I thought a full week of rest after the marathon was enough to get back on my feet and slowly start running again.
I was wrong.
I thought a week later, after taking four full days off from running, everything would be recovered enough for me to run pain free.
I was wrong, again.
Fifteen minutes into that first run, seven days after setting a 27 second personal best at the Chicago Marathon, my right knee started to hurt. That is the same knee that put me on the shelf in October 2017 (my left knee was pretty bad then too, but thankfully, no longer seems to be an issue). It is also the same knee that started to ache just past the half marathon in Chicago and derailed my quest to finally run 3:47 (my left hamstring had something to do with that, too).
I took Tuesday off completely, then hit the gym on Wednesday for some physical therapy/strength work and time on the elliptical. Everything felt OK after the gym session, so I decided to try a few more miles on Thursday. Same thing. After about 15 minutes, my knee started to hurt. I slogged through another 25 minutes, jogging about a 5K.
I wanted to give it another shot, so I decided to run a few more miles Friday morning. It wasn’t any better, and to make matters worse, my adductors and hamstrings were on fire after all that PT on Wednesday. I actually think I re-tweaked my left hamstring, the one that was giving me trouble before and during the marathon.
Yes, I’m a broken down old bum.
So I didn’t run Saturday, instead going to the UMaine football game and eating way too much while tailgating. Sunday I was tired, and a little grumpy because of how my knee felt, so I took another full day off. Monday, I went back to the gym, rode the elliptical for 40 minutes and did a bunch of physical therapy – minus the split squats and side lunges that tore up my hamstrings and adductors last week.
I woke up Tuesday morning planning another trip to the gym, but as I drove past the Back Cove Trail I couldn’t resist the urge to give running another shot. I took extra time to warm up in the cold and the rain, doing all my dynamic stretches and form drills, before starting to jog. I jogged across the parking lot to the porta potties and thought, “Hey, I feel OK. This might happen.” After a pit stop, I turned back toward my car, jogged onto the path, and thought maybe, just maybe, the worse pain I would feel on this run would be from cold hands (when you don’t plan to run, you usually aren’t prepared for the conditions) and that achy left hamstring.
My hamstring tugged a few times, but wasn’t so bad (it’s more sore today). And for the first mile or so, my knee was OK. I would feel some pain in that spot on the outside of my right left, just below my knee cap, but I was optimistic it was going to be OK.
Until it wasn’t.
A mile and a half in, my knee was all I could think about. Two miles in, I stopped for a brief walk, which seemed to ease the pain a bit, so I tried to run again. I made it up the slight hill just before the bridge, then stopped again, with traffic whizzing by on I-95 just on the other side of that jersey barrier. Every time I pulled my knee up through my gate cycle and push it back to the ground, it hurt. Well, actually, it hurt all the time.
I decided to run again, painfully making my way down the hill and when I was done 3 miles, I decided to walk the last .75 miles to my car. I was upset, angry and feeling defeated. I was also stubborn and was much in the mood for a scenic walk along the Atlantic Ocean, so I started running again. It hurt, yeah, it pretty much sucked, but somehow, I made it back to my car, ran past it for another quarter mile so I could finish off a 4-miler.
And I promptly decided that I won’t be – I can’t – running for a while.
A part of me is not terribly worried about my current condition. This is the same pain I felt in Oct. 2017, when I was eventually diagnosed with arthritis. I assume there isn’t much I can do about it, other than give it a break and get into the gym for as much physical therapy and strength work as possible.
Plus, once I was diagnosed and did a ton of physical therapy (and had a needle full of cortisone jammed into my knee) I was able to get back to running on a regular basis with few, if any issues. From time to time my knee would bark at me, like in the days after the Kennebec River Rail Trail Half Marathon last September, but for the most part, I have run with little if any pain in my knees.
Which makes me wonder, is this just a case of: My body can’t handle the rigors of the marathon and once I recover, I can get back to running on a regular basis (as long as I do my strength and physical therapy work), as long as I don’t ask my body to run another marathon, or is there more to it than that? Is this pain in my knee going to keep cropping up, now that I’m an old fart and working with an already messed up joint?
I don’t quite know what the next step is. I’m not going to run for a while and I’m going to try to get into the gym to spend some time on the elliptical and doing all the strength work I can handle.
Maybe it is time to get this thing checked out again. It probably wouldn’t hurt to have a doctor look at it again, just to make sure I’m not actually shredding my knee to bits, and maybe I can get a little relief in the process (plus, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get this left hamstring looked at).
I don’t know what I’ll do next. I do know that running isn’t really an option right now. I could probably gut it out and be miserable, but fuck that shit. That’s no fun.
It will be hard not being able to run, to have that not be a part of my routine, and to not become a lazy slug because I can’t log miles. Hitting the gym and trying to get myself to a place physically where I can run without feeling like my knee has been slugged by a baseball bat will have to become my routine. That will have to be the thing that gets me out of bed and keeps me from feeling useless. In the past, not running has had taken a toll on me mentally. When I can’t get out the door to run and to chase my goals, I go into a funk, I get depressed and I hide out even more than usual.
Finding a way to combat that will be as big a challenge as getting myself healthy enough physically so that I can run again. And I’ll have to do a better job then I did today, when all I could think of at the gym was that I wasn’t running. It bummed me out and I bailed before I actually got any work done.
That’s not going to help, so I really need to find a way to not only change my physical condition, but my mental as well.
Because the only thing worse than being a broken down old man is being a broken down old man who won’t leave the house.