The Highs and Lows of Running

By: Brad Deel

It’s the time of year when many of us look back on various aspects of our life and think about what went well and what didn’t go so well.  I certainly do this whether the reflection is about my family or my work or my running.  This year, what I have learned about running is that it can take you to the clouds or drop you in a canyon.

The canyon.  The year started after I received a copy of Brad Hudson’s classic Run Faster From the 5K to the Marathon.  Hill sprints?  Hmmm.  Never tried those.  Sounds like fun.  Start with 6 x 6 seconds?  Nah.  I’m in good shape.  I’ll start with the max.  10 x 10 seconds.  I did that on New Year’s Day.  By January 2nd, my left hamstring hurt and the pain got worse over the next few days.  I ended up sidelined for a full two weeks and my hamstring has never fully healed.  It still hurts a bit.  Not an auspicious start.

The cloud.  Having met all of the goals I set when I was a new runner, I looked for new goals this year.  One of them was inspired by something I’d read in Running Times – run 100 miles in a week.  I managed to do that in June with a 108 mile week.  I was enormously tired by the end of that week but elated at the end of the final run.  Terrific.

The cloud and the canyon.  If I can run 108 miles in a week, surely I can run 50 kilometers.  Does it matter that I’ve been doing a lot of short fast stuff to work on my speed and precious few long runs?  Does it matter that there are over 10,000 feet of elevation change in this race and almost all of my running has been on flat ground?  Nah.  I’m in good shape.  I’ll just go do it.  I finished in the top 10 so that was cool.  Unfortunately, because of my lack of conditioning for such a race, I injured my right Achilles tendon.  I tried severely reduced mileage for two weeks but that didn’t work.  I then took an entire month off.  That didn’t work either.  I ended up going through a month of physical therapy after that month off although I was able to start ramping up again while in physical therapy.  Of course, missing that six weeks of training knocked me out of any chance of running a decent marathon in November. 

The cloud.  Then, I learned that running wasn’t always about me and I paced another runner through her first half marathon.  Watching her cross the finish line was much more rewarding than the marathon would ever have been.  Things do have a way of working out.

The cloud and the canyon redux.  One of my longer term goals had been to run a 5K faster than a 6:00 pace.  I made the attempt on December 3.  18:38 is a 5:59.84 pace while 18:39 is a 6:00.01 pace.  I ran 18:38.  Yeah, I know it rounds to 6:00 but it’s still faster than 6:00 and it’s my PR so I’m counting it.  In what seems to be a fitting end to the year, I came out of that race with a sore left knee and it’s still sore.  I’m in physical therapy again but running through it. 

From the highs of pacing someone through their first race and meeting a long term goal to the lows of being hurt three times and missing a significant part of the year, I experienced it all.  I have been ecstatic and frustrated but I never gave a single thought of giving up.  Running has changed me from an obese chain smoker to someone who can run 108 miles in a week and it did that in less than four years.  That’s remarkable and it shows that, in no small part, you don’t have to be good – just persistent.  See ya out there.

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