Tuesday, November 20, 2012


After pulling the muscle in my right calf, I made a half-hearted attempt to take it easy on myself. I slowed my training for a couple of weeks, but two weeks after my 4.9 mile race I decided to do a distance cross-country session that would mimic the conditions for the approaching half-marathon. I had discovered that wrapping my calf kept it mostly in check, so I wrapped my calf carefully before running.

About 5 miles into the run, intense pain in my left calf alerted me that I had once again pushed my luck too far. Since I was in the middle of nowhere, I finished the run anyway, for a total of 8.1 miles. My average pace was 9:47 per mile. I have not managed a pace better than 10:45 per mile in the five weeks since that run.

The pain from my calves would plague me for several critical weeks leading up to the half-marathon that I wanted to finish in November. I did some reading to try learning about why my calves were being so uncooperative. It seems that part of the blame lay with my foot strike. When running shorter distances (5 miles or less), a forefoot strike is perfectly acceptable. I had intentionally used this strike to cushion my joints at the expense of my calves and achilles tendons. During the longer runs, my calves began taking more abuse than they could absorb. Reluctantly, I shifted my foot strike backwards to a mid-foot strike. In this position the ball of my foot would strike just before my heel. This alleviated some of the calf pain.

The other mistake I made was to increase distance and speed at the same time. I was able to get away with an 8:30 pace over a relatively short distance like 5 miles, but only barely. As I waited for my calves to recover, I locked my pace in at 11:00 per mile in order to facilitate longer distances.

As the half-marathon approached, I wondered if I would be able to complete the run.

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