|You have to eat to run.|
So I could run six miles at a stretch without barfing, that didn't translate into training for and running a marathon without incident. But that's exactly what I did so many years ago and I've paid for my stupidity and my arrogance ever since.
That's the trouble with running, if you're relatively ambulatory, what's the problem? Right? What do you have to know that your body doesn't already biomechanically intuit?
A lot, actually.
If you are one of those transcendent individuals, a superhuman like Dean Karnazes who runs 200 mile fun runs, bounds through 50 marathons in 50 days and has a genetic mutation wherein your lactic acid levels DROP during a long run (true story, Mr. Karnazes can claim all those feats and more. Lucky bastard), if you are one of those chosen few, please go away and leave us mortals to wallow in our spiking lactic levels and crunchy knees.
If, however, you are a runner without any extraordinary athletic prowess other than a need to run many miles and all at once, especially if you are a newbie, then listen to this oft broken runner and her tales of caution:
(1) Just because you can, doesn't mean you can...if you know what I mean.
Let's go back to the age old runner's coda: I have feet, I have use of my legs, I can run. Many don't think of running as a skill set, not like biking or swimming. But that's hogwash.
If Born to Run hasn't taught you anything, and it really should have, then at the very least you should have taken from that wonderful book that heel striking will bust your hump. But that's just the surface of what it takes to run well: you have to run tall, you should have a fast turnover, you shouldn't be bouncing up and down like a tweener at a Bieber concert, you shouldn't be hyperextending your leg and you shouldn't be striking with your heel first, you shouldn't be packing on mileage too quickly, you shouldn't do static stretches before a run. Those are just a few things to keep in mind when you're running.
Because here's what will happen if you don't take a few moments to learn about running mechanics before jumping in: you'll break something.
Here's an example: lady goes for a mid-week 10 mile run. No big whoop. What's 10 miles when she's been doing 20+ most weekends. lady finishes run. lady goes home for water. lady catches a whiff of herself and decides to take a shower. And while shuffling up a couple of stairs en route to the bathroom, lady's knee buckles and she falls down and goes BOOM!
If you didn't already guess, I'm that lady. That was my knee that broke. Actually, it wasn't "broken" per se but it was more than my knee. It was the entire tendon stretching from my hip to my knee, the Iliotibial Band that I had screwed up beyond imagination from doing any number of the following things: heel striking, running on a bowed road, running too many miles, not paying attention to a leg length discrepancy. Just running plain wrong. And once it happens, it takes months to heal (although I still marathoned on it and screwed up the other side along the way). And once it heals, it's always waiting to come back. And it always comes back. So I did my homework and realized that I'd been an arrogant cur. I should have taken the time to learn to run properly before running at all.
(2) That's not the smell of VICTORY!
My mom was a marathoner. When she'd come back in from a long run, she'd always smell of ammonia. Mom was my hero and I developed the erroneous belief that to smell of ammonia after a run was to smell of VICTORY!
In reality, the problem was that my mother wasn't inclined to fuel properly for her runs, which ultimately led to her bonking during her first marathon attempt. So sadly, what I was smelling is what I now like to call "Eau de Zombie Runner" because technically, if you start to reek in such a manner, you're body is turning on itself and consuming protein stores and muscles instead of carbs. This is not good. If you smell of metal or ammonia on a run, stop. Replenish your stores. And then carry on.
Bottom line, you have to eat to perform. The night before a long run, you need to load-up otherwise your body will zombify and start nomming on your hard won muscles. My go to night before complex carb wonder meal is a curried lentil/brown rice stew with tomatoes and poached eggs. Four hours before the run, I eat oatmeal with fruit. During the run, I drink coconut water. After the run, I have salmon, brown rice with fresh peas and watercress. If I do this, I run strong and relatively odor free.
(3) More isn't Better:
Start slowly. More mileage isn't necessarily better. Here are a few overuse injuries that are bound to plague you if you add mileage too quickly (the general rule is add 10% more each week):
ITBS (iliotibial band strain), Plantar Fasciitis, hairline bone stress fracture, achilles tendonitis. And there are so many more. So for all the good running is doing for you, remember that it can all go to hell quickly if you aren't careful.
(4) I was wrong, yoga isn't evil:
I have my reasons for holding a grudge against yoga. And in all honesty, I'll never completely divest myself of a deep seeded resentment towards the downward dog set...again, it's personal. But I have to give it up for the dynamic stretchy beauty of the yogic arts when it comes to keeping a runner safe from injury. For all the ways the road beats our legs, yoga (and pilates) opens those hips, kneads tight hamstrings, stretches tight calves and strengthens that sloppy core. I can testify that I have only run injury free when I've also done yoga and/or pilates regularly.
(5) It's ok to ask for help:
For the first time after many miles and a decades, I have a running coach. They aren't just for kids anymore. I'll be the first to tell you that just because I can technically run, it doesn't mean that I run well. But I want to. And I want to do it injury free. Because I've got a few more races in me and a ton of money to raise in honor of runners, like my mom the marathoner, who were taken out of the race too soon by cancer.