“I’ve been waiting weeks for you. Yeah, it was only three miles. And it was slow. But it felt so right. My legs felt light. My lungs felt fresh. Everything came together. Tonight, I had an “I’m back” run.” -Friday, May, 11th, 2012
An “I’m back” run is just that. Whether you are trying to come back from a nagging injury or even mental burnout, it’s comforting to know that eventually (in most cases) you will be able to run again without feeling awkward, unsure, or even having pain.
Listening to one’s body takes time and practice. As much as I get down on myself for not being able to break 22 in the 5k during the last three years, I have to constantly remind myself that in each situation, it was the timing and not my ability that has held me back. I set a 2 mile PR (13:26) this year and a 4 mile PR last winter (28:36). Both of those times equate to a 21:50 5k so I know I have the ability to break 22. But when I fail to listen to my body, for fear that a few days to even a week off will hurt my training, I end up with something worse than the original problem.
Looking back at my logs, it’s easy to learn from my lessons. With this last injury, I started to complain of localized pain in mid-late March. Yeah, I would take a day off here or there by swimming. But then I would get right back to it. I would have a few good days. Then a few bad days. I then would take it easy, thinking I could run through the pain. And before I knew it, I couldn’t stand on my tip toes. If I would have taken the week off back in March, that I just did now, I would probably be hitting 50 mile weeks and running well under 22 minutes in the 5k.
Such is life. And the lessons it brings. In order to keep from dwelling on what I could have done, the best thing I can do is continue to learn from my mistakes. “I’m back” runs also provide a chance for one to reflect on the lessons learned.
In 2011, I cross trained like a mad-woman. 90 minute pool running sessions? But the cross training helped me to transition back to training a lot quicker. I was injured twice last year. My “I’m back” runs for those two mishaps were actually half marathons. Last May, I was trying to train for the Cleveland Half before developing a stress reaction in the ankle. I cross trained for four weeks and then ran for one week. I decided to still run the half. I ended up running 1:48:02 and felt ready to begin a summer build up after that race. In the fall, I developed the same foot pain I have now but in the other foot. I had four weeks of off/on running before deciding to jump into the River Run Half marathon in an effort to see if the pain was just in my head. I also finished in 1:48:02. No joke (I also ran 1:48:01 in my very first half marathon)! Surely, much of the pain was over-reacting because after that race, I was able to easily start my 40 miles a week buildup, which eventually led to running my fastest times ever in my workouts and in the 2 and 4 miles races.
And there in lies the overcoming injury battle: knowing when to back off and when to train through. After this last round of pain, I feel like I have a better grasp over reading my body than the previous two years. I also learned that with ART, I don’t need to take so much time off as I had before. Keeping logs on your shoes isn’t a bad idea either. This time around, I was definitely in need of a new pair. More importantly, I am now more comfortable with taking 1-2 weeks off from running (but still cross training) every once in a while to recharge. And if I find myself injured again, I at least know that I’ll have that bittersweet “I’m back” run waiting for me.
How do you feel after overcoming an injury? Have you ever had your own “I’m back” run?
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