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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Could Be Worse

Great news! It's shin splints!

And I'm only being a little bit sarcastic there.

My (three) regular readers will remember that, back in April, I had some rather severe pain in my right leg that made it very difficult to run, eventually forcing me to take some time off. I would have believed it to be shin splints, but one of the characteristics of that injury, according to a lot of what I was reading, was that it would hurt less the more you ran. On the other hand, if the pain got worse, this was more descriptive of a stress fracture. Not happy news. At the same time, however, it only hurt while I was running, not all the time. If it were a fracture of any kind, it would hurt pretty much all the time.

In the end, I determined (on my own) that it was likely shin splints resulting from overuse, and I ended up running through it after taking a bit of time off. Yesterday, I felt a similar pain, this time in the left leg, and I got worried, since a week's rest is not currently in my plans. My most focused goal for this season is to run each and every mile of my training, and taking time off will simply not allow that. I wrote the pain off as a complication of an uncooperative puppy, and I forgot about it, until about my fourth step of this morning's run. With all the various thoughts that were running through my brain at that point, one stepped forward and took charge - you have to finish your miles for today.

So I just kept running. The midweek run was bumped up to 7 miles this week, so I was running on a slightly different course than I normally get to do. I tried not to focus on my time, but rather on maintaining a good landing point on my foot. What I mean by this is where, on my foot, I first make contact with the ground in my stride. The elite distance runners of the world tend to land on the middle of their feet, as their body weight and momentum are slightly forward. Landing on the heel can actually help contribute to injuries like shin splints, so I leaned forward a bit in the hopes that they would go away.

And they did.

At about 3 miles, my mind returned from whatever vacation it had taken, and I realized that I was no longer in any pain. What was even better about this was that the first half of my run today was more uphill, so when I hit 3.5 miles, I got to cruise downhill for about a mile and a half. There were a couple flare-ups of pain here and there, but nothing sustained, and throughout the rest of the morning, I've had no issues whatsoever. Tomorrow morning, I've got just an easy 3-miler, and then a rest day, which I think will be very valuable.

So all of this adds up to a lovely little riddle. When is a running injury a good thing?

When it could have been something much worse.

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