Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Splint Decisions

The third week of the Runner's World Run Streak has begun, and I'm going strong. Well, strong-ish. I've always had a hard time toeing that line between giving up and acknowledging that there is a more important battle to be fought.

When it comes to picking battles in real life, I'm a pro. I know what's important to me, and for the most part I know when to let things roll off my back and when to pick up a sword and start slaying dragons.
I posted this to FB in one of my running groups after Day 15 of the streak. (Can you catch the typo?)
The problem with "choosing my battles" when it comes to running, though, is that I'm not a naturally competitive person. Often, I'm more likely to back down from a daunting run than to face it head-on. Over time, I've grown to a point where I know when I'm shortchanging myself and backing down. But the run streak has really messed with my head a bit.
Here's the face of someone who doesn't know when to quit: the day after that post, I hopped on a treadmill anyway.
Weighing my looming marathon training, set to begin July 7, and this run streak, the training should come first. That means that anything that could risk injury should automatically be put on hold, right? Shin splints are clearly my body's way of saying, back off! I'm tired! You're doing too much too soon! But logically, I don't think one to two miles a day is really asking that much of my body, especially as I'm keeping the pace nice and slow (in the low 10s, sometimes high 9s).
Foam rolling and sleeping in my compression socks seemed to help a bit.
Usually, I would balk at the first sign of pain and take a nice rest for a couple days. But you see, the run streak has re-ingrained in me the habit of running. I had taken so much time off, remember? I had been burned out. I have the streak to credit for my even running at all lately! And if I want to have any base level of fitness before July 7, then I need to be running consistently.
Day 17: Today I tried my luck in another pair of shoes, but nothing much changed there.
So here I am, at a crossroads. Quit the streak, take a rest day or two, then go back to running normally and hope I don't lose the motivation I've finally found again; or run through the shin splints, hope they don't turn into a real injury, and stay motivated through July?

The threat of injury should easily outweigh anything else, but it's hard to take shin splints seriously. Plus, I tried to take yesterday and today off and was so grumpy and fidgety that I had to get to the gym. And once there, I had to run! The rowing machine, the elliptical...yeah, I spent time on those, but in the end I needed to pound out a couple miles before I felt satisfied. Nothing makes me happier than a run.

I know what the seasoned runners will say. I know, as a relatively experienced (if not average) runner, what I should do. But I felt transcendent running through my pain today, telling it to shut up, take a back seat, and let me do my thing. In a way, I think this is something I need because it will teach me not to back down at the first sign of discomfort, and I know when I'm doing 16 or 18 miles during training, I'm going to need to know how to push through some pain.
All the treadmill shots lately can be explained by this.
I need to play the rest of the streak by ear. Maybe call it quits, maybe just see what happens. It was fun while it lasted and I'm grateful for the lessons it taught me. Now it's time to stop hanging my success on a certain number of days, and do what's right for me.

On a more cheery note, I'm currently designing my first running tattoo. I've decided to reward myself post-streak (however long it ends up being). I told my parents about it last week, and then received this email from my mom after she had shared the news with my grandparents.
Either Grandma is a master guilt-tripper, or the sweetest lady ever.
How cute is that?

What are your thoughts on running through discomfort?
How do you decide when enough is enough?
Do you have any running-related body art?



  1. ahh I have the worst shin splints. they're horrible. feels like a frying pan is being smacked again my legs when I run and mine swell to the size of almost-baseballs. yikes.

    do you have other tattoos? exciting! I definitely want to get a tattoo after I finish my first marathon :) no idea of what however.

    1. My shins don't swell, thankfully!

      This will be my first, and it's going to be a big one, but I'm not going to reveal it until it's inked on :o)

  2. When I worked next to a PT office she would always tell me to shorten my stride whenever anything related to my lower leg was bothering me. Since then I've never had shin problems. ICE also!!

    1. Ooh, I will keep that in mind! I tend to have a pretty short stride anyway, but I'll definitely check to make sure I'm not overextending.

  3. Yes I'm so over the rain. You aren't the first person I've heard put a stop to the runstreak. Great in theory but not for training!

    1. There's definitely pros and cons to the streak. As this is the first I've ever done, and I think I've gotten from it pretty much what I needed, I'm going to take some pressure off myself to finish it completely :o)

      What is with these storms all over the US?! So crazy!

  4. Ohhh... that's a hard one. It really depends on the discomfort - where, how bad, what it feels like exactly, how it responds to running slower / more careful footfall / shorter strides / better form...

    I think that's part of the difference between being a recreational runner (running just for fun or fitness) and being a competitive one (wanting to improve one's ability). To get better you have to be able to live with some discomfort while still taking it seriously.

    As to #3, I have a tattoo planned but it's not running related.

    1. You're definitely right that dealing with the pain and choosing to run through it is a sign of a more serious runner. Anytime we push our boundaries in order to improve, we're going to face some pain or discomfort, at least in the beginning.

      I hope you'll post a pic of your tattoo on your blog once you get it!