Beyond the Knee; knowledge is power (2)

@healthline.com

The human body is amazing in structure and capability; strong, resilient, and adaptable. Even so, it can be unsuspectingly fragile when put under rigorous pressure and repeated strenuous activity. In other words, superhumans we are not. But we try and though the results can sometimes be painful, it doesn’t faze us. And that’s ok because where’s the fun in living within the confines of the fear of getting hurt. Surely, it is better to move in knowledge and confidence taking proactive measures to guard against injury as much as it is within one’s power to do so. For this reason, I’ve opted to empower myself with the knowledge to help me move in a healthy and safe manner and inspire you to do the same.

Continuing from where I left off last post, today we’ll look at other common injuries that affect runners beyond the knee. Some are Shin splints, Plantar fasciitis, Stress fractures, Ankle Sprains, Tendonitis, Pull muscle/ muscle strain, and Back Pain.

  • Shin splints or medial tibial stress syndrome, are the most common cause of lower-leg pain in athletes. They are overuse injuries meaning they occur overtime through repeated use (Robert Wilder MD). Experts suspect shin splints affect anywhere from 5% to 35% of all runners. Shin Splints refer to diffuse pain along the inside of the shin. Pain is typically felt in the bottom 2/3 of the “Medial tibia” aka the inside of the shin. Common symptoms associated with shin splints are: dull pain affecting the lower inside of the shin, pain occuring during activity, tenderness of the area, calf muscles, and decreased ankle flexibility. According to Dr Wilder, Some causes and risk factors include: intensified training, hyperpronation, flat feet, improper footwear, running on hard air uneven surfaces, and bad running form. In addition, many experts believe shin splints are caused by inflammation or other minor damage to the calf muscles, tendon or tibia. While the exact root of pain may not be clear, treatment involves rest, icing, and over the counter NSAIDs.
  • Plantar fasciitis may be expressed in runners as a stabbing heel pain. Experts believe that when the plantar fascia is put under strain it becomes inflamed or develops tiny tears (micro-tears), or both. The plantar fascia is a thick band of fibrous tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot between the toes and heel. If the fascia becomes inflamed, it can cause painful symptoms ranging from mildly annoying to debilitating.  Conservative treatments, such as resting, stretching, and over the counter anti-inflammatory medications (e.g. ibuprofen), are successful in treating 90% of cases (Andrew Cole MD).
  • Stress fractures – A stress fracture is a small crack in a bone that occurs when bone tissue has to absorb more weight and impact than it can handle. This type of injury can occur over time in a well-conditioned bone that is overused, or suddenly in an underconditioned bone that is placed under undue stress in a short period. Stress fractures most frequently occur in the feet, ankles, and lower legs, though they can also occur in other parts of the body, such as the pelvis, hip, ribs, sacrum, clavicle, and upper extremities/ arms (Adam Yanke, MD, PhD). The symptoms of shin splints and tibial stress fractures can be similar. Shin splints differ from stress fractures in two ways: 1. Shin splints tend to cause dull or diffuse pain, in contrast to stress fractures, which tend to cause sharp pain that is concentrated to one area. 2. Shin splints cause pain on the inside of the shin, not the front of the shin. Pain on the front of the shin, or tibia, may represent a stress fracture. In his article, All About Stress Fractures, Yanke states that once the location and severity of the athlete’s stress fracture(s) is diagnosed, treatment can begin. Treatment protocols can range from simply a period of rest to casting, bracing, physical therapy, or even surgery, depending on the type and number of fractures, and/or the specific bone(s) affected.
  • Ankle sprains and strains – the ankle joint is a complex interconnection of ligaments, muscles, and tendons that makes it a relatively stable joint compared to other joints in the body. This stability is essential to its function. The ankle sustains 1.5 times the body’s weight in impact with every walking step, and up to 8 times the body’s weight with each step when running or jumping (Julia Bruene, MD). High-impact activities such as jumping, running etc can increase the risk of injury as well as sudden movements and twists and turns too far out of its normal range. In her article, “All About Ankle Sprain and Strains” on sports-health.com, Bruene highlights the difference  between ankle sprains and strains.      Ankle sprains are caused by direct or indirect trauma to the ankle ligaments. It can occur when the ankle is forced beyond its normal range of motion, such as when people twist their ankle when making a sudden stop on an athletic field or track, walking or running on an uneven surface, or when tripping over an obstacle. If not treated, or with repeated sprains of the same tissues, pain and dysfunction from acute ankle sprains can become chronic.                           An Ankle strain is an injury that occurs when ankle muscles and/or their connecting tendons are either stretched beyond their normal limits or torn outright. Often this occurs where the muscle connects to the tendon. Less common than ankle sprains, ankle strains often occur due to chronic overuse of the ankle as is seen in running long distances, repeated hard landings and articulations of the ankle as performed in ballet and gymnastics. Strains can also occur due to acute injury to the lower body (as can occur in high contact sports), overstretching of the ankle, or excessive contraction of the muscles. Treatment for Sprains and Strains are pretty similar with highly recommended rest for four to six weeks utilizing a combination of the R.I.C.E method and as needed use of NSAIDs for grade 1 and 2 ankle sprains and strains. Grade 3 sprains and strains are usually unstable and require longer healing, says Bruene. The following treatment protocol may be used: casting or bracing and rehab treatment including electrical stimulation, ultrasounds, and physical therapy/strengthening exercises. In severe and chronic cases of sprains and strains one or more types of surgery might be warrented.
  • Tendonitis – The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscles to the back of the heel bone, called the calcaneus. If the tendon becomes irritated and inflamed it is called tendonitis., Symptoms of Achilles tendonitis can include pain, skin redness, and swelling just above the heel. The area may also become stiff, limiting the ankle’s range of motion (Andrew Cole MD). Anyone can be suseptible to this but Achilles tendonitis frequently occurs in runners who ramp up their training too quickly or whose calf muscles are too tight. Symptoms may be worse first thing in the morning or after a workout. For treatment rest and other non-surgical treatments can usually relieve symptoms. However, blood flow is limited in this area of the body, so Achilles tendonitis can be slow to heal.
  • Pull calf (gastrocnemius) muscle/Muscle strain – The gastrocnemius muscle is the largest muscle in the calf, and it is prone to strains and tears in runners.2 These strains and tears may occur from ramping up a running routine without adequate training or from sudden motions such as jumping, pushing off or making a quick turn. Small tears in the muscle fibers may cause mild aching, stiffness and soreness. Light jogging and walking may be done though it may be uncomfortable. A severe muscle tear or a full rupture of the muscle, will be quite painful and cause bruising and swelling. A person with a severe muscle strain may not be able to walk normally and may require months to recover. In rare cases, surgery may be recommended (Andrew Cole MD).
  • Back pain – The repetitive impact of running can cause back pain, most commonly low back pain. Whether this pain is caused by strained muscles or by a problem with the spine’s vertebrae or discs may influence treatment and training (Andrew Cole MD). Cole states that a runner may experience the following symptoms if the soft tissues become fatigued and strained: the back may feel dull and achy, the affected area may be sore to the touch, flexibility may decrease, so that bending over or twisting at the waist is difficult and uncomfortable. Sometimes pulled back muscles will spasm, causing severe pain that prevents daily activities. In these cases, it is possible for the muscle to squeeze a nerve root and cause radiating pain to the arms or legs, known as radiculopathy or sciatica says Cole. While strained back muscles and ligaments are painful and can be temporarily debilitating, they are relatively benign. When provided adequate rest and treatment, pain should be gone within 2 to 4 weeks. According to Cole, further back pain can result from injury to the spine since both the spine’s vertebrae and intervertebral discs experience extra pressure each time a runner’s foot impacts ground. This impact can exacerbate an existing or developing back problem and can result in herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, and vertebral stress fractures. Significant pain can ensue but doesn’t generally require surgery.  Treatment will vary but it is recommended to seek a medical evaluation early on if pain doesn’t subside with rest within 4 to 6 weeks and/or if symptoms increase.

It’s a bit reassuring and aggravating, all at the same time, to see some of the symptoms I’m experiencing articulated here while still not experiencing the relief I’m working towards. I have to continuously remind myself that healing is a process and that I have to be patient and trust the process. Nothing good has ever been wrought in haste. Maybe, like me, you needed this little reminder and this post will encourage you to be more mindful of the power and responsibility you have. My hope is that the information that I’ve gathered together, from a couple of peer-reviewed articles and doctors in the field, will help us to be mindful in our exercise and running pursuits. Forwarned is forearmed after all.

Why the Knee is Key; knowledge is power

Runners have thankful soles and are thankful souls. We spend a lot of time in motion and consistently use the same muscles over and over again and if not mindful we can overextend ourselves, which can lead to muscle overuse and injury. Notwithstanding minor aches and pains every once in a while, I’ve been running for about 20 years, 15 of those pretty consistently, and have been sidelined with an injury only two or three times, including now. Now that’s some pretty good odds right there.

I’m currently dealing with some sciatic nerve pain. Your guess is as good as mine and my physical therapist, as to the why and exactly where. As to whether it’s running related or not  is also unclear. It certainly isn’t one of the more common runner’s problem so it’s quite possible the cause of my running hiatus has nothing to do with running at all.  It could be a complex mix ranging from issues arising out of my overly active lifestyle, a weak core, or something as basic as utilizing poor form when lifting at the gym and performing other strength exercises. You would think I have a strong core? Me too! Clearly, not strong enough is what I’m learning.

Getting sidelined with an injury is no fun for a runner and certainly no fun for anyone. When I’m caught off guard and something bothers me, right away I’m on top of it and want to know the why and wherefore whether it’s a pesky hamstring or a troublesome ankle. Knowledge is power and while we cannot be in control of, or even responsible for, every injury that befalls us, there are those we can beware of and guard against and even be quick to take care of if and when we encounter them.  Armed with knowledge of the possible injuries we face, we can make more informed decisions and run smart.

Most common running injuries occur in the knees, ankles, shins, and calves. Secondary muscles such as the back and hip muscles can also be affected. For the purposes of this post, I highlight the knee injuries most common to runners. They are: Runner’s knee, IT band syndrome, Patellar tendonitis, Miniscus damage, and Knee osteoarthritis. I’ve fallen victim to a few of these so that qualifies me to talk. Right? Bragging rights and all that. Lol. But seriously, I’m not a doctor just a runner with a personal account of running issues that I’ve either faced myself or known of others who have.  So I speak from a place of familiarity and not authority.

In a peer reviewd article titled, Common Running Injuries, Knee Pain Andrew Cole MD states that both walking and running exerts extra pressure and weight on the knee that far exceeds the body’s weight: 3 times the body’s weight when walking and 5 times the body’s weight when running. No surprise then that the knee is the most susceptible joint to injury in the body.

  • Runner’s Knee – according to Dr Michael Khadavi, Pain in the front, or anterior, part of the knee is often due to an abnormality of the patellofemoral joint and called “runner’s knee.” While runner’s knee has many underlying causes, the hallmark symptom is pain at front of the knee, around or behind the kneecap, particularly during movement such as running or squatting, or with prolonged sitting. It is most common in individuals who repetitively stress the patellofemoral joint through sports that involve running. Some causes and risk factors of runner’s knee are: sudden increase in the volume or intensity of training; overuse and overtraining of the knee; injury to the ankle, hip, or knee; weak or underdeveloped hip or thigh muscles; excessive body weight; tight quadriceps, calf, illitobial band, or hamstrings; and gender. Presumably, women are more prone to runner’s knee due to having wider hips and different knee alignment.

Some symptoms of runner’s knee include: pain in the front of the knee, a grinding or crunching sensation within the knee, pain that worsens with movement (excess friction), knee swelling, and stiffness after a period of rest or while riding in a car or sitting. Treatment is usually the RICE method: rest, ice, compress, and elevate. If symptoms extend beyond 2 weeks then it’s recommended to see a sports doctor.

  • Iliotibial (IT) band friction syndrome. The IT band is made of fibrous tissue that connects the buttocks muscles to the upper portion of the tibia (shin). A root cause of this injury is weak gluteus (buttock) muscles. (Yale Medicine.org) Treatment involves stretching and/or foam rolling the IT band, employing specific stretches and strengthening exercises to lengthen and strengthen the gluteal muscles, the IT band itself, and the hamstring.
  • Patellar tendinitis, commonly referred to as jumper’s knee, can cause pain at the front of the knee, at the lower kneecap or the bony bump at the top of the shin. The pain may be minor and felt only when exercising, or it may be severe enough to affect a person’s daily activities, such as going up stairs. Along with pain, a person may notice swelling, redness and warmth writes Andrew Cole, MD in his article “Common Running Injuries” in SPORTS-health. Jumper’s knee is common in athletes whose sports require rapid jumping or stopping from high speed, and is more common in male athletes than in women. Risk factors include: insufficient training preparation, prior injury, and being overweight. Some symptoms include: pain during athletic motion, swelling, bruising or redness, and discomfort during daily activities. It is advised to stop all athletic activity even though you may feel you can proceed to avoid a worsening of the condition. Immediate treatment include pain medications and the R.I.C.E. method for minor cases but may include prolonged treatment and even surgery depending on the diagnosis (Terry Gemas, M.D)
  • Miniscus Damage. The meniscus is a C-shaped pad of cartilage that separates the tibia and the femur and provides cushion and stability. It can be damaged in a single traumatic injury or degrade over time through mini-traumas. People who are older, who run on uneven surfaces, or who make sudden turns and hard stops (e.g. soccer players) are at the greatest risk for damage to the meniscus. A person with a torn meniscus can experience knee pain, swelling and stiffness. In addition, the knee may give way or lock if a piece of the torn meniscus prevents joint movement. Surgical repair is sometimes, but not always, recommended. (Andrew Cole, MD) The severity and location of the tear will be vital factors in determining a treatment regimen. Common non-surgical treatments include: R.I.C.E., antiinflammatory medication, physical therapy, electrical stimulation, and injections (Terry Gemas, MD).
  • Knee osteoarthritis – achy, stiff, and possibly swollen knees may be signs of osteoarthritis. Scientists have not determined definitively whether regular running or exercise causes knee osteoarthritis. Cole says that some argue against but state that if one already has it and runs, you may accelerate the wear and tear on the knee while others say that running regularly has added health benefits that outweigh arthritic damage to the knees. Some symptoms include: aches in the knee during and post workout, stiffness and pain when squatting, climbing stairs, and prolonged inactivity. Garrett Human, MD, MPH, writes that, In most but not all cases, the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis come and go, becoming worse and more frequent over months or years. It is easy to dismiss early knee arthritis symptoms, but symptoms may worsen if left untreated. The most common symptom is knee pain. Other symptoms include: swelling, stiffness, redness and warmth, reduced range of motion, worsening symptoms w inactivity, popping or crunching, and buckling or locking up.

Garret Human, MD, MPH, writes that the earlier knee arthritis is treated, the more likely knee pain can be relieved and the less likely it will get worse. Knee arthritis treatment may include nonsurgical treatments, injections, and surgery. Typically, nonsurgical treatments are tried first. Surgery is not usually necessary and recommended only when other treatments have been tried and have not adequately relieved symptoms. A combination of physical therapy, gait and posture training, and topical medications are usually used in early treatment.

Elizabeth Gardner, MD, a Yale Medicine orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine, recommends getting fitted for sneakers at a store that specializes in running shoes, and balancing running with other workouts like swimming or yoga that don’t involve pounding the pavement. “Cross-training and stretching go a long way toward avoiding running injuries.” As a believer in cross-training myself that’s sound and practical advice right there. Additionally, as a runner, I cannot overemphasize the importance of warming up prior to runs and stretching post workout and even rolling wherever and whenever you feel any tightness. It’s the little things my friends that make a big difference.

In a subsequent post, I’ll continue with a look at other common running injuries beyond the knee. Safe running friends!

Not a running break!

Etsy’s poster is good for my wall and Exercise is good for me! win-win 😃

Ever had to make a decision that made you want to run just to let off some steam only you couldn’t run because that was the decision? Yes, gosh dang it, me! Last week, I decided to take a six to eight week hiatus from running to see if a break from the constant pounding of my legs and knees will help alliviate the stress on my sciatic nerve. While I’ve been doing PT for this issue for a couple of months (1x p/week) it doesn’t seem to be getting any better and well I really need to go all in to figure this out. This lingering discomfort that’s restricting my movement is not my idea of a good time nor anything I want to be dealing with in Spring as the weather warms up, so I figure I need to do the unthinkable and not run. How has that been working out? Hmm, sorta.

On the heels of moving and getting myself situated, I’ve been figuring out what will work best for this current season, which I hope to be a short one, and looking at gyms/ boxes/ studios in the area while trying out different things. Amidst all that I’m committed to my PT routine and getting my full range of motion back and have been spending a lot of time stretching and working on core strength. To this end, I started doing Pilates, which took on a whole different meaning when I was introduced to the reformer machine. I ended up doing a little too much on there in the excitement and exacerbated by lower back, which had me take a step back to acknowledge my limitations and consider my options. It really is prudent to listen to your body and tame your/my competitive spirit. I’m sure you’re nothing like me though and know better than to try challenging things that could compromise the very progress you’ve been working on. No excuses. I’m a hard nut sometimes, but I’m getting better I promise!

After going around in circles for a bit, and talking with my PT guy and doing a little research, I’ve decided that the gym – crossfit-type – without the olympic-style lifting, is the safest place to be. Apparently, I store too much energy away from the gym and the safest outlet for me is to get in there and take it in smaller doses. Lol. I’m an exercise nut y’all! So I came up with a guide to help myself stay safely exercised: some minor running to/from workout (one and a half miles away) for the next six weeks and modified workouts of any type of pushing, pulling, pressing, squatting, or any type of exercise that involves my lower back. My goal in this season is to stay in the gym and not get sidelined by injury so I’m working on staying fit and not looking for any 1RPM (one rep max) neither any new lifts nor any type of challenge. Yes, I’m preaching to the choir. I’m also aware I’ll have to remind myself of this each day for the next six weeks. Dang it, I can do this!

See guys, I’m really thankful that I have options. Some people, who are stubborn like me, have not been so blessed and don’t get to work out with an injury. I want to remain mindful of that and be a good steward and I believe this mindset will keep it all in perspective. I didn’t have to be able to move around and be free to exercise but I am. I am grateful. Next post I’ll dwelve a little into the common areas of injury prone to runners and how we can guard against them. Till then, stay thankful. Perspective is everything!

Winter. Running. Bananas (not the fruit).

@ prospect park

Can I just say that February is the biggest surprise so far this year! Like I don’t mean to sound complaining cause I’m not, but wherever is the snow? Maybe there’s still time and I’m much ado about nothing but I don’t know, the forcast looks pretty bleak for snow and wet at times with unseasonably high temps (still cold though) early on this week. I should chill, there’s still two more weeks left in the month. And what is this obsession with snow anyway? Is it possible I might be missing running in it? Maybe I have winter fever/ blues / whatever and it’s affecting my head. Ha. Whatever it may be, snow or no snow, I’ve been making up a mean mind to get out there early in the a.m and so far so good, mostly anyway, with 4 mornings under my belt last week and my evenings dedicated to core work. I might be switching things up soon though, more on that to come.

My morning runs fluctuate in terms of milage because I’m usually dragging myself off the damn bed around sunrise while anticipating the coldness. However, by the time I’m out and a few blocks away it’s never as bad as I had imagined. Thank goodness too cause it’s usually a quick run, around 4 or 5 miles, before having to dash off to work. The exception is on the weekends when I’ll sleep in some and still wake up to it being cold – no loss there just a gain on the mileage side.

Imagine my surprise this past Saturday when I got up to sunshine streaming through my bedroom curtains and actual warmth outside. Crazily enough, it was around 60°F and everyone was out and about, some in shorts and tanks too. In February! People are only too ready to throw off all restrictions, Covid and clothes included, and get about their business. And who can blame them? It’s been that kind of a 2-year period. But we’re still here, praise God, and so we were out there taking full advantage of an unusual day that was a true gift.

I ended up running eleven miles. From the apartment to Prospect park and two laps of the park and back to the apartment. The park was overrun with runners, joggers, walkers, dogs, strollers, and kids in the fields playing football, baseball etc. Usually I’m not one for crowds while running as I enjoy the solitude of getting lost in my surroundings, but on rare occasions like these I actually enjoy seeing people living out loud and enjoying the beautiful weather. So I didn’t mind doing a few dodges and looking out for my fellowmen. I kept a medium to quick pace at times except on the hills. Prospect Park is very similar to Central Park in that the terrain rolls and it’s quite scenic and pretty at the height of every season. Lucky me! I truly didn’t plan this when I was moving. In fact, I was looking for something much closer to the city. That didn’t quite work out but it looks like that’s working out for my good anyhow. God is good. The weather is insane. And I’m not complaining.

The day turned out pretty good post running and grabbing a couple pics on my way back home. I was able to finally get myself a full-body massage and, get this, embrace chillier temps that turned into snowflakes overnight that lasted almost the entire day on Sunday. Hahaha crazy right! From sunshine to snowflakes in a matter of hours. And then freezing temps for the entire night and today. What can I say, it wasn’t heavy snow! But wait, it’s gonna be 60° on Thursday with rain and gusty winds. My mind is spinning. That’s it I quit the weather, it’s harder than I thought. I’ll just stick to running in whatever.🤷🏽‍♀️

Happy January 2022! Yes, we’re running.

New Year wishes and prayers and hopes and dreams my friends! We made it! 2021 was another year for the books and I prefer not to rehash too much but to thank God for the positives and move on. On to my one official running intention this year, which is the Chicago marathon. In 2020 we saw that plan go belly up as with everything else back then. Thank God for another year and another running chance.

After taking December off, I entered the new year in a full on sprint only to taper off to a jog as the days, already short, seem only to be getting shorter and my plate heavier.  Wisdom speaks and I had better listen, so from next month I’ve decided on officially scaling back my posts to bi- weekly to better manage my time. The latter part of last year saw me so pressed for time that I was in danger of running off the rails for a while there. But God. Therefore I needed to establish some parameters for this year to ensure that I finish the year in good stead..not burnt out and having accomplished little. That said, it’s been a pretty decent January in these parts. New York has not seen any snow to speak of – not like what we’re accustomed to. But this last weekend of January, a nor’easter of sorts passed by and dumped a few inches to remind us it’s winter – as if we needed reminding. It’s been cold! No complaints though because we’re about to run into February and, well, everything happens in February.

I now live within running distance to Prospect Park in Brooklyn, another one of the more popular parks in the city next to Central Park, though not as famous of course. I expect to be spending equal time in both later on in the year as it warms up. These days, I try to steal away for early morning and weekend runs as much as I can but this January will probably record the least milage I’ve ever run. I guess I have to be ok with that. I’m content to uncover new running routes in these parts as the weather improves. Staying real local, last weekend I went out on a 10 mile run to downtown Brooklyn in which my hands were the only casualties. I had to seek refuge a couple of times to thaw them out; crazily they’re the only part of me that is always cold in the winter even when I’m wearing gloves. The run turned out to be a decent and interesting diversion from any winter blues that day and was marred only by the cold temperature as I wasn’t able to enjoy the sights and sounds that was Brooklyn. When I wasn’t thawing out, I kept a decent pace and felt pretty strong sans pain. I hope this bodes well for successive runs. I don’t treat with pain very well and tend to ignore it as much as possible so I run the risk of literally running into an injury. Hopefully this streak keeps up as I’m hoping for a good year of running and getting back to the gym and some lifting. God be in the details.

Everyone knows that moving is crazy work, I hadn’t anticipated its effects stretching out this much. Now I know! I moved across the city, from one borough to the next on Jan 1. It was a whirlwind operation and life’s been pretty constant in its whirlwind state since. Aside from fighting with boxes, I’ve been fighting to get some running in, and fighting to stay on top of my PT exercises for lower back pain/sciatica which I’ve been experiencing for the past few months. The struggle is real. What is really exciting, but not that enjoyable yet, is that I have some new backyard digs to run/discover. While not much has happened yet, I have hopes for post February and the advent of Spring and possibly a new run club. I’m looking into it as my former run group is not yet back officially and well, a girl’s gotta train! For now, my runs may remain somewhat sporadic but with intent. Lol.

Since I only have one major run planned this year and it’s all the way in October, I’m open to running a 2023 Boston qualifier if possible when the weather improves. There are a lot of shifting pieces right now, in the world as well as in my life and likely yours. This requires flexibility, adaptation and grace – grace for others and for ourselves. We can only control what we can, the rest is in God’s hands. Ironically, it’s all in His hands ultimately. And it would behoove us to get comfortable with them there. A happy and blessed New Year friends. 🎊

Celebrating 50 years with NYC Marathon 🎊🎊

@lorical Finish Line, Central Park

What a day! And what a comeback for the global running community! It was everything we had hoped for and more! And no I didn’t run but that didn’t stop me from celebrating every runner who did. It was wild fun, though painful for many I know, and a day that was perfect in every way. From the organizers to the volunteers, to the spectators and the perfect Fall day, and any and everything else in-between, it was a nyc marathon for the books. Many runners agree that the smaller field size made for a better run and in a lot of cases better pacing. We even had a couple of course records too I understand and that’s never a given here in New York so it must have been in the air that day. LOL. In the aftermath, and subsequent analysis, there were some that said they suffered the error of going out too fast with all the hype and excitement associated with missing out on last year’s marathon. Though not even that would dampen their spirits. New Yorkers and vistors alike turned up and out in grand style for their city and to cheer ever so loudly for runners from all over the globe.

@lorical

If you’ve ever attended a marathon or long distance race event then you know that spectators cheer for all runners. Yes we’re excited for the elite runners and those at the front, and for those in our circle, and those running for a great cause, and for those running their first marathon; but we’re also just really excited for all runners who are choosing running as their response to beat their personal goliaths. If you’re reading this then you’re probably a runner and maybe a marathoner. Yay you, my beautiful friend, you can do hard things! And this is the spirit of the marathon that is alive and well despite all that abounds. We are still out here running and winning each time we cross a finish line. And for those that make it possible, yay for you too! Our New York Strong supporters remain unmatched in their enthusiasm and encouragement to runners running through the five boroughs of New York City. I heard it from the running grapevine that Brooklyn took the prize for the loudest cheers. No surprise there, they bring it every single time.

Volunteers
@lorical w Jason the finisher
Finishers
@lorical w Justin the finisher
Helena the finisher
Finishers
@lorical w Anna the finisher

At the finish line, where I had the opportunity to welcome home all runners to Central Park, there was a jubilant comradeirie amongst volunteers. Doing our respective jobs there and then was not work but all in the spirit of fun as we cheered, hooted, took pictures, and congratulated runners as they came through exhausted; some tearing up and jubilant, others determined and excited, and still others looking like they could run again! I got all the feels that day and was so blessed to be a tiny part of something so momentous in our city. Happy 50th Anniversary TCS New York City marathon, you sure know how to throw a party. 🎉

@lorical

October Ran Away🍂🍃🍁

Whoosh and just like that it’s gone. Blame it on the wedding, which by the way was a blast, I hardly got time to say hi before the month became a not-too-distant memory. And that’s only because I won’t let it. It’s not everyday a first time planner of sorts throws a bit of a destination beach wedding and everything goes off without a hitch! I mean come on, that’s a month for the history books. Excuse the back patting, I’ve already given God all the credit so I figure it’s ok to tap myself some. Hahaha.

Really though, wow November! You’re upon us. But whatever does that mean for running? Well, not forgetting that we had big races in October with the boston and chicago marathons and london a little before that. Seems we’re off to a running start with everyone’s favorite marathon (I’m taking some liberty here) happening the first weekend of the month. Yeah baby, that’s right, the Big Apple will be doing their share of running with the nyc marathon, celebrating 50 years, on November 7. Whoo hoo! Happy anniversary nyc marathon! And, come rain or shine yours truly will be at the finish line welcoming runners with their “aw shucks..look what I did” cheeky grins.   As it pertains to race-day weather Sunday looks pretty good with a cool 55°. We should be so blessed with minimal to no winds for an awesome spectator turnout and many PRs.

I imagine after a year and a half of no races how anxious running folks must feel for various reasons. A group from my run club as well as a few other friends are running so I’m hyped about that and the opportunity to cheer them on and shout them down. Also, I’m volunteering at the finish..hoping I get to hand out medals but really I’m up for wherever help is needed. I’m just so chuffed – as the English say – to be part of this awesome experience and celebration. To see our city streets flooded once more with runners of every description promises to be a treat like few others. It’s also an opportunity to meet new people, have fun, and just get out and about and back to making our city a safe running haven again. I’m here for it friends!

With a smaller field size this year, and the smallest in years, of 30,000 runners, chances are it will be a smoother, more enjoyable experience as it’ll be less crowded on the streets. We do expect and hope that New Yorkers and visiting folks will turn out the spectator crowd especially in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan. In recent years there has been nothing quite like the spectacular crowd support in those areas. The marathon starts in Staten Island and meanders over the Verazzano bridge into Brooklyn, then over the  bridge into Queens, onto the Queensboro bridge into Manhattan. Then it’s over the Willis Ave bridge into the Bronx, then into Harlem and back to Manhattan to end in Central Park. It’s quite the 5-borough tour of New York City and a real rolling treat to newbies and veteran runners alike. At the very least, it’s a do-it-at-least-once type of run and then as many times as you can get away with! LoL. A bucket list item if you will, if bucket lists are still a thing. I don’t know anymore, I feel like we’re living in a new reality with new expectations and new boundaries and what once was is no longer a sure thing, only it’s getting kinda old. Anyways, no morbid thoughts allowed especially on the eve of this momentous racing comeback for our city and indeed the world this year. Great expectations is more than a book around here; we’re believing for awesome weather and amazing running. Good running to all runners! See you at the finish line. Be there or be missed! 😉

Summer Break not running break

New Balance Fifth Avenue Mile

A last month decision really; I decided to run the Fifth Avenue Mile race. In NYC this is an annual, big, road race where all the famous elite runners (Olympians included) and us regular folks – even the kids are given their moment to shine – get a chance to run twenty blocks of Fifth Ave. It’s closed off from traffic and all local runners, fans, and tourists alike line up to watch a pretty fast show as runners zoom by in their respective heats. It’s one mile so the pros and wannabes, like me, pretty much go full throttle the entire way. Some do it for the comradery and others to feel accomplished. I’ve run this event two times in the past, the last time possibly 2014. This year was extra special though with it being cancelled the year prior like everything else. As a result, the comeback was a treat and my first race since the end of 2020. All during that time I’ve been running much of the time solo, and racing against myself, but I’ve also been fortunate to have the opportunity a few times to run with other runners. So how good it felt to stand about in the start area and commiserate with like-minded folks and celebrate being together and racing again. I have no words only thankfulness.

Fifth Avenue, NYC – it’s on!

So full disclosure, I did not train for this race. Even though I wanted to try for a fast time – even as fast as the last time – I have been pretty deep in wedding plans and traveling back and forth and running pretty arbitrarily. I guess I fell into the old mold of thinking ” well it’s only one mile” and thank God it was only one. The race was on Sunday 12th, two weekends ago, and I literally came back into town the day before. I was exhausted but set to run and at that point was good with just turning up and being a part of something beautiful in our city. My PR on this course is 6:15:00 in 2014 (I think) so I was hoping the stars would align and I would end up being just as fast, like, please God. I can safely say it’s to a runner’s advantage to know the course. Because I had run this course before, the old adage about riding a bike is true, I knew the terrain pretty well. I knew that starting out in a full sprint would not be a good strategy for me – I wasn’t in top form to start with – I needed to go out with just enough leverage on the decline because it subtly morphed into an incline that if taken too fast would leave one floored on the crest with nothing left to give in the final flat finish. So knowledge is power right? Right.

Not a PR but I’ll take it

When my heat was called, pretty early at 7:45 a.m I had been up for hours already with the pre race jitters. I didn’t get a bad case or anything, just more of an anxiousness about the logistics of getting there on time, using the bathroom, etc. I was ready to run and pretty much kept to my strategy. It was a beautiful day with perfect temps and everyone was so pumped and happy to be out. Got to see my friend cheering and photoshooting. Note that I was a fully able to take it all in as I was so not “in the zone” and therefore could have run so much harder and faster had u fully trained for this. Out there though, knowing my limits was important. I had every intention of finishing as close to my pr as possible and not getting injured in the process, sciatic nerve pain notwithstanding. I finished with an official time of 6:20:00; strava was off by a few. However, I was ok with that. I didn’t do more so I didn’t get more but I was super thrilled to see I wasn’t that far off the mark from some seven years ago! Though I know and appreciate from watching the pros that a race is won and lost in fractions of a second, five seconds for this regular runner sounds like an achievable goal to beat next time around. Only next time I promise to train for it.

Here comes the superhero runners

Some of my favorite moments and takeaways from this comeback race was the singing of the national anthem at the start of the event, the comradery in the start area, my trek down fifth ave, the finish line, seeing the children races, and the pros wrapping up the event. It was a fabulous day in our favorite city with our favorite people doing our favorite thing – running!

We did it NY!

Summer Running is Here

E66 Run Group @Central Park

Boom! And just like that everyone’s favorite city is back! Maybe I’m exaggerating, but maybe not! Whichever it is I’m just so darn happy and excited to see New York City alive with people and things and running and an almost sure display of fireworks come July 4th! I’m over here getting all the feels as I remember this time last year and the state of our city and our world. I don’t know about you but looking back that period sure felt surreal. Even now after having lived through it, it still feels like it was a really bad movie. But I won’t dwell, I’m too happy that we’ve progressed to a place of embracing life once more. In fact, I’m not even mad that there’s way too many people floating about Central Park and getting in my way LoL. I’ve developed a new tolerance for aimless walkers. Bless them, bless us all, we all have a right to just be.   

In other and running news, I’m hyped for the Olympic trials that are on – particularly for track and field and gymnastics. Hello to new faces and some surprise additions to Team USA! Additionally, the TCS NYC marathon is on for this November with a limited field size sure but yay to runners getting this especially special opportunity this year. We are grateful! And although I won’t be running, I’ll be cheering and supporting in my volunteer role at the finish and can’t wait to welcome some 30,000 of y’all to the finish line in Central Park! Also, the Boston, Chicago, and London marathons are also running this Fall. How awesome is that! Lots of running events are back on schedule in our city and I’ve opted to try my pace at the New Balance 5th Avenue Mile Run in September. It’s been years since I’ve done this race (maybe I’m being too ambitious) and while I’m sure I can’t do a ridiculously fast time, I’m hopeful for close to or better than my 6:15 PR, which may have been in or around 2014. Soon I’ll have to start training to give me that push I need. But humid summer days are not a running ideal so we’ll have to see about either early mornings or late evenings.

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Adding to all the excitement of our world turning once more is the wedding bells ringing in my little corner. My daughter’s getting married in the Fall y’all! And wouldn’t you know I’m the planner in chief even as I’m finding out that I’m not particularly gifted in the wedding planning department. Me is what I get when trying to cut costs, and since the costs are all mine I’m sure you understand. My daughter has no complaints and rightly so; I’m planning a beach wedding with a surprise add on. She better not complain! Haha. The truth is, God’s willing, she only gets to do this one time and since I only have one daughter –  lucky her she gets it all. That said, wedding plans amidst running plans smack dab in the midst of all kinds of crazy weather and a summer that’s setting up to be all shades of hot and humid does kinda add some verve to the rather timid spectacle of life I’ve been holding on to since March of 2020. Don’t mind if I’m a little hyped being surrounded by all this opportunity even as I remind myself we’re not out of the woods yet. Yes, there is a cloud but thankfully, there’s also a rainbow. Hope springs eternal, says the poet Alexander Pope. I concur.

Meanwhile, the run meets, groups, and clubs are slowly coming back on stream. Yippee! Not ours yet..at least not officially. However, I met up with some members of my run group for an unofficial run in our old stomping grounds of Central Park and we had such a blast revisiting the past you would think it was a high school reunion and not just slightly over a year since run group had ceased meeting. And truthfully, we’ve run together  three or four times since then, not all of us of course but most of the core members. But you couldn’t have guessed it. We were just so happy to see each other and to determine if we still had our running mojo. Happy to report that we did. We do. Things are looking up and I’m looking ahead – ahead to long runs, racing, the NYC marathon, ultimately cooler runs, and yes.. the wedding. But first, summer streets and the beach.⛱️

Global Virtual Marathon

Running View of The Hudson along Henry Hudson Drive

I took to the Jersey Hills, commonly known as The Palisades for a very uncommon or rather unconventional 26.2 miles two weeks ago. I guess this run was a make up of sorts for what was almost my yearly spring trek to Boston, which of course didn’t happen this year nor last year. In a surprising but welcome twist the Boston marathon is now happening in October this year, which falls in line with the strangest of seasons we’ve been in. These past fourteen months have been interesting to say the least and heartbreaking at best. For this reason we welcome the turn of the tide and anything that resembles a leg up from the dark hole we’ve been existing in. So I’m grateful for World Marathon Majors (WMM) and other running organizations that have worked tirelessly to get runners to keep the marathon spirit alive and allowed us a platform to come together and compete albeit in a friendly atmosphere even if the only competition is ourselves.

Along the running path – Henry Hudson Drive

I started off running at W 168th Street in upper Manhattan in pretty close proximity to the George Washington (GW) Bridge, which connects New York to New Jersey, and all too soon found myself suspended over the Hudson River running along the pedestrian path and against the traffic heading into New York. I opted for a late afternoon run in order to maximize the coolness of the day. With a tiny bag pack holding my fuel I felt pretty good heading in surrounded a plethora of trees, the cacophony of nature sounds, and dramatic views overlooking the Hudson, it was a runner’s heaven really. As with most weekends out there, there are lots of cyclists, a few walkers, and fewer still runners. I must have been 1 in 3, maybe. And all went well up to mile 10 when the last hill on the way in forced me to slow all the way down to a power walk. I figured I had to conserve energy for heading back or else I’d be walking for a long time. From then on I started running the flats and downhills and most of the uphills except for the steep climbs which I power walked without exception. Because this was a timed race with no stopping allowed, had I not decided on a power walk strategy from early on it may have been impossible to finish in the time I did.

By the time I got out of the woodsy area and was back on the bridge it was evening time and the city lights were coming on by the end of my run, which wrapped up at W 72nd and Broadway in Manhattan. Gotta say I was creamed by then and can’t remember a recent time I was so happy to see the finish line. I celebrated with a large coconut water – the best thing I had tasted all day. Marathon #20, marathon distance #21 is in the books. What’s certain is that I won’t be recommending this course and those hills for anyone who’s looking for a qualifier or who has a finish goal time of under 3:45:00.

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