Tag Archives: runner’s knee

My Runner-versary

I read somewhere (probably in Runner’s World Magazine) that you are officially “a runner” after you run your first race.

I ran my very first competitive race on September 30th, 2012, exactly one year ago today. It was Zane’s Run in Sugartown, PA. It was chip timed, and not quite a true 5K, measuring out at 2.8 miles in the end, which was a little disappointing for my first time. I finished in 28 minutes. And yes, that is all from memory. I think it’s like your first date, or the day you purchased your first car, or even your wedding day. Which is why I’m calling today, and every September 30th from here on out my “Runner-versary.”

In the spirit of any anniversary, I think it is worthwhile to spend a little time and reflect on the events of the past year and speculate a little about the next year.

From a year ago today, I am 20lbs lighter. I have raced competitively in over 15 timed events. I have increased my race distance from 3.1 miles (5K) to completing my first half-marathon (13.1 miles). I have gotten my 5K PR down to 24 minutes, which is pretty fast for an old desk jockey like me.

For the next year, I’m already training hard for my next half-marathon, which I will run in mid-November. After that, I’m planning on setting my sights on a full marathon some time in the spring of 2014. Very loose plans on that front for now. I will spend the winter running again, as I did last year, competing in some of my favorite local races like the Shiver by the River series, and the Chris Cringle 5 miler just before Christmas.

My thought for the last year. Something I have noticed frequently when I talk to others about being a runner. Nearly every time, I hear at least two or three excuses why a person can’t run. Then I talk a little about the excuses I used to give for not running. I used to always say my “Golden Rule” was that I only run when I am chased. It would always elicit a chuckle or two, but it was an excuse nonetheless. I used to have trouble with my knees. It was my biggest excuse for not running. It turns out that my knees hurt so much because my legs were weak. Once my legs got stronger, my knee pain disappeared! I mean completely disappeared. I also used to not run because it made me feel terrible. Once I got stronger, lost some weight, and built up a little endurance that went away, too. In fact, I feel worse on days I don’t run now. I certainly understand that some people have legitimate reasons why they can’t run, such as past knee surgeries or the like. Those are legitimate reasons and not excuses. I’m really just speaking to the excuse-makers here.  My challenge to you, excuse-maker, is to create two or three excuses for why you CAN run.

My very first timed race, Zane's Run 5K in Sugartown, PA, September 30th, 2012

My very first timed race, Zane’s Run 5K in Sugartown, PA, September 30th, 2012

Pain in the Ass

Sometimes, running can be a real pain in the ass. Literally.

At some point while training for my last run, the Shiver by the River 10K, I learned a few new things about my body. I think when I mentioned in my opening blog post that my knees felt great, that I jinxed myself, because not long after that a few things got dicey. What did I learn?

First, I am flat-footed and was wearing the wrong running shoes. I was in a pair of Nike Lunarglide Plus‘s. But because of my flat-footed gait, I tend to pronate a bit more than I should with my left foot when in a normal stride. This was causing me to have some mild runner’s knee in my left knee, which I was complaining about a bit in my last post. I discovered this because of another rather unpleasant thing I learned about my body.

The second thing I learned is that I got myself a nice little case of piriformis syndrome. Thus the title of this post; I had a moderately annoying tight pain in the left side of my butt. At first I thought it was just muscular pain from some uphills I did either in a training run or on race day. But when it didn’t go away after a few days, I got a little concerned and sought some medical advice. It turns out that because of my uneven gait when I was running (because of the over-pronation) I caused the piriformis muscle to get irritated, and it inflamed, pinching a portion of my sciatic nerve. Ouch! Thankfully, once I knew what it was, it wasn’t that hard to alleviate. First ice. I sat on some ice packs for about 20 minutes at a time, 3 – 4 times a day. Then heat. The next day I got out the electric blanket, sat on it, and turned it on high to try and help the muscle to relax. There are also a few stretches I found online that are extremely helpful.
Piriformis Stretch 1
Piriformis Stretch 2

It took me the better part of 2 weeks to get it to finally let go and start feeling better. The next thing to do then after resting up was to get a better pair of shoes and try a few easy runs. I took a friend’s advice and took a little drive up to Emmaus (near Allentown, PA) to visit the Finish Line Running Store. Great recommendation! They have a super-knowledgeable staff and were able to see right away what was getting me in trouble. They sent me home with a pair of Asics Gel T-2000‘s. I could feel the difference right away.

I also invested in a pair of knee straps, to give my kneecaps some additional support while I re-train in my new shoes. I went with a Runner’s World Magazine recommendation and got the Cho-Pat Dual Action Knee Strap. The straps feel great, and take the pressure off of my kneecaps extremely well.

So very cautiously, I have returned to some slow, easy training runs. I can certainly feel the difference now with better shoes and being more conscious of staying properly aligned and running with good posture. My right leg is definitely more sore after my runs because it is finally having to share the burden more evenly, which is a very good thing. There are no signs of any returning Piriformis Syndrome, which is also a very good thing. My runner’s knee is still present, but getting better. I have a few races coming up, which I am inclined to do rather than forfeit. If I race one and don’t feel good, I’m going to take a break for a while longer much to my chagrin. But I ran the last two mornings and feel really good, so I’m hoping the trend will continue for my next race this Saturday, the Quakertown Rotary 10-miler. It will be my longest distance to date. I’m being cautiously optimistic, but as of today, it’s still a go in my mind.