The modern-day athletic pandemic

If runners love to talk about any single subject more than running, it’s injuries.

Trust me on this. Yes, runners love running and they loathe being hurt, but the topic of injuries looms large in the minds of those who run. If they’re not actually injured, then they’re talking about who is, or how to avoid an injury, or the best treatments for injuries, or the types of injuries or worrying about becoming injured.

Pick up just about any book on running technique and it will include a section on injuries. Sometimes it seems as if it’s a matter of not what will you do if you become injured, but rather how will you treat your injury when it inevitably occurs.

Tim Noakes, author of The Lore of Running, calls injuries “the modern-day athletic pandemic.”

In To be a Runner, Martin Dugard, writes of injuries: “They creep into your life like a thief in the night and steal the keys to that car known as your body.”

As you might have guessed, I’m hurt again.

In the last year I’ve been injured twice, both time running in the same pair of Nike Vomeros.

Now the Vomero was my go-to shoe for three years and four or five marathons. I found it light, cushioned and terrific for long runs. That’s why it puzzled me last winter when I got plantar just after some 15 runs in a brand new 2011 pair.

A few people suggested that I might have actually gotten the plantar from running on old, worn-out shoes. But I never bought that theory. Long before people began stuffing their feet into giant pillows, the first running shoes were fairly minimalist.

After I recovered from the plantar, I switched up shoes and actually began running in lighter, less cushioned shoes than the 2011 Vomeros and felt just fine.

But on Christmas Day, after putting significant miles on two pair of my other road shoes, I thought I’d break out the barely-used Vomeros and take them for a run.

Big mistake.

Five kilometres in I began to feel significant pain in my right hip. I headed directly for home, breaking to walk five times in the remaining two kilometres. Later that day the pain was so intense, I wondered if I’d fractured my hip.

Four days later, I suspect a muscle tear.

Curious, I emailed Luke MacDonald, the highly knowledgeable owner of Aerobics First in Halifax. He told me that in 2011 Nike added significantly more cushioning to the Vomero, resulting in mid-foot instability as my foot searched for ground contact. My theory is my body tried to compensate and, twisted into ways it wasn’t used to, broke.

In the interim, I’ve discovered how much being injured is like tapering: I have far too much time and energy on my hands because I’m not running.

Conventional wisdom holds that once you’re injured you should take time off until healed again. Noakes disputes that.

“Complete rest is unacceptable to most serious runners, because running involves a type of physical and emotional dependence,” Noakes writes. “An athlete who is forced to stop running for any length of time will usually develop overt withdrawal symptoms and either the runner or, not uncommonly, the runner’s spouse will immediately commence the search for anything that will allow the distraught runner to return to the former running tranquility.”

I will admit that perversely I am looking forward to the huge winter storm that is supposed to blow in tonight. I’m hoping the subsequent snowshoeing and skiing will make for good cross-training until I can recover my former running tranquility.

I’d also like to wish all Sub-three readers a very healthy, Happy New Year in 2013. May you all enjoy continued, uninterrupted running tranquility over the next year and beyond.

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About subthree

A multiple award-winning journalist, I'm currently a contributing editor with both Canadian Running and Canadian Cycling magazines. My articles have appeared in Explore, Canadian Geographic, enRoute, The National Post, The Globe and Mail, and many other magazines and newspapers. Formerly a competitive cross-country mountain biker, I switched to running in 2006. I've run seven marathons, qualifying for Boston five times (and which I've run once). Generally, I've placed or won in my age group in races, in distances ranging from five and 10 kms to half and full marathons. I've also taught spin classes at a number of leading Eastern Canadian gyms. Sub-three was a 2012 #Runchat finalist for Best Overall Blog.
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10 Responses to The modern-day athletic pandemic

  1. RunToInspire says:

    I would usually hit like at this point, but that would be weird… hope you feel better soon.

  2. Kevin Tulloch says:

    Hmm very interesting as the Veromo’s are my go to shoe as well, happy to say no problems for me with them as yet……….

    • subthree says:

      Glad you’re not having issues with them. Are you wearing the 2011 version, Kevin?

      • Kevin Tulloch says:

        Not sure, just whatever version is on the bargain table at Cleves ;o) And I mix them up, currently running in the Veromos, a pair of Mizuno Wave Riders and Asics GT2150’s, I think mixing up the brands and doing whatever running I can on trails has saved me from many injuries !

      • subthree says:

        I’ve done all that. This injury is related to this specific shoe. Both times I’ve been injured wearing that shoe and this time it only took one run of less than 5 km. I just can’t recommend Nike at all any more.

  3. Al DiMicco says:

    Been following you for a while now and really enjoy your posts. You know, if you’ve been at this running thing for quite a while like me (34 years, 132 marathons/ultras), not only do shoes change, but so does our body leading to unforseen injuries. We get attached to shoes/models, but shouldn’t…we don’t change in the same direction. As a Physical Therapist, I see runners with similar complaints often. Unless you’re sponsored, don’t be afraid to experiment with not only new models, but entirely new brands. I mean, good grief, I switched to Hokas 2 yrs ago, and they literally saved my running! I wish you all the best in ’13, and hope you get over that pesky PF soon

    • subthree says:

      Al, thank you for the comment and glad you like the blog. Wow: 132 marathons/ultras! That’s amazing. I’ve actually only been running seven years now and have only seven marathons done at this point. The injury this time isn’t PF, but actually up around my hip. I’m guessing it’s a grade 2 muscle tear. In terms of shoes/models, I’m very prolific. I began in Asics, switched to Mizuno, wore Saucony one season and then stuck with Nike for nearly four years. At this point, I’m favouring Adidas (Bostons) and New Balance for road. All the best to you in 2013!

  4. Dawn says:

    Get better soon, Charles. Crossing my fingers for you to have a very successful running year in 2013.

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