I did a “long” training run today. I’m putting “long” in quotes, because it was only 13.1 miles. That’s only half a marathon. A year ago – when most of my runs were 10 to 11 miles – 13.1 would merely have been somewhat longer than my average run. Today, however, it’s by far my longest run of the year. You might say I’m halfway to being able to finish a marathon.
I resumed running four weeks ago, after a layoff of nearly seven weeks. When my physical therapist first cleared me to begin running again, I wasn’t sure if I was ready. Those runs weren’t really training, so much as rehabilitation. My stride felt awkward and off-balance. I had to force myself to use my hips. Nothing felt natural, and everything was uncomfortable.
I’ve been running an average of three days a week. I started with one mile. Then I gradually increased the distance until I could run seven miles. Then it was time to start doing long runs.
My goal is to finish the Boston Marathon. I know I won’t be fast. I only have two goals. I want to finish, and I want to be healthy enough to run it without setting back my recovery.
I’ve been going to physical therapy on Mondays. My therapist works with runners, and he knows mu short-term goal is to run Boston. He used to live there, so I don’t have to tell him how little time I have to train. When I saw him on Monday, the first thing he said was, “Four weeks.”
I’ve been doing several exercises to build strength in my hips, glutes and hamstrings, all of which are weak. Every week, we go over my progress. Sometimes, he gives me new exercises. Other times, we make adjustments to some of my exercises to make sure I’m emphasizing the right muscle groups. We also go over my training plans. I want to make sure my training plan is realistic. I don’t want to do too much too soon. So far, we’ve been on the same page.
One of the exercises I’ve been doing is this supine bridge to work my glutes. As soon as it started getting easy, my therapist had me start doing it using one leg at a time. That made it much more difficult. When I used just my left leg, I could really feel it in my glutes. Those are some of the muscles I’m trying to strengthen, and they’re much weaker on my left side. When I did the same exercise using my right leg, I felt it in my quads. Apparently, I’ve also lost strength in those muscles.
A few weeks ago, he wanted me to do a hip exercise that involved standing on one leg and using my hip to rotate the other leg around me. Then we found out that I couldn’t stand on one leg without losing my balance. I just didn’t have enough strength to support my weight with one leg. Since then, I’ve been working on that. Once a day, I practice balancing on each leg for 30 seconds. I have to do it in front of a mirror to make sure I keep my upper body vertical. At first, I tipped to one side as soon as I lifted the other leg. With effort, I’m now able to shift my hip enough to maintain my alignment.
This week, my therapist suggested doing this exercise three or four times a day instead of just once. It’s clearly the area where I need the most work. He’s also having me do additional motions, like partial squats, while standing on one leg. These exercises leave me sore, but the strength is gradually coming back.
In the meantime, I’m still running every other day. When I resumed running four weeks ago, I only had seven weeks until the Boston Marathon. That’s not enough time for a full training cycle. I had to figure out how best to use the time I had.
The first time I trained for a marathon, I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t follow a training plan. I just made it up as I went. I did one thing right. I emphasized weekly long runs. I figured if I could keep increasing the length of my longest runs, I’d eventually build up to a marathon. I also trained that way for my second marathon. I didn’t have great results, but I finished both races.
The first time I followed a training plan, it came from “Galloway’s Book on Running.” Jeff Galloway’s training plans emphasized weekly long runs, so they were a good fit for me. Galloway philosophy is that anyone who’s already running three days a week can train for a marathon just by adding a weekly long run. If you’re not worried about time, it works.
My training plan for Boston had two parts. Part one was to get to the point where I could run seven miles three days a week. Part two was to add weekly long runs. There’s just one problem. I don’t have many weeks left, so I have to ramp up quickly.
Last week, I did a 10 mile training run. That was a big step up, but I was pleased to be able to do it at the same pace as the five mile run I did the week before. I felt surprisingly good on that run. For the first time, my stride felt natural. It wasn’t off-balance, and I didn’t have to force myself to rotate my hips. The next morning, however, I was so sore I could barely move.
My plan for today was to run about 13 miles. If I felt good enough, I might step up all the way to 14, but that was asking a lot. I felt pretty good for the first 10 miles. Then I started to feel the fatigue in my legs. As I was closing in on 13 miles, my stride started to feel off balance. All through my left hip and the left side of my butt, I felt sore. Those muscles are weak, and they had reached their limit. If I continued, I would start to limp. Rather than run with poor form, I slowed down a little and then stopped at 13.1. It’s not the 14 miles I was hoping for, but I reached the half marathon mark. That’s an important psychological milestone.
I have three more weeks until Boston. I’m hoping to run 16 miles next weekend and 19 miles the following weekend. Then I’ll have to step up all the way to 26.2 on race day. By then, my hips and glutes should be stronger. I’m willing to plod along slowly as long as necessary to reach the finish line. As long as my mechanics are sound, I’ll get there.
While I was running, this arrived in the mail. It’s my “runner’s passport” for the Boston Marathon. This is my focus.