Devil Of A Course

Normally I write some tips on nutrition here, but this week I want to tell you something a bit more personal. Something about my checkered past…

Sunday the 17th of August, I did something I hadn’t done in years. A half marathon! Seriously, it has probably been 7-8 years since I have done one. Which is strange as I actually enjoy them quite a lot. It’s the kind of distance where you can go hard, but not too hard, and any pacing mistakes you make early on don’t come back to bite you (too hard) later on. The only problem in the past was that I kept getting injured every time I did one.

Every time I did a half, I wouldn’t be able to run for a month or two at least. Once I couldn’t run for nearly 3 months! I would get things like shin splints, ITB syndrome, piriformis syndrome and even back pain. I seemed to be OK on the longer distances like full marathons or 10k’s, but there was something about the halfs that used to get me. Maybe it was the intensity that I was hitting them at.

I put up with this string of injuries for years. From about 2002 when I started taking my running more seriously to about 2009 when I was nearly ready to give up. And I did for a fair while. After all there are only so many injuries you can put up with and you start to tell yourself things like, “Maybe my body just isn’t designed for running” which is just crazy.

So what happened to get me back into it? Shaun told me to run barefoot. Which to me sounded crazy. To prevent these injuries, I had the most expensive motion control shoes with expensive orthotics, but they obviously weren’t doing their job, were they? So off I went to buy some flat shoes with no cushioning and started running again. Just a little bit at first, then gradually built up the distance until I was able to do the Portsea Twilight 8k race a few months later. And it surprisingly felt great. Which was followed a number of months later by the 50k Mt Macedon race. There have been a number of races since then, but still never the dreaded half.

Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a magic fix, there were a number of other things that I had to fix in this injury prone body. My stride was worked on meticulously. It turned out I had previously been over striding, massively, causing so much stress on my body it wasn’t funny. I shortened my stride and the impact lessened. Also changing from the first type of shoe I tried to the VIVOBAREFOOTS made a big difference. You can really feel the ground with them and any mistakes made in your stride gives instant feedback. They do take some getting used to, but once you get the feel for them, you will most likely never go back. That combined with some other tips from Shaun, including some core stability exercises (which was later to become The Runners Core Program) and I was soon running freely and correctly.

So fast forward back to Sunday’s race where I tackled my nemesis. I went out relatively hard, especially as I hadn’t done a lot of speed work, mainly distance and a bit of tempo work here and there, but I wanted to hit this thing hard. My previous PB over that distance had been 1hr 31.58 on a flat road course. I had a feeling I wouldn’t break it as Devilbend is dirt road and undulating through the whole course. But 11 years after making that PB as a 29 year old, this 40 year old did it in 1hr 35.39 finishing 29th out of 144 runners. I think with some specific training for that distance, I could smash that PB on that course next year.

Due to the shorter stride of the barefoot style of running, I always considered it to be slightly slower. I am starting to realize that it’s not necessarily so. It feels so much better to run hard like that and you really notice the difference it has on the joints and muscles. But the big question is, how am I feeling a day after while writing this? I would be lying if I said I felt great, as I am still a bit tight which you expect, but no injuries to speak of at all. I do have an appointment with a foam roller now, so will speak soon.

Run Well

Chris O’Driscoll

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