Monday, December 12, 2011


Are we born to run?  Is running healthy for us?  Is it too hard on the body?  Is there a right way to run, or more importantly a wrong way?  What kind of shoes should we wear if we run ... or should we wear any at all?  So many questions.

Yep, I actually used to 'run' in these things
All that I can do here is tell my story of running.  It will add a piece to the overall puzzle and perhaps offer some insight for others to draw on.  Here it is:

I first began to run for fitness during my Freshman year of college.  And it didn't go well.  Very quickly I came up with an injury.  I can tell you now that it was Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS), but it would be many years and a few doctors down the road until I figured that out.  All I knew was that if I ran too much my knee would hurt.  And no matter how macho I though I was or how much pain I could tolerate, this was something I couldn't just 'run through'.  It was very frustrating to be so young, feel virtually invincible, and yet not be able to simply run when I wanted to.  Fortunately, I was also into cycling at the time and somehow got into competitive stair climbing as well.  Neither of these activities gave me knee pain.  You would think stair climbing in particular would, especially since I was running up them.  Not the case though.  During the rest of my college years I never did take up serious running again, I was satisfied with cycling and eventually lots of walking (what comes around goes around - I walk a lot now too).

After I graduated, I moved out to Colorado and tried running for the second time.  In short order the same injury happened again.  This time, I at least figured out my problem by researching running injuries at the Library.  It wasn't easy to get information or find solutions this way (still pre Internet - we are soooo lucky now) but I found the 'standard' treatment protocall - stretching, rest, ice and good old motion control running shoes (what a friggin disaster those things are).  None of that helped the pain in my knee though.  If I simply ran too far, the pain would creep up and I had to back off.  The only thing I had going for me was running up mountains.  This was similar enough to stair climbing that I could tolerate it much better.  And so, like any strapping young lad who likes a challenge, I signed myself up for the Pikes Peak Ascent, betting that I could get enough training in without overcooking my IT Band.  In hindsight it was a pretty dumb idea.  What motivated me through all of my training was that I could go relatively fast uphill.  Much faster than most people.  And so I 'managed' my training by not going to long and then on race day I went for it.  Oh, I felt it during the last quarter of that race alright ... and as it turns our for weeks to come, but I pushed through the pain on that day and made my goal time.  Whoopie.

What was so frustrating was that there was obviously something very wrong with my running and yet I could do nothing to fix it.  Flummoxed, I pretty much quit running for awhile after that race with perhaps only a short outing here and there.  I was still into cycling and found a new love for weightlifting, but in the back of my mind I always wanted to just be able to run and run to my hearts content ... not to my IT bands command.

IT band strap ... been there
Fast forward a couple of more years and I make the move to Aspen.  This is where I meet and become one of the cadio crazy people that populate this beautiful area.  Again, I 'managed' my ITBS by not running over an hour or so at any given time.  I had to alternate days with cycling or skate skiing to make sure I didn't overdo it.  Also again,  I did some uphill running races (that's virtually any race here - not much to speak of  in the way of flatland) and did quite well.  Still, I dreamt of running all day on the beautiful mountain trails but knew this was out of reach with my ITBS.  What happened next turned out to be the instigator for the eventual overhaul of my running style, a process that would end up taking years.

I wish I had an exact term for the second type of major injury that set me back, but it was essentially just muscle trauma.  Basically, my Achilles area would become inflamed if I ran too fast.  Such as running races full throttle.  Are you kidding me?  So now I couldn't run too fast in addition to not being able to run too far.  What the?  I was fit to be tied.  I went to see a couple of specialists in the area (Chiro, ART etc.) determined to fix my problems.  Not only were they not of any help, they basically didn't think there were any lasting solutions for serious ITBS.

Fortunately for me, the Internet Machine was finally coming into it's own as a research tool by this time.  Thank goodness.  I was too stubborn to give up running both long and fast.  I was active with other things so this would not have broken me, it's just that I was now obsessed with finding a solution.

I'll finish my story in the next post.

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