My Running Problem

My odometer mileage has been tapering as of late and I thought perhaps some of you would write to express concern (or interest) in what was going on.  In fact, none of you have done so.  Despite the apparent indifference from my readership, I shall take what remains of my over-inflated sense of self-worth and tell you what I’ve been up to.

I’ve been running.

I don’t like running and I never have.  Over 25 years of military service, I ran a lot.  I enjoyed almost none of it.  I even ran a marathon once, though truth be told this was in response to a dare that directly challenged my manhood.  Anything short of that and there would have been no way I would have done something as crazy as that.

Running is painful.  With each step, three to four times the runner’s weight slams down on his/her foot in the form of pressure.  Over the course of a mile, a runner will repeat this process 1,500 times.  That’s a lot of pressure.  A 150 pound runner will expose his feet to over 150 tons of pressure during a three-mile jog.  I weigh considerably more than 150 pounds and (when I find myself engaged in the activity) I routinely jog more than three miles.  With all that force going up and down my legs, it will be no surprise to you that I routinely experience lower leg injuries when I attempt a serious (i.e., more than 30 miles per week) running regimen.  This is why I like cycling.  One of the best things I can say about cycling is that it is not running.  It’s a low impact cardio workout that actually lets you see something beyond the same few miles surrounding your house.

So why am I running?  Glad you asked.

My wife runs.

To make matters worse, she is really good at it.  She picked up the activity a couple of years ago and she can already put this retired Army officer to shame.  This April, I thought it would be a neat idea if we signed up for the Army 10-Miler road race in October.  My wife has never done an event like this and I thought it would be a great thing to do together.  Although I understood that “doing it together” would require me to actually run, I didn’t dwell on that fact until about four weeks ago.

I was hopeful that my cycling workouts would carry over to running proficiency.  To test that theory, I went for a four mile jog.  Boy, was I wrong.  Despite being able to cycle 100 miles, a moderate jog pushed me to the limit.  My cardio was fine but the muscles and ligaments simply weren’t used to the effort (and pounding) required to run.  I decided I needed to take some of my cycling time and dedicate it to running.

After a few jogs, my muscles and joints resigned themselves to the notion that they would once again be involved in this activity.  I was making steady progress until Saturday, when I suffered an injury.  I strained my calf.  Imagine that, a lower leg injury.

It was just a tweak, nothing serious, but I refrained from running until Tuesday, when it felt almost normal.  After 1.5 miles, I made the injury worse.  I limped home at a humiliating 10 minute/mile pace and decided I needed more recovery time.  Time is something I don’t have a lot of.  The race is less than two months away.

As further proof that cycling and running use leg muscles in very different ways, I submit today’s bike ride into evidence.  Despite having a calf injury that caused me to walk with a slight limp and made any serious jogging impossible, I was able to ride 30 miles on my bike and I set a new personal best pace for a ride of that distance.

To review, the injury made me unable to run but did not keep me from doing my best ever on the bike.

So that’s my running problem.  Since this is a blog about cycling, I shall keep comments on this subject to a minimum.  I thought the comparison between the two disciplines was interesting.  And maybe, just maybe, somebody out there was wondering what was going on with my odometer!


29 thoughts on “My Running Problem

  1. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a running injury, and I attribute that to a couple of rules I try to follow.

    Rule 1: Lower your expectations! In reality, what I figured out is that it’s a lot more enjoyable if you’re not trying to run fast every time out.

    Rule 2: Never increase your mileage by more than 10% per week or your longest distance by more than 10% at a time.

    In other words, slow down big guy!

  2. I confess that I am guilty of not noticing the odometer (even though, like you, I post my own mileage). I will do better. Now, your post on running caught my interest. Not because I want to expand my activity back to running (your comments regarding cycling vs. running reflect my own thinking), but because I and my wife used to run a bit in the past. At best I was doing ten miles/week, but life started to interfere and, that was the end of that. I am making a conscious effort not to let that happen to cycling. But the end result is that we all need to remain active, whatever we choose to do. Congrats on your own efforts and please do take care of yourself! -Ron

    • I’m just teasing about the lack of commentary on my odometer. I don’t really expect people to hang on every change! Thanks for the congratulations and I promise not to overdo it. After 25 years of running in the Army, there’s plenty of muscle memory there. The challenge for me is to figure out what has changed and avoid assuming that I could do what I was doing 10 years ago.

  3. I totally understand your issues with running. I actually LIKE to run, but I weigh more than 150 pounds and well a bad knee injury. Why does it make you feel like you want to DIE when you start? If I would like to avoid that knee replacement I can’t run until I make it to 150 anything other than about a mile without a walk break. Usually it is much shorter than that. I LOVE my bike. Sometimes it hurts the knee too, but still I can ride 80 miles — was building up to 100 before Doc nixed that for now — but soon. =D

    Take care.

    • It’s good to see you’re listening to your Doc. Knee pain while riding is often attributable to a poor seat height (too high/too low), but if you have a medical issue with that knee it could very well be the cause. Good luck!

  4. Steve, as an ex Army Officer myself and one of your loyal readers, I understand and share your dislike for running and the temporary insanity that led you to sign up for the Army 10 Miler. It always seems like a good idea in April and then when September hit, reallity begins to set in. Even when the mind is willing, an old soldier’s body does not always cooperate. I am sure you will figure it out.

    • You can rest assured I’ll get across that finish line, Dan. The only question is what sort of timing device will be necessary to measure my progress. I’m hoping it isn’t a calendar and at the very least a sun dial will be necessary.

  5. Personally, I thought you were in the off-season, like me. That’s my excuse.

    About running, you and I have the same ‘problem’ (my wife runs, too). Yesterday I took her out for a bike ride to warm up for a trip we’re doing on the weekend and she’s been complaining about muscle pains in the quads since then. Strangely, she gets knee pains while cycling that she doesn’t get when running. Probably a bike fit issue, but still, who would have thought?

    Good luck getting through those 16 km! I feel your pain already.

    • I’m reminded of the Samuel L. Jackson line in Pulp Fiction, in which he says his girl friend is a vegetarian, which pretty much makes him a vegetarian too! The same goes for wives who run, I guess.

  6. I missed you mate, but thought you were off for work again! 🙂

    As someone who has just recently returned to running (and just like you did a lot in the Army and hated it) I have found it to be just as tough as I remember it.

    I am following a plan I got from the web and the start of it was no where near as ambitious as your first gallop!

  7. I tried running in my ‘middle’ years when I wasn’t doing any cycling but I had a lot of knee problems and the physio told me it was because when cycling in my early years I had developed the ‘wrong’ muscles for running around my knee caps. As soon as I started riding again all the pains disappeared. I guess triathletes develop 2 sets of required muscles?

    Why didn’t you do a deal with your wife that if you ran the 10 miles then she should try cycling your next century ride with you ? 😉

    • I’m guessing triathletes develop three sets of muscles, which would explain why they have larger shoulders and than the tooth picks that cycle the TdF.

      I’ve carefully considered your suggestion to have my wife ride a century with me in return for my running the ten miler with her. I don’t believe that is in my best interests!

  8. This made me smile. I go out for a trot for half an hour or so a few times a week – usually on days when I can’t cycle but sometimes both so I know *exactly* what you mean about using different muscles, especially when I started.. Amazing isn’t it? You’d think you’d feel the benefit of those well ‘ard cycling legs but nope. 🙂

    I’ve had various knee injuries so I keep the running very light and have no ambitions to do much faster or longer. I’m not into pain and my main objective is to keep active without wrecking my joints! 😀
    Cycling’s definitely the safer of the two activities from that point of view!

  9. I often think when I pass a runner of mature years as they struggle along that it would be a really good idea for them to get a bike and and learn to enjoy life instead of suffering. I see that you have temporarily lost the use of your brain. I hope you get well soon.

    Of course when I do see a good runner floating along above the road, I’m consumed with envy and remember my youth when I could do that too.

    I envy you for being able to run at all. Good luck with it and look after yourself.

    • There are many times when I question whether or not I have a properly functioning brain and this will no doubt be one of those moments. My wife is one of those “floating” runners. Me, I’m more of a plodder.

  10. I like cycling because you can coast and still cover distance. In fact, if you work hard at it you can trick yourself into thinking that you are exercising more than you actually are, resulting in a blissful state of self-delusion.This doesn’t work so well with running.

    • Well put. It’s so much fun that I’ve managed to trick myself into losing a fair amount of weight without actually feeling like I’m trying to do that.

      • Totally agree LOVE riding my bike. I think it has become an addiction for me. I think this is a wonderful addiction to have. I have very limited pain with the bike and a LOT of gain in a positive attitude and seeing steady improvement. 😀

  11. Just like you, I’ve always been averse to running for fitness, ever since the rugby coach would tell us to do a couple of laps of the pitch etc., I’ve shied away from it, that so-called running for fitness, chasing a ball in a game, however, that is different. Clive Chapman got me thinking though, as he’s incorporating running now in his weightloss programme, that I really need to re-awaken that basic skill. I’ve been riding my bike now for alot of years, and can’t remeber when I last ran, even across the road, it’s a disgrace really, having the ability and not using it. What’s that saying “use it or lose it”? I’ll probably fall over first time, but I must give it a go. Thanks for reminding me/us that we all should try to keep all round fitness, I think that is the real massage I’ve gleaned from your post. By the way my odometer is bust.

    • All things are relative, I suppose. Just five or six years ago, I could run two miles in 14:30 and four miles in 35 minutes. I haven’t run hardly at all since then and was shocked that my performance dropped so radically despite pretty good fitness from cycling.

  12. Doah ! Got my maths wrong there, it’s 12 mph for me on the bike, which only works out as a mile every 5 minutes. I know I’m slow but not that slow, had to clear it up.

  13. Pingback: The Year In Review: Part 3 (The Blog) | There And Back Again

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