My Kind of Crazy: A Peek into the Mind of a Long-Distance Runner

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This morning, my doctor told me I should ‘take it easy for a while,’ and I burst out laughing. But when I looked up at him, he wasn’t smiling.

Wait…it was NOT a joke?

He said the annoying pain along my right arch is plantar fasciitis and in order to let it heal, I should ease-off the running.

But he’s not a runner, so I’m not sure if I trust him.

It’s kind of the same way I don’t completely trust OB’s who are men. They can be perfectly knowledgeable, friendly, published, well-respected and adept, but even the best male OB in the field lacks a practical sort of knowledge.

In both childbirth and in running (particularly long-distance running), unless you’ve done it once, you don’t have the physical recall that is so inextricably linked with the mind.

Most people think I’m crazy because I:

  • gave birth to 4 children (twice without drugs)

  • currently educate said children myself

  • eat (for the most part) a plant-based diet

  • run for hours on end (for fun)

  • get a strange sort of high from finishing a race many would consider a long commute

  • desire to run ultra marathons as I get older

  • firmly believe in minimalist running

I am a writer by trade, and yet I find it hard to put into words how I feel when I’m on a REALLY long run. It is love & dread & joy & pain & fear & hope & ecstasy & disappointment & thankfulness all bundled up and set on twitchy legs.

Running forces the body, mind and spirit to fuse together in a way that is addictive and, as one of my marathon friends said, cathartic.

Even after the most horrible run, under the worst possible circumstances (like 50 degrees, rain, and someone stealing your coconut water) a marathon runner will tell you, “It was worth it!”

I realized this as I spoke animatedly about my horrendous marathon with the tech as he X-rayed my foot, because HE is a marathon runner too, only he ran in full uniform with a 50 pound rucksack and passed a kidney stone at mile 12. Yikes! I was impressed he finished at all!

And yes, I realize the irony in the fact that neither the tech nor I thought it abnormal he was X-raying my foot, while we spoke so fondly of running.

Long-distance running is not a secret society, but I will say, it feels like it sometimes. There is a certain communicative gleam in the eye–a mutual understanding of pain and satisfaction, with a touch of crazy–when two marathoners swap stories.

And so, with that scary little glimpse into my mind, you might be able to understand why something like plantar fasciitis is so annoying.

NOT run?! You mean, I might have to (gasp) cross-train? Does that actually work?!

The nurse doing my screening today said, “Running is hard on the body.” But really, it’s not so much that running is hard on the body, it’s just that at this point, my body is hard on the running. I am still clinging to a few stubborn fat stores, and I hope that once I finally eradicate them, I will be back to pain-free running.

But what to do for now?

John at ‘Fit for a Year’ posited the interesting question: Do you succumb to injuries?

This is a real dilemma for me, as I have already set my sights on more marathons in the not-to-distant future.

I ran 18 miles last Saturday and felt so good (aside from the minor arch pain) that I ran 2 more miles. In fact, during large portions of the run, I wasn’t even aware of the pain in my arch, because I was focused on other things.

As ultramarathoner Lizzy Hawker says the June issue of TrailRunner magazine: “You have to be aware of what your body is saying. The main thing is learning to listen. And to cut off listening when you’re in pain and keep going.”

Granted, she was talking about racing not training, but I’m not entirely convinced that ‘resting’ my foot for six weeks is the answer.

After my first two marathons, I lost my level of fitness afterwards. I didn’t just fall off the health wagon, I tipped it over and dismantled it, leaving me to start back at step one.

I don’t want to go through that again.

So, for now, my ‘plan’ is to substitute some of my runs with cross-training, such as bike riding (how hard could that be, right?) or if I’m desperate, I’ll dust off the elliptical in the basement, but I don’t think I can give up my long runs without an intervention.

Running is a part of my life, and despite the injuries, I truly feel my life and the lives of those around me are better for it.

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5 responses »

  1. Thanks for the mention! Your comment “desire to run ultra marathons as I get older” is something that has started to enter my head. One day.

      • Thanks Keri. That’s the way I’m looking at it, long distance running a long term job. Hope your foot heals soon!

  2. Hi Keri,

    My son, Laith, treated a dancer with the same problem. He is skilled in using acupuncture to speed up the healing process. I admire your courage but your foot does need some treatment. Total rest probably IS NOT the answer. Remember, Keri, there is always the middle path!

    • Can you send Laith over? I don’t know if I would trust just anyone to poke my foot with needles:)

      Seriously though, you are right. Even though I do like to run long distances, I AM all about finding balance. And I think I can give my foot enough ‘rest’ with cross training and some exercises without giving up my Saturday long run.

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