I am so gloriously happy. I had a massive problem which was interfering with my joy of running but I have figured it out….finally.
I’ll give you some background. Last spring, I had some trouble with my shoes. I changed them out and ran 3 half marathons that year but running had become joyless and hard work by the end of the season. I thought I was just tired and over trained.
I took 6 weeks completely off running beginning December. But, we were back in the gym mid-January to train for this year’s spring half. Because we had a record snowfall this winter, we trained on the treadmill. It was just terrible. Every run was an effort. My legs just felt like they were not properly attached to my body. They were heavy and odd. No amount of stretching or strength training seemed to fix the issue.
I turned 50 in February and considered tossing my running shoes in the back of the closet never to be seen again. I felt old and running had just become too difficult. My heart rate wasn’t coming into line as it had in previous years. Just thinking about training was an effort. I thought perhaps I should just be walking at my age. If I hadn’t been training with good friends, I might have given up right then. Instead, I deferred any decisions until after the race in May.
Thank my lucky stars, because last Monday, I experienced a miracle!
Spring has come and I’ve finally been able to run outside. Still lots of snow on the ground and the sidewalks aren’t totally clear but it is possible. On Monday, it was 10 degrees Celsius (hot for us islanders). The sun was shining. The snow was glistening and I set out with my heart rate monitor just intending to train easy and be happy. I had to keep my intervals quite short to keep my heart rate down but at least I was out and about.
I jogged through the subdivision and crossed the highway intending to take the long rural road out to the airport. It’s a lovely 10 KM route with long gentle inclines all the way out making for a fast trip home. As I slogged up the hill, I noticed the spring run-off from the fields. It was hard not to see it, in fact. The icy water rivulets had gathered into a fast flowing brook that wound its way around the lowest part of the fields until reaching the roadside ditch. In some places, the current had easily overflowed the ditch compromising the road itself. I had to be careful about running on the soft shoulders.
At the top of the hill, I reached the end of the paved portion of the road and my turnaround point. I started back down the grade, heading homeward. I noted that my heart rate was still too high even on the downhill. My legs still felt heavy and odd even after 5KM. I was still huffing and puffing. I hadn’t caught my second wind at all. This is how I’d felt for all my runs so far this year. It was disappointing. Even with the example of the spring run-off taking its natural course and flowing mightily downhill in the ditch beside me, I still struggled.
I rolled my shoulders and straightened my back intending to just tough the run out to the bitter end. And that is when I noticed that I had been running with a tipped pelvis. Although, my upper body was upright and my lower body straight and strong, somewhere in the middle I had gone wrong. I was able to remember back to my early days when I read everything about running. I tightened my upper abs allowing my hips to tuck under, and saw an instantaneous improvement. My legs felt like they were now swinging freely. My heart rate literally dropped 10 BPM. I felt true and natural and fluid just like the water rolling alongside me. On the outside I was running; on the inside my heart was skipping. It was positively joyful. I was able to run all the way home with only one break.
I am so grateful to Danny Dreyer for his book ChiRunning which I read years ago and so clearly need to read again. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I must have retained enough of his principles to be able to recognize, in a moment of clarity, when I had “released the clutch” making running so much more work and so much less natural. It was a long hard lesson to learn but I won’t forget again.
I ran another 10KM today…just for the fun of it. Life is good.
I hope you find this post helpful. Happy running!