Since my diagnosis of a talus bone bruise and peroneal tendonitis back in August, I haven’t run far at all. Typically, I’ve been running between 3 and 5 miles when I set out in the morning. During my attempted healing, I also developed posterior tibial tendonitis (a.k.a. inner arch tendonitis), so I had to keep my mileage low while that healed, too.

Now that I’m almost back to 100 percent, I’ve been slowly increasing my daily mileage.

Last week, I bumped up my longest distance to 6 miles, and I just made it to 8 miles this past Sunday — but that’s nothing compared to my long runs during a training season.

I have to say, though, it’s been nice getting a break from the grueling distances I was hammering out at the end of marathon training. It wasn’t pleasant waking up on a Saturday morning knowing I had to run 15 plus miles and knowing that if I keep hitting snooze it would only get hotter.

However, running shorter distances as I recovered allowed me to rediscover why I love running.

Why? It’s fun!

I ran without my Runtastic app as I eased back into it, running based on feel and duration rather than distance. Without the pressure of achieving a certain distance, I focused on enjoying the runs. At the start of my recovery, I was only running every other day, so I got a break between runs that allowed me to eagerly await rather than tiredly dread the next. Between runs I was doing home workouts consisting of squats, lunges, planks and other basic moves.

It was wonderful taking a less intense approach to fitness as most my daily workouts only lasted about 30 minutes. While I did miss the ability to physically run five days a week with a healthy, injury-free body, I could tell the step-back was much needed.

Luckily, fall hit right when I could begin a gradual return to running, so my free runs were filled with the crisp wind in my face and leaves crunching beneath my feet — the perfect running weather!

running-recovery

As I’m now running five days a week again and running without worrying about aches and pains in my feet, I’m reflecting on the journey that my injury took me on; I’m also looking ahead.

As with most major road bumps in life, it was a learning opportunity.

I’ve realized that even as I now just run to stay in shape and maintain fitness before tackling a spring race out in Denver, the Colfax Half-Marathon, I must take a conservative approach. Since I’m back to running almost every day, it’s imperative that I pay attention to my body and don’t allow old injuries to return.

Rigidly following a training plan didn’t work for me with marathon training because I stopped listening to my body, dismissing its need for sleep and extra rest days. I thought I had to push through at all costs, but that mentality cost me dearly.

My physical therapist gave me a great quote to think on when I start training again: “If you listen to your body when it whispers, you won’t have to hear it when it screams.” This time, and hopefully always, I will listen to the whispers.

Following a standardized training plan didn’t work for me, either. My desires to hike, strength train, attend yoga class, and walk my dog a few miles each day weren’t accounted for with the standardized plans, but I still tried to fit it all in. This resulted in serious overtraining and too much wear on my body.

While it’s beneficial to model a training plan after standardized plans to achieve consistency and a proper buildup in mileage, I have to make adaptations for my schedule and other activities. Using several standardized plans as starting points and thinking about what I have going on in my life, I will create my own specialized plan when I begin training for the Colfax Half-Marathon. I’ll be ready to adapt the plan if needed; after all, life happens.

I’ll also keep a log for the training season, noting how I feel before, during and after every run. Writing it out will force me to pay attention to those whispers!

After what’s happened, I’m not sure that I strive to run a marathon again, at least not anytime soon. For the last month of marathon training, I didn’t like running anymore; it had become a chore. I dreaded waking up to my long runs, and I was exhausted all the time (some days I wanted to cry because of it). While I could take up a marathon training plan with less running, I still believe that those long runs would start to ruin my love of the sport again. Plus, even with less running, I know the intensity involved — there’s a certain weekly mileage that needs to be met.

joy-of-running

When I think back on my training for the DC Rock n’ Roll Half-Marathon last spring, it was fun! I was doing more speed work, and my weekday and weekend runs were much shorter. I still had leftover energy for strength training, walking and hiking, and I never experienced anything close to the fatigue marathon training brought upon me. In short, I was happier, and I was still just as fit.

I like to run five days a week, and I want to run five days a week, but I know that I can’t sustain all of my other activities if I run five days a week on a marathon training plan. If I try to, I’ll end up in a walking boot again! The weekly mileage just gets too be too high.

For now, I’ve concluded that a marathon just isn’t fit for the type of runner I am. I enjoy half-marathons because they’re a manageable distance that still require focus, dedication and determination. I’m not ready to give up my other activities or weekend social life to pursue marathon training to the fullest. Instead, I will focus on setting new PRs for half-marathons and maybe for some 10ks and 5ks, too (like the Boulder Boulder 10k I’m registered for in May).

There’s no prescribed distance I have to run to truly be a runner.

It’s okay that I tried and failed to run a marathon, and it’s okay that in the process I realized that I didn’t like marathon training.

Perhaps I’ll try again one day, but I don’t see it happening anytime soon. I have a busy year ahead as I move across the country, search for a job, and settle in a new state. I want running to relieve the stress of those new situations, not add on to them. For that to happen, I have to pick race distances that fit into my schedule and allow me to keep my love for running alive.

Wish me luck as I get back out there!

I’ll keep you updated on my progress both on the blog and on my social media accounts. My current goal is to be fit, strong and healthy for my upcoming wedding and for all the hiking I’ll be doing on my honeymoon in Costa Rica. I can’t wait for all that’s ahead of me, and I’m happy running gets to complement the exciting events!

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