That Which Does Not Kill Me, Will Wish That It Had

This morning was the moment of truth – the test run to see what effect my broken toe was going to have on my training for L.A. Marathon.

With a little trepidation I re-taped my toes, gently tugged on my running socks, and picked out my 3-dot shoes (because I have the elastilaces on those at the moment) for the sort test run.  I debated doing an abbreviated "around the block" course but decided if I’m going to do it that I might as well just do my short course (around 2 miles) instead.

Gear on, deep breath taken, I headed for the door.  I deliberately did not wear a watch for this run because I didn’t want to put any focus on time.  This was a "sea trial" just to find out if the equipment was in battle-ready condition and while I certainly would speed up and slow down I didn’t want to take the focus off the test by worrying about time.

Out the garage, I turned and started walking down the driveway, stretching lightly as I went.  So far it felt o.k.  Towards the end of the driveway I exchange pleasant "good morning"s with a workman who watched me go by as if he knew this was more than just a simple workout.

Finally reaching the street I took one more deep breath and set off, striding easily towards the corner.  First steps felt pretty good.

I was looking for some very specific things on this run.  I don’t really care about pain (o.k., I care a little about pain) what I was looking for was to make sure of two main things:

  1. That I could run without doing more damage to the injured toes.  I don’t want to injure them more or seriously delay my healing process by training.
  2. That the injury wasn’t going to alter the technical aspects of my running in a way that would hurt me in some other way.

By halfway through the run I was pretty comfortable that the answer to #1 was that I could continue to train, mindfully of course, and that the risk of additional injury to the toes was minimal.  So the open question was #2.

As I ran I was paying very close attention to my mechanics.  Specifically my foot strike, pronation, roll, ankle and hip positioning, stride length and other elements of the run.  I know that if any of those is significantly deviated from my preferred running style that it can cause me some problems. It’s why athletes with bad ankles tend to develop knee or back problems.  If you have pain that your body compensates for by altering your body position in a "sub-optimal" way you can put additional stress on other parts of the body and cause pain or injury there as well.

As an example: I’m a runner who tends to roll over my middle toes on my push off.  Well, those are my injured toes!  If I find myself either consciously or sub-consciously rolling over my little toes instead (i.e. the outside of my foot) then I could put more stress on my ankle or already-dodgy knee and cause myself problems there.  So I was especially aware during this run of how I was rolling off my right foot – and the answer is…normally.  🙂

I played around a little with speeding up (but not too fast, no need to press) and slowing down, I took left and right hand turns, played around a bit with my hip position and basically just put myself through the paces, so to speak.  The question: do I have the green light to continue my training for L.A. Marathon?

The Verdict

Greenage.  I have a little bit of discomfort and, of course I’ll have to continue running with the toes taped for a week or three, but I see no reason why I can’t ease back into my training schedule immediately. 

This afternoon (time permitting) I’ll be back at the gym but it’s chest/triceps day so no pressure on the foot there.  Tomorrow morning I’ll do a short-course bike ride and tomorrow evening I’ll rejoin my team for our usual Wednesday speed workout.  I’ll go a little easy at the workout and Brian already knows about my injury and will certainly be encouraging me to be gentle out there.

Otherwise, good to go.  I have a 10K or two, plus Great Aloha Run in the next 6 weeks but while it would feel great and be a big confidence booster to turn in a great performance at Great Aloha Run the truth is that my goal race is L.A. Marathon.  Eyes on the prize.


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