to die an early and painful death under the wheels of a car/truck/tractor).

 

Last time I was in Edinburgh, I was running up hills.

After more than a month now of quite serious foot pain as a result of plantar fasciitis, I’m starting to feel tired of being injured. The night splint I’ve been wearing, albeit uncomfortable, has helped a great deal and meant that my first steps in the morning aren’t painful. However this week we are taking a couple of days of R&R in Edinburgh, splint-less, and I’m struggling. Yesterday afternoon we spent strolling around shops and today walking through the old town and I’m suffering now. I’ve actually spent the last couple of hours lying in the hotel room, foot elevated, eating chocolate, resting up for the evening.

I bought my running gear with me, thinking that I could do a few Auld Reekie miles, but that looks unlikely at the moment. I’ll see how I feel in the morning, but my foot is simply too sore just now. We even walked past Run 4 It today, walked past without even crossing the street! I’ve never done that before. The mind is willing, the soul is aching, but the body is weak. It’s depressing, really depressing.

I think the time has come to seek out professional help so I’m going to look for a podiatrist. The cost might be more painful than my foot, but ultimately worth it. I don’t think that I can go on like this for much longer.

Back to the Start

Having not run since my half marathon over a week and a half ago I last night decided to test out my increasingly less injured foot.

My “good idea” was to run through the woods with the dog, just a couple of miles on the fairly soft ground to get my foot working again, but the weather decided to mess that “good idea” up by raining heavily all afternoon.

So, much to my wee hound’s disappointment, I opted for a cushy treadmill run instead.

I ran 5k using 4 minute run intervals alternated with 1 minute recovery walks in 33:50; a nice easy paced run, with me determined not to push any harder than steady.

After running I got my shower and sat wearing my dorsal splint with an icepack wedged between my foot and the splint “shoe” until my foot started to go numb. I’ve been wearing the splint each night since Friday last and it is helping, despite being the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever had to wear in bed! I can’t get the straps quite right; either they’re too tight or too loose. However, even on the loosest setting the splint is still keeping my foot upright and slightly pulled forward, stretching the plantar fascia.

And today? Well I feel fine. No aches, pains or anything untoward. I’m not counting any chickens and will continue to tread on egg shells (OK, I’ve finished with the hen analogies) but I think it’s maybe time to crack on (oops) with my training.

One thing I haven’t made much use of and should have done, is my foam roller. My massage on Monday highlighted the tightness of my calves, which is probably the main reason why I’ve had plantar fasciitis, and use of the roller should help with this. I’ll start tonight. Promise!

So what of Jedburgh 10k at the end of the month? Well, I’m still undecided about that. It’s a great event for camaraderie, but it’s not an easy route consisting of most of Scotland’s hills. I’m not sure if my foot will be healed enough by then so I think it’s going to be a Saturday night decision.

If you find me in the pub with a pint of Guinness you’ll know what my decision was!

Finishing the Great Cumbrian Run, in almost one piece!

Oh my goodness, where do I start? I’ve just completed what was a lovely half marathon route, but only just. The Great Cumbrian Run is a well attended race, with in excess of 1400 runners, which starts and finishes in Carlisle. Better than that, you actually get to start from inside Carlisle Castle, run out of the quadrangle, through the castle gates and into the centre of Carlisle city. How many races can boast that?

We arrived early, worried that we might not be able to park. In reality there was plenty of parking, although we didn’t try to get too close to the start/finish area – something I would come to regret at race finish! I collected my chip, attached that to my shiny Nikes (honestly, who wears WHITE trainers?) and took advantage of the plentiful toilets.

Starting at Carlisle Castle!
Starting at Carlisle Castle!

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More toilets than runners!
More toilets than runners!

At about 15 minutes to the off an official asked all the non-competitors to leave the area so I said goodbye to hubbie and went away to avoid the warm up. I wasn’t alone – lots of runners stayed well back, doing their own thing. I don’t mind warm up, what I hate are the pre-race stretches everyone is encouraged to make. You can almost hear hamstrings twanging.

We started bang on 10. The cathedral bells chimed us across the start line, the spectators cheered us on. We ran straight into the city centre, which was a delight. The route through was barriered off and lined with folk sending us off on our way. I found hubbie at the far end of the pedestrianised area, called and waved and headed off down Botchergate. It was odd running through a city I know well, running past bars and clubs I have frequented on lazier days!

I didn’t look too much at my watch. The hills caught my attention more! I had met an ex-pupil at the start who had done the race before and warned me about the hill heading out of town and another at mile 3. I think she left a few out, but those were pretty tough! We climbed up along London Road, heading towards the M6, before turning left and out into the countryside.

I hit mile 3 at an encouraging 30:22, but my plantar fasciitis was already making itself known.

We passed through the villages of Cumwhitton and Wetheral, both quite well to do areas, supported all the way by locals. I high-fived I can’t remember how many children; it was a bit like the Great North Run in that respect. The hills were hard work with many of us walking up the worst of them.

I made 6 miles in 65 minutes – again not bad pace for me, but by then my right IT Band had started to tighten up, a lot. On walk breaks I took to hitting it in order to get the blood flowing, but that worked only briefly. I was fine on the flat and on downhills, but uphill was very hard work!

I started to really struggle at mile 7, taking far too many walk breaks for a decent time. My mile times dipped to 12 and 13 minute miles as I began to limp. I felt strong – if my foot and ITB had behaved I think that I might have got a good time, but they didn’t and by mile 9 I was in pain.

I met another runner, Emma, who had been running since the beginning of the summer and was running for Ataxia, spurred on by a recent diagnosis of a young girl. We yoyoed a bit as I took walk breaks, but eventually crossed the line more or less together.  At a particularly anxious stage of the race for me, at mile 11, when I was in severe pain with both my instep/heel and ITB,  she came to my rescue. She ran with me through Rickerby Park, telling me about herself and then asking me about myself until we reached a hill that I just couldn’t run up. I took a walk break, but caught her up a bit further on. When she started to falter at mile 12 I took her hand and we ran together for a while until she felt better. This is the first time I’ve experienced this and without Emma’s help I might not have finished at all, despite my own determination. I needed an angel.

My app stopped short of the finish, about a mile short. I restarted it so that I could benefit from greatly needed walk breaks, but ended up just running when I could. As I ran through Bitts Park I kept Emma in my sights and just kept going. I saw hubbie as I rounded the corner into Sheepmount Stadium. I thought that I had a lap of the course to do, but it was only half a lap. I ran as fast as I could through the line, but by the end I was completely spent. I couldn’t lift my leg onto the bucket for the chip to be removed, the pain in my leg was that bad. I could hardly move, but saw hubbie just beyond the finish area.

I started to see stars and realised that this meant that I was about to pass out. I hadn’t noticed that my breathing had become rapid, shallow, raspy gasps and that I was running out of air. We made it to some seats and I took my asthma inhaler, starting to feel better within a few minutes. It was scary, but passed quickly.

The bling was very nice and I also got a T shirt which, in time honoured fashion, I am wearing!

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The walk back to the car was complete murder.

Having parked at the other end of Bitts Park we had to walk for about 10 minutes. OMG. My foot ached, my ITB was taut and my hips were sore. I was a total mess! However, after a quick change of clothes, a soya milkshake and a Nature Valley bar I felt better.

Having been home for a few hours now I have bathed, applied Deep Freeze to my legs and sat for the Grand Prix with my foot on an ice pack. I’m starting to feel slightly hungry and slightly more human. I will sleep tonight. In fact, I might not make it to tonight!

Special mention has to go to EventClip, whose fab clips held my number in place, didn’t spoil my vest and looked pretty cool. I saw one other runner using them as well!

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Get your Event Clips at EventClip.net

What next then? Well I am booked in to do the Jedburgh 10k at the end of October. Hopefully my foot will heal in time for that. I’m now considering buying a night splint to stretch my foot – hell, I’ve tried everything else! My next run will be a short  recovery run once my foot feels better!