Saturday, August 1, 2015

To run, or not to run, that is the question...

Is running ruining my body? That's the question I'm forced to ask at the moment.

This is how I currently feel about running
Running super hot LA Marathon 2014
I've never been sporty, and was the typical bullied fat kid when I was young, but ever since I've come to these U.S. shores I've found a great joy in running marathons, not only for the sense of achievement, but also the friends I've made training and fitness aspects of the activity.

Now three months away from my second New York Marathon, I'm starting to wonder if running is doing more harm than good.

Running my first ever L.A. Marathon in torrential rain in 2011
Running torrential rain LA Marathon 2011
I already have 'runner's knee' and have to strap it up with tape for extra stability every time I run (and it helps), but recently I've also been experiencing a constant crap in my left calf muscle which won't release (despite massages and constant foam-rolling), plus shoulder and back problems which I can't tell if they are being caused by the running, or being aggravated by it.

It's the third time the back issue has recurred and I've already been through two rounds of physio for it, lasting months, so I'm not keen to do even more.

Completing the San Francisco Marathon in July 2012
After San Francisco Marathon 2012
I do a lot of computer work and so I can imagine that's not great for my posture and may have contributed with all the sitting, and maybe it's repetitive strain injury from using the mouse with my right hand. Plus I never drove before I came to L.A., so is the additional sitting driving around this sprawling city and excursions further afield may also contributing.

The discomfort and fear of further injury has also made me stop doing much upper body workouts at the gym, plus I've also seen some weight gain from being slightly depressed about the whole situation.

Finishing the Honolulu Marathon in December 2012
2012 Honolulu Marathon Finish
So I'm looking into a standing desk, plus I've tried all kinds of pillows as I tend to naturally sleep on my stomach, which puts lots of pressure on your neck and joints, as ways to help remedy certain factors. I get deep tissue massages regularly and stretch after every run. Plus I've just bought some compression sock sleeves for my legs to see if that will help my calf (which I'm now thinking may be a tear, rather than cramp).

My last few marathons haven't gone to plan, my times have slowed, mainly because of extreme weather conditions, but I also think these ongoing health issues have factored into my performance of late. I've never felt as comfortable or as strong since my first round of physical therapy back in the Summer of 2013.

Running my fastest marathon in 3:42:18 at the 2013 L.A. Marathon
2013 LA Marathon runner
Last year I ran the New York Marathon and got my highly sought after entry by running for a charity. This year by sheer fluke I got in again via the lottery, so I don't want to waste this opportunity, but it's a hard race and I'm wondering if my body is up for it again.

Should this be my last marathon? I know I'm the kind of person that if I stop now, I may never get back into running, so I'm torn.

Running a hot Vancouver Marathon in May 2013
Running Vancouver Marathon 2013
There's also the L.A. Marathon in February next year. I've run five in a row and would love to complete a sixth in better weather conditions and continue my hometown streak. The last two L.A. races have been super hot and next year because of the Olympic time trials the marathon is a month earlier, which potentially should help with the weather and the heat.

Here's my dilemma, I love to run but I feel like it's killing me.

My 2014 L.A. Marathon charity pace group
Here are some of the things I like about running marathons:
  • It's a big part of my social life (I run with friends two to three times a week).
  • There's a huge sense of accomplishment in competing and finishing a marathon.
  • I've been to places like Honolulu, Vancouver, San Francisco, New York and even back to London to run marathons, so it's expanded my horizons and I was hoping to run Chicago and Portland in the future. 
  • Exercising this way allows me to eat and drink without feeling too guilty.
  • Running is a great physical thing to do that helps clear your mind and de-stress.
  • You can just put on a pair of running shoes and just go out the door. There's no getting in your car to go the gym. There's no attitude or peer pressure from the body perfect people at the gym. 
  • It's liberating and you don't necessarily need to be good at it like other sports.
  • I've raised thousands of dollars/pounds for charity and helped raise awareness for HIV/AIDS.
  • I've been surprised at how good at it I am.
Running a wet Vancouver Marathon in May 2014
Running rainy Vancouver Marathon 2014
One of my biggest frustrations is that even when I go to physical therapy I feel like the doctors are treating the symptoms and not the cause. They can never categorically tell me what's causing this problem.

Running a cold and windy 2014 New York Marathon
2014 New York Marathon runner
My back/shoulder injury wasn't from a fall initially (although the second time I did slip in the shower and reactivate it), it deteriorated over time to where I couldn't pick things up or use my right arm properly.

Was it our rambunctious Labrador Cooper pulling on his leash as a pup? Did I overdo it at the gym? Have I created the problem due to too much desk and computer time because of all my blogging? Is it because I'm getting older and can't maintain this level of activity?

Finishing 2015 London Marathon with another
Terrence Higgins Trust charity runner
2015 London Marathon finish line
For the past six years or so I've been running two to three marathons a year, plus all the training. I know we're all different, but friends of mine run far more than me and don't seem to have the same difficulties.

A small selection of some of my marathon finisher medals
Marathon Finisher medals
Ah, it's good to vent. Hopefully everything I'm doing will help my recovery and allow me to keep running. I'll be really sad if I have to stop.

So, to run, or not to run, that really is the big question...

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