Thursday, June 14, 2007

Me Running?

You may have noticed some vague references over the last few months about me running. No way! you say? Way. I've been keeping quiet about it though. You see, it's like starting a (new) diet, or quitting smoking. Once you tell everyone about it, it's like setting yourself up for failure.

Hey, how's the running going?
Did you run last night? No? Why not?
When's your next run?
Is that as fast as you can go? I used to be able to run 5K in 20 minutes!
You're running? Are you crazy?
You can't really believe you can run a half marathon!
You've been training for 6 months and it still takes you an hour to run 5K?
Running hurts your feet? I know how to fix that - Stop Running!
Ha ha ha! Look at the fat girl trying to run!

I know none of you would say things like that to pester a new runner, but there are people out there who will. Most times they have no idea kind of impact or affect their words have. So, I kept it to myself.

Late last year, Glenn challenged family and friends to join him running at the Disney Marathon in January 2008. There is this weird problem I have with my brother. I find it difficult to refuse his challenges. I spent a lot of time pondering Glenn's challenge. Do I have the stuff to run a marathon or a half marathon? Do I have the strength, stamina, or ability? Even more so, do I have the desire? And if I do, do I have the time?

After a swift kick in the butt from a very good friend, I joined a gym last fall. It was time. I had to get back in shape. All of me. I was so down in the dumps, tears and tissues seemed to be my new best friends. Working out gives my body, mind, and soul strength. It showed me I can do so much more than mope around feeling sorry for myself.

Then came Glenn's challenge.

I had dabbled with running a few years ago, shortly after Glenn began running. I didn't keep it up though. However, I had done it once. I could do it again. But I was scared. I get scared about doing anything new. It's like a personal defense mechanism. I worry more about the negatives rather than delight in the positives. If I can come up with all of the bad scenarios, then I'll be ready for whatever might happen. Right? Well I knew about these running clinics that The Running Room has, and I found out that they do a Learn To Run clinic. I thought that might be just the thing to get me started. But I was scared. What if it was too hard? What if I can't keep up? What would I do with Miles? Could I commit to it? Could I afford it? Would work get in the way? I put off registering for days and days. Every day I talked about it with my friend. Finally, just days before the start of the clinic, my friend said to me, "You really want this." I was scared to answer! Seriously nearly teeth-chattering scared. But I knew without further thought, I do want this! And that was the start.

My Learn to Run instructor and the store manager were so full of enthusiasm and encouragement that it was difficult not to get carried along with it. The other women in my group were great too. That clinic was something I could really look forward to 3 times a week. Now don't get me wrong. For weeks, I felt slightly sick to my stomach before each run. I was scared. I never knew if I could complete the run without being in too much pain or getting hurt.

Then there was Disney. I didn't need to answer the question on this one. I want to do it. I really want to do it. But could I? I had already decided that I would go for the half marathon. The full marathon just isn't necessary for me right now. But I was scared. You see, working out at the gym and running had reminded me of a problem that I have . . . my feet fall asleep.

When I do any physical activity with even just a little exertion, my feet fall asleep. Sometimes they go completely numb and I feel like I'm standing on stumps. Running in the winter, I could really see the danger in this problem. Good footing is nearly impossible when you can't feel your feet. This brought up another problem. How could I possibly expect to run a half marathon when my feet keep falling painfully asleep? It's time to do something about this problem before I get hurt.

I made an appointment with my family doctor. He's a runner. Maybe he'll know what the problem is. We discussed the problem and he checked me out, and thought it may be something systemic. Blood tests were ordered. When the results came in, the doctor could find nothing that would indicate any kind of problem. Great news! But my feet were still falling asleep. Next was a visit to the neurologist.

The neurologist poked and pricked and zapped me, but in the end said everything was neurologically sound. Perhaps forget the running, and walk instead (She's a walker, not a runner. Perhaps she didn't hear me when I said that I also have the problem when I walk?) So, she decided to send me to a physiotherapist.

I've been going for physiotherapy for a few weeks now, and I think we're actually getting somewhere now. The first few visits were spent mainly on trying to pinpoint what was causing the problem. By trying different exercises or stretches, we think we've discovered the cause now. We think that I have a disc that is slightly thinner than it should be. We're talking a millimetre or less. This is not a degenerative disk, just one that isn't quite plump enough. That causes the vertebrae to be pushed together more tightly, especially when being pounded together when exercising, squeezing and pinching the spinal cord that channels through that one section. That pinching, in turn, causes my feet to fall asleep. I was given a stretch to do while I'm running (or anytime) that opens up those vertebrae, releasing the compression. The results are almost immediate. When my feet fall asleep, I do this stretch and the numbness goes away. Now on longer runs, I do this stretch regularly throughout. Lately, I've been finding that in the last portion of my runs, my feet stop falling asleep! The nicest thing my physiotherapist said to me was to keep running. She feels that as I continue to run, it will get better and better. Can you tell that she's a runner too?

When my Learn to Run clinic ended (see Krista's blog to read about my Around the Bay 5K run), I did my 5K training on my own. Their clinic date didn't work for me. I kept to my 5K plan as faithfully as I could. I even finished it off with a 5K run at the Mississauga Marathon. Last week I started a 10K clinic. I figured I need as much help as I can get to make it through this hurdle. It's been fun already, but it's going to be challenging to get all of this mileage in. Especially at my pace.

I am a slow runner. I don't have a problem with it. Slow works for me. It keeps me safe, and it makes me happy. But it takes a long time. This is why I think I have to complete my half marathon training on my own. Most people run, oh, pretty much twice as fast as I do. i.e. the average person might take 30 minutes to nicely finish a 5K run. It takes me almost 50 minutes to do a 5K. I feel so bad for my instructors right now, because they won't let me run alone, and it's got to be so hard for them to run so slow when they normally run so much faster. I don't want to make my other clinic members have to wait for me either, so I've tried to explain the situation to my instructors as well as I can. My half marathon is going to take a long time. I have a T-shirt that says, "The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start." (John "The Penguin" Bingham - Nobody ever said that running had to be fast!

So please, don't feel the need to ask me how my running is going. It's okay. Really it is. Just send your good karma my way. And please don't think that I wrote this to receive piles of congratulatory encouragement. I will appreciate any that I receive, but it's not required. Let this just be what it is, and if someone wants to laugh about it, so be it. But if someone wants to let it inspire them, then let it be great and good for you!


Sue Titcombe said...

Although I'm temporarily taking a break from running, I do hope to start it up again after this baby is born and I'm not working anymore. I also did a learn to run clinic and I loved it. I don't know if I would have really motivated myself to do it without that support.

I'm glad you don't worry about your 5K time. I've only finished one and I think my time was around 48 minutes. Maybe we should run together sometime!

Lynn said...

Good for you!

You're way ahead of me. I'm far too lazy to run or even work out!

Sounds goofy, but just do your best, and I'm sure you'll have a lot to be proud of.

kathryn said...

i'm so impressed by you, Tracy and also very proud of you!!! You have such determination and resolve. i keep thinking that i should be a runner cuz i love to eat and i gain weight too easily!!! But, i know that i cannot due to several spinal disks that are too problematic. I hate that, but i have accepted it. Physio does wonders, doesn't it? I have been helped by physio when no one else could help me. Wow, this is a great post, so honest and full of heart. I don't believe in karma, but know that i'm rooting for you!!!

PERU 2007 said...

Tracy I knew for a long time almost from the start that you were going to the running clinic and I thought wow good for you. You like the rest of the Lavenders that I know when you set your minds to something you do you all to stay with it and to acheive it.
That is one of the things I so admire about your family.

I thought how awesome it was that you went to Nashville and helped out while the others went in the marathon. Then you came home and did your Toronto one. Way to go.

Physio is awesome it has helped me so much with my neck and back since my car accident. I am glad it is working for you and that there was notheing real serious going on.

What a wonderful power of example you are to your son. Set your goals and go at a comfortable acheivable pace and you can do it.

I know you will do great when you go as a family to Disney, hang in there keep on running and we all are rooting for you.

I am proud of your determination to follow this through.

Anonymous said...


What is the stretch that they have you do to cure the falling asleep feeling? I get this after about 2 miles and I hate to stop for 15 minutes just for it to wear off and come back in another half mile!! Thanks! - Amanda

Tracy said...

Amanda, just remember that this is a stretch given specifically to me after much consultation with a physiotherapist.

This is how the stretch is done.

Stand with your back against a wall. You'll need to have your feet a few inches away from the wall to keep your balance. With your back still against the wall, swing your hips/pelvis forward. Keeping your pelvis forward, now start dropping your upper body down, starting with the shoulders. The idea is to hinge open the vertebrae to relieve pressure.

When I get it right, I feel relief almost immediately. I have a follow-up appointment with my physiotherapist on Monday. I'm going to ask for a reminder demonstration on that stretch, just to make sure I'm still doing it right.