Yep – you read that correctly… You should stop running! That is IF your body is telling you that you need a break. I think I kept telling my body to shut-up and deal with it instead of listening. When I finished the Chicago Marathon, I noticed that my left heel was hurting really badly, but I was hurting everywhere and didn’t really give it a lot of thought. I took 6 days off after completing Chicago and started back running the Saturday afterwards. During that first run back, my heel started hurting when I first got going but subsided about a mile into the run. Again, I didn’t give it a whole lot of credence since I had just ran 26.2.
A month later I was trying to maintain somewhat of a normal schedule of running and hoping to get at least 3 days a week and a target of 20-25 miles per week in. Problem was, my heel had now gotten worse and even more concerning to me, my lower calves were achy and hurting every time I ran and for hours after I ran.
I ran the Bass Pro Shops Half Marathon exactly a month after the Chicago Marathon and set a new PR and felt pretty good while running it. The week after Bass Pro, things slowly started going downhill. My heel was now a full-on case of Plantar Fasciitis. I have battled this before so I knew it was normally not a quick recovery and one that in some cases can end up resulting in months off. I was determined that I could beat it and just run through it. The Friday after Thanksgiving I headed out for what I had planned on being about an 8 miler. The weather was great, and I really needed to get that run in to help offset the Thanksgiving feast and for my mental well being. After running less than 200 yards, I had to stop and limp back to the house.
Talk about total defeat… I was as deflated as you can be. Less than 60 days prior, I had ran my first marathon, and 4 weeks after that set a new PR for my half marathon and now… 200 yards in and had to limp back into the house. My heel felt like it had been hit with a ball-peen hammer and the lower calf on that leg ached for a good part of the afternoon. Depression set it and even though I tried to offset that with a raging weights workout, all I ended up with is a sore chest to go along with my aching legs.
That’s when I decided … I needed to stop running. No, I am not talking stop all-together, but I needed an extended rest. I took the rest of Thanksgiving weekend and the entire next week completely off from running. I made an appointment with the sports doc again. Mainly because I was worried that it could be something other than the Plantar Fasciitis causing my heel to hurt and especially concerning was the aching in my lower legs. I read a great article on the Physiology of Marathon Running. Turns out, it can actually take up to 3 months for your body to completely heal. I was just too dumb to listen.
I saw the sports doc the Monday after Thanksgiving and he confirmed that I did have a pretty good case of Plantar Fasciitis. More importantly he informed me that the aching in my lower calf and leg was primarily due to me compensating for my heel pain by running and walking out the outside edge of my foot. Additionally the sports doc pointed out that the stretching that I had been doing to supposedly stretch the Plantar was really not doing anything for it. I had been mainly doing the “wall stretch” prior to any running activity.
However he pointed out that while that stretch is great for the Achilles it really did not stretch the Plantar effectively. Instead he indicated that I needed to stretch my foot by pulling the big toe back as far as comfortable and holding and doing a set of 10 of these 3 times a day. Another uh-oh moment was when he told me that it was more important for me to stretch after my runs and throughout the day than prior to running.
So has it worked? Well this past Monday was my first run after taking 10 days completely off in entirety from running. Some may say, well that is not really stopping running and I agree. However that is the longest stretch that I have gone without running since February. I have to tell you it drove me nuts!!
Secondly I ordered a Pro-Stretch Plus from @Medi-dyn. They sponsored the last runchat that I participated in and I received pretty good feedback on the product which is targeted for runners that experience Plantar Fasciitis. It arrived last Friday evening so I have had 4 days using it for stretching. I can tell a big difference already! The stretch that is puts on my foot zeros in on the Plantar as the sports doc indicated.(Will give a full review once I have had more time with it but so far – I am impressed) Combine that with a full 10 days off from running and my first run back from the time off was great yesterday. I imagine that part of that was the exhilaration of being able to get back out there, but I felt great the entire run and afterwards had no pain in my heel the rest of the day.
I am continuing with the stretching using the Pro-Stretch and am going to try to keep this week an easy week in terms of mileage(really hoping to stick to that). However based upon my first run back on Monday – I feel totally renewed. So was 10 days off enough for my body to rest and repair? Only time will tell. With Little Rock now just 12 1/2 weeks away… time is going to be very important.
I do see now that your body really will tell you when you need to rest. I simply kept telling my body to shut-up and if finally told me to shut-down. So the lesson that I take forward from this … Stop Running if you body tells you to!! And make sure you incorporate the proper stretching for your body to keep you moving forward. As hard as it was to go 10 days without running… the thought having to take months off is unimaginable for me at this point.