Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What Ails You?

Injury Maintenance Kit: Ice, BioFreeze, Ibuprofen,
Compression Socks.
"This is going to sound weird," my friend said to me this past weekend.
"Lay it on me."
"Run your fingers along my shin," he said, pulling up his pant leg. "You feel anything?"

I gave him a quizzical look...then dove right in.

At the GW Marathon Relay this past weekend, my teammates and I huddled in the chilly morning air outside of the Greenbelt Visitors Center. While our first runner stretched, the three of us traded stories over the little niggles that seem to afflict all runners. In fact, as I sit here typing this, I'm not sure I can remember a time in recent memory where something hasn't hurt at least a little.

A knot in my friend's shin. Soreness on top of his foot. The pain above my ankle (the good one). A twinge in the hamstring or a bizarre tightness in the achilles. We spoke of them as war wounds and battle scars, and attached odd caveats to them that made them unique to us but somehow relatable to our audience.

Most of these qualifiers started like this: "It only hurts when I [insert caveat here]." Qualifiers include: walk, run, stop running, run uphill, run downhill, run on pavement, run on cement, run fast, run slow, after two miles, during the first two miles, while I warmup, while I cool down, and on and on. Of course no one ever says, "It only hurts when I run on trails" thanks to Chris McDougall.

The smart-ass response generally uttered by the non-runner is of course, "Don't do that then." *gasp!* Not doing it generally means removing that crucial verb from the sentence..."run." How dare they!

Which is why we turn to our running brethren. Because not only can they empathize with our admission of pain, but we can then tap into their vast anecdotal medical knowledge and ask, "What do you think I should do?"
“Well, I heard that blah blah.” Or, "When that happened to me, I yadda yadda." And the cure usually involves some form of stretching, icing, anti-inflammatories, massage, and in rarer cases, epsom salt and vinegar.

What you won't hear is, "So, I stopped running." Because we run to toe more than starting lines and cross finish lines, we also tiptoe around the hazy line between needing a rest day and running through. Hoping like hell that a few more miles will iron out whatever the affliction du jour is.

It makes me do things like wear compression socks to work under my dress socks, slip my shoes off under my desk and do calf raises, write the alphabet with my ankle during meetings, and...well, you get the idea.

After the relay on Sunday, we walked away from the finish line and up to the Visitors Center for our post-race food, all the while trading notes on one another's ailments post-run.

In the end, we deemed it nothing a good recovery run couldn't cure the following the day.

What ails you?


  1. Not to beat the dead triathlon horse, but I've found myself pretty lucky in avoiding niggles and injuries thus far (I definitely had more issues when I was solely running) and I attribute it to the variety with swimbikerun. Zing - another reason you should do a tri this summer (no I will not stop pestering you until you do one). Another thing, I keep thinking the title of the blog post is misspelled because the bar i used to frequent in college was called "What Ales You" and that spelling is forever stuck in my brain!.

    1. I'm considering, but no promises. But you can keep pester...umm...reminding me about it :)

      I'm also with you on the spelling. I stared at it for a while and even did a dictionary look-up just to make sure. Something about it just didn't look right!

  2. Oh, and add to that the fact that "ail" is also French for garlic - I keep thinking there will be a reference to garlic somewhere in your post. Clearly I was in Africa too long.


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