Saturday, July 8, 2006

Distances

I ran a 5K today. It wasn't one of those 5K races; I just ran on the treadmill. I've been covering five miles a day, alternating between running and walking, and usually running about three miles and walking about two miles. I'm meeting with a trainer next week to make sure I'm not doing anything too stupid to destroy my feet or knees. I don't think I am.

For some reason, no matter how awful and tired and depressed I am, putting one foot in front of the other makes things better for a while. I've been a big walker for years; ever since 1992, I've covered an average of about 20-30 miles a week. And, of course, I'm an avid long-distance hiker who loves nothing more than to chug up hills with 25 pounds on my back. My longest backpacking day was a full marathon: 26.2 miles from Jerry Cabin Shelter on the AT to Hot Springs, NC, in November. Not as many miles as a lot of backpackers out there, but nothing to sneeze at, either, if I may say so myself. :)

But I've never been a runner. I first tried running when I was in high school. I was overweight and too embarrassed to run in public, so I would wake up at 4:30 a.m. and run around my neighborhood in the dark. That lasted for a few weeks until one morning when I got a horrible pinched-nerve pain in my knee. I couldn't walk for several days. So much for that. It was heartbreaking, though; I'd discovered that I loved running, and had hoped running would become a lifelong activity--as well as the key to losing all those pounds.

I tried running again the summer after my sophomore year of college. Same thing: Ran for a few weeks, then got the debilitating pain in my knee, used people's shoulders as crutches for a few days, and quit running.

I went to orthopedists and sports-medicine doctors, but no one could tell me what was wrong.

I got the same pain one more time, when I was backpacking in Arkansas. It was my first solo backpacking trip, and I was carrying entirely too much weight for my small frame. A day and a half into the trip, the knee pain knocked me down, and I literally had to crawl my way out of the woods ... on one knee.

Rest, a lighter pack, and hiking poles saved my backpacking career. The knee pain has never come back. Shortly after the Arkansas trip, I went to an osteopath who said my left leg was longer than my right leg, which was putting undue pain on the knee. He did some adjustments to "even out" my legs. I think that helped, too. In fact, that may have been the real answer to my knee problems.

So, I'm trying to run again. I started about a week ago. I checked out several marathon-running training guides, and they begin with running 3-4 miles a day. Huh? I'm working my way up to three miles.

So, after a week of running (not every day, of course), I ran 3.1 miles today. No knee pain yet. It'll be a few weeks before I know it this will work this time. I'm hoping that meeting with a trainer will help, although my last trainer experience was a disaster. (Note to self: do not leg-press 230 pounds, even though your trainer tells you that you're capable of it.)

A marathon isn't on the horizon, but perhaps it will be eventually. For the moment, I just think it will be fun to run some 5Ks and maybe work my way up to a half-marathon. A marathon would be cool, though. Maybe one of these days.

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