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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Hardest Part of Running: Not Running

Dealing with an injury seems to be an inseparable part of running for a majority of runners. Close to 80% of runners are injured at some point. Running is physically stressful and coping with an injury, especially during training for a race, is mentally difficult. 
As far as I can remember, each of my races was somehow associated with an injury I had to deal with: BMO in 2003, runner’s left knee; BMO 2005, strained right calf muscle; Portland 2009, foot hairline fracture; Boston 2010, plantar fasciitis; Chicago 2010, stomach flu; Eugene 2011, IT Band syndrome; New York 2011, piriformis syndrome; and training for the Berlin Marathon in September this year will need to involve a recovery from a lower back injury, probably the most serious injury for me so far. This is a long and depressing list. Maybe that’s why I can easily sympathize with a Canuck, Sami Salo who had to deal with lots of adversity and various injuries on and off the ice in his NHL career. His passion for the game gave him the strength to go through the rehab and come back on the ice again and again. 

Many of you asked me about my status. Well, in recent weeks I learned more about L5-S1 vertebrae and disk injuries than I ever wanted to know. My message on Facebook to Mike P. quoting MRI results of my lower spine included words that would be incomprehensible to most of us, difficult to find in regular English dictionary, and could be deciphered only by a smart MD.  But ultimately these complex medical terms and concepts can be simplified. A runner simply wants to know: what should I do to speed up the recovery and when can I run again? Unfortunately, in case of lower back injury, this date seems to be like a date for Sidney Crosby to recover from a concussion. There is no hard rule. There is no hard date. It all depends.

Thanks to recommendation by Nicole’s husband Harondale, and a short trip to Costco, my daily routine now includes a 10-minute session on an inversion table to decompress my spine, followed by traditional stretching. This self-applied treatment seems to be helping. Radiating pain along my right leg has abated and I can walk again without limping.  

To keep my spirits and fitness level high, I often go for long power walks or hang out in the Gold's Gym at UBC at least 5 times a week. A 90-minute session on the elliptical is my lifeline. And just between us (my chiro and physio don’t need to know) every time I come across a hill on my power walk round, I can’t resist running it. Hill running keeps my cardio high and the impact on my lower back seems to be low.  

However, the part of running I miss the most is its social aspect; the tradition of going for coffee after the long run with a group of friends from Alma RR. Well, one day, hopefully soon, I will see you all again at 8:30 on Sunday morning.

Run Strong,

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