How I started running again after hitting a training wall and dealing with an injury

It’s been a slow — and sometimes fast — process, but my running game is finally back.

I burnt myself out after ramping up too quickly after the New Year and not taking time off after my marathon in October. By the end of February, I was in serious struggle mode. I didn’t enjoy running and my pace suffered. I ran Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C., and I almost walked off the course halfway.

Now, I’m finally back.

I’ve actually been back for awhile, but didn’t get around to writing about it.

It started with a beach vacation the first week of May.

I’d moved into my new apartment just a week before and barely ran in the week before and after the move, because moving takes an insane amount of work (surprise!). It didn’t help I decided to tackle several furniture painting projects, including a secretary desk I fell in love with.

On top of that, I’d been dealing with low back pain that first materialized in mid-February, then cropped up again a week after my March half. My doctor put me on steroids for a week and I worried about running when I couldn’t feel any pain. I eventually found PT — which started in early-April and finished in mid-May. I’ve had no pain since.

Back to that vacation. Staying in the southern Outer Banks, in the same motel my family has stayed at since I was in elementary school, I once again found running enjoyable.

I went on three runs that week — 3 or 4 miles each — nothing serious. But the sun on my face, the wind in my hair, it reconnected me with why I loved to run.

When I got back to real life, I struggled for a couple weeks with getting up for a run before work, but it sorted out eventually. My weekly mileage in May stayed relatively low. It’s exactly what I needed: I wasn’t pressuring myself, and I added miles slowly — both overall and long-run wise. I ran longer when I felt like it. My first 8-mile run in what seemed like forever felt amazing.

I went from 25 miles total for the month of March (that includes the half), 18 for the month of April to 50 for May. I found once again how much running before work energized me and set my mind at peace for the day ahead.

In June, I felt even more in the groove, and my pace was fully back in the 10-10:30 range. A trip to Quebec late in the month reminded me how much I love to run when I travel. And a full week off at home after that left me so well rested my runs felt almost effortless. I completed two 8 mile runs the final week of vacation, and I felt strong. I topped out at 68 miles for the month.

July was even better. I logged 92 miles for the month, including three 10-mile long runs. Getting back in the double-digit run area was not without struggle. I have not been good about getting up early on the weekend and the 10-milers left my legs tired. The first one was the hardest, of course. The second was on the treadmill (because: swamp outside), and that last mile took forever. The third was back on the trail, with a lovely breeze, and finally felt not exactly easy, but totally doable.

I’ve largely avoided the super hot and humid long runs. I’ve either stuck to the treadmill or completed a shorter run outside. In fact, I may end this summer season without ever running long in hotter, more humid temperatures. (Fingers crossed.) It’s helped that D.C. has had an unusual — but welcome — assortment of cooler, less humid weekends than I remember in the past couple years. And I’ve scheduled any 5-6 mile weekday runs around the cooler days, as well.

There are still days where I struggle to get out of bed to go for a run, days I even say screw it, I’m sleeping in. But by and large, those days are few and far between. And when they do strike, it’s a sign to me to examine whether I need a dropback week, as I did this past week. You know you’re tired when you sleep in both weekend days and still need a 3-hour nap each day.

The next race on my calendar is Rock ‘n’ Roll Philly, and I know I’ll be ready to tackle the half once again. After that I’m looking forward to enjoying fall’s cooler temperatures and lower humidity once again — and not having to consider hitting the treadmill to avoid the heat.



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