How I re-started running
Having been a sportman from the youngest age (I rowed from the age of 10), running always was some kind of parallel activity when weather did not allow going on the water. My father also regularly ran and I occasionally accompanied him and his fellows club. But I never really took this physical activity seriously. Running was something I totally abandonned from the moment I became a student and eventually started working. Not too much the best morphology I always told myself (I'm rather short in legs, and despite not fat I weight 78kgs for 174cm !), I'm an endurance guy but rather the biking/rowing type all in strenght.
Things changed recently. My timetable got so packed from the beginning of the 11/12 academic year that even finding biking time has become a pain. I got very fit at the end of the summer '11 but gradually lost my condition till the Christmas holidays.
Once by some kind of coincidence, on a gloomy January day, I had cycled to work with my old running Adidas. Time to get home, I sat on the bike and noticed the flat tire. I couldn't fix it and had to take the bus, to which I ran... and see it going without me for a story a couple of seconds too late. Next one in 40mn. What a day, everything had pissed me off. In a stroke of mood, I dropped everything I had near my office chair except keys, and ran home. It was (and still is) 10km far and I had not trained this distance since ages, but it felt so good.
I eventually felt pain in my legs for the entiere following week, but thought the experience was positive, so I decided to renew it the week after. Then the next, and the next. My training schoedule survived successfully the cold wave that struck central Europe in February. During these first running commutes, I was doing the ten kilometers in about one hour, minus the couple of traffic lights. Coping with the tight timetable, I sometimes even ran from work to the kindergarden where my son was, where I had previously parked the car ! But one of the main issues was cramps I regularly felt in the tibia muscle, which I managed to improve partially only by putting a newer softer inner sole.
The Half marathon
March came, and some neighbour fellows chatted about the half marathon taking place around the mountain Śleża in the end of the month. This event is the second in popularity in the area after the Wrocław marathon that takes place in the autumn. Trying a half marathon was challenge in a corner of my mind, as the distance - only the double - was "à priori" affordable, so I joined the unformal fellows team of "Los Bieganeros", without knowing if I would manage to complete it withing two hours, knowing there is also a 300m high pass half-way. As the post-training pain diminished I doubled the frequency of trainings from March till the big event. Perfect weather, record amount of participants (3000!), great party, and above all an unexpected time crowned this great day (1h53, but 5mn longer than my teammates).
After the half-marathon, and the biking season approaching, I decided it would be a big waste to stop training and loose all the benefit from it. I decided to keep running, and taking part in such occasional events. I ran during our Easter trip to Crete, as well as the May long week end near Austria.
Curiosity led me to searches on the internet about duathlons and triathlons involving my other pet activity, mountain biking, and de facto often trail-running. My brother in law also is into trail-running, and regularly hearing about his achievements combined to the fact I am myself a mountain-enthusiast, convinced me that finding a new pair of shoes suiting various types of surfaces could be worth. I tried some pairs of shoes on the speedwalk of some shop, who revealed my feet were slightly pronators, which considerably reduced the choice, and launched my quest of new shoes fitting overpronators. Researches converged to the Asics and I had to choose between the Gel 1170 and Gel Trabuco. My choice went into the Trabuco, a light trail shoe that also allows flat running.
The first running commutes were a real revelation, I saved more than 5mn on a 10k, felt much more efficient, and no pain at all in tibias, which allowed solicit more my legs with a longer and stronger stride. An interesting fact is that I always felt more comfortable breathing every three steps with the old Adidas, and moved into a more powerful 3-2 with the Asics. The weekly running commutes, that I sometimes felt like a duty, became a genuine pleasure. I kept running twice a week and sometimes more, seeing my average on a 10k constantly improving.
At the Races...
Other races came in May and June. Despite all my fellows withdrawed to an initially planned 10 miles race in the end of May, I decided to take part in it, the distance (16k) being in the same scale than a half marathon, to measure my improvement. The "race feeling" always boosts, and my final result beyond all my expectations ! Being under 74mn made me realize that running a half marathon such as Śleża under 1h40 would be a well feasible achievement.
June led me to another challenge, with two back-to-back 10k races in the same week-end. A charitative race on Saturday in my beloved Wrocław parks, and another one in the nearby Oława on Sunday, on the invitation of my Los Bieganeros teammates. They had heard of my 16k time, kind of jealous that a guy previously 5mn behind them was now able to perform supposedly so well. What's more challenging them the day after a previous 10k race was even more disturbing ! As for me, I had ran the 10k commutes in nearly 45mn some days before and my personal secret goal was to break this symbolic limit. Saturday's race, once more, went beyond all my expectations. Carried by a group with a steady pace which I managed to follow till the end, I broke the 44mn by one second ! Legs were heavier on Sunday. My fellows who had initially planned a 48mn run revised downwards the goals, seing in me the man to beat. I managed a 45mn run, feeling well only in the second half, but leaving my closest teammate 1mn behind !
I slowed down a bit the running, partly due to a slight pain in the right feet that appeared after the two races, partly due to the biking season. But I stuck the once-per-week basis, despite warm temperatures sometimes made it difficult. I started training on genuine trail-running terrain as well, focusing to the next goal, a cross-triathlon in August : Terratlon (1k/25k/12k), in the beautiful mountainous land of the Beskids. Since this event included mostly mountain biking, and the story was worth a long writing, it is available in the separate text whose link is above.
Again some new gear
The first were bought during a peak of "unactivity" during the summer. The auction on internet was too good to be true, a pair of new Asics Gel Trainer for an incomparable price.
Before that, I have been telling myself that using my trail Trabucos mostly on asphalt would be a bit a waste, and that if I decided to continue running, a proper pair for hard surfaces would be good. I had also popped into the Asics Gel Trainer by random once in the Decathlon sport shop, and felt in love at first sight. I mean, not for their color, which I find a bit too bright (however ideal for running safe at night), but their comfort, identical to the Trabuco, and their incredible light weight.
If I ran any marathon, these were the shoes. And indeed, while purchasing them, I already put a first finger into the gears...
The second is a Garmin watch. It is freshly purchased, I didn't have it yet for the marathon. But I also had this idea in a corner of my mind. So far I had a Nokia phone able to record GPX routes, but it was not very much up to the job concerning running. As I had to give it back changing my job, the need for such a watch took form. And again, an unbelievable auction made my dream true for less than hundred Euros...
The Wroclaw MarathonMy training schedule had started to revive as soon as the lazy summer break had ended: in two weeks was taking place the Terratlon cross-triathlon. Between daily bike-commutes ridden full speed, to regenerate my cycling power, occasional swimming sessions, I ran every two or three days, but mostly short distances, and focusing on rough terrain.
When the Terratlon duedate passed, after a little break, I synchronized my running schedule with the two team-mates who were eventually my marathon partners: Edward and Doman, living few streets away from my block. One evening, Edward drop me a mail : "Eric, there is already 3950 subscriptions and the official limit is 4000 ! Hurry up if you want to do this Wrocław marathon". So I registered. No step back was possible from now ! Suspense grew as every day of the remaining month was counted down: my friends were taking this challenge very seriously, and hooked me into the game.
We ran three times a week, once on Tuesdays, usually a fast 10k, once on Thursdays a more gentle 15k, and an even more gentle 20 or 25k during week-ends. Which, I must say, did not attend as faithfully as they did : I skipped the Sunday trainings in couple of occasions such as the Biały Kosciół MTB race, or the biking week end in the Beskids. "You're deviating from the target, Eric, they told me wisely. Sure your areobia is improving, but a preparing a marathon is all about hardening legs for a beginner, not endurance in which you're certainly ready."
Doman and Edward, who have a very similar fitness, started their marathonian odyssey a year before, with the 2011 marathon of Wrocław, done as an experiment. Since then, they have ran two other events in Poznan, where they broke the 4h limit, and in Cracow during the spring, where they improved again their individual performance, breaking the 3h50. Meantime, they acquired Garmin watches and various other running gear. Wrocław 2012, the return in the home city, was taken very seriously by them, and their tacit goal was to break the 3'45 limit, even if they did not claim it openly.
Since we often ran together from the moment we started to prepare this marathon, and consequently dedicated many hours discussing such topics, my fitness level and ability to run it along with them or not, was a recurring topic, raising a number of questions and arithmetic equations involving several factors related to our previous achievements.
I had been slower than them in the initial half-marathon with them in April, but it was the only time during the year. I still had the old shoes and still was a beginner then. But all my other results, on shorter distances, including the 10k in Oława where I directly competed with Edward, showed I had done far more than filling the gap. What's more, I was owning now a third pair of shoes, the light Asics Gel trainer, making me even more powerful on hard surfaces. The question was: How would I deal on a long distance with the fatigue factor.
Some say that a rough way to estimate a marathon time is to multiply a half-marathon achievement by two and add half an hour to it. Another more sophisticated way is to use this calculator, provided by a friend of mine:
Assuming I would run a half marathon in 1h40 (basing on my 16k from May), the first method returned 3h50, and the second 3h45 (Eventually, you'll see, these predictions turned to be quite realistic). The week before the event, we only ran a peaceful 10k on Tuesday, and another even quieter one on Thursday, to give time for our organisms to regenerate and be at an optimal level for the D-day. Saturday evening, we went to pick our numbers at the registration office, and got all formalities done.
We woke up at 6:am on Sunday, and abundantly ate. Well, we ate different things. It turned out for example that Doman ate spaghetti with tuna, but I would never do something like that in early morning. I ate lots of bread toasts with jam, a big bowl of milk with cacao as usual. I tool couple of cereal bars plus few isotonic drinks nearer before the start. I had bought also few of these gel tubes full of carbon, vitamins and sugar, which I heard so often about. Two of them were in my pocket, three others, along with plastic glasses of water, given to my wife and my mother, who by some chance had planned a holiday in Wrocław during this period.
The race route was going twice through the historical city centre of Wrocław in less than an hour of interval (km28 and km36, the worse part of a marathon). The prospect of being cheered up by my son, wife and mum was ideal to boost my motivation and present myself well at these key moments of the event ! At 8, we all met at the Wrocław Olympic stadium, where the start was given, and the finish line located. Besides Edward and Doman, our team (Los Bieganeros) counted three other members: Marcin, the brother of Doman, who lives in Poznan, Dominik, who ran with us the half-marathon in April, and Agnieszka, colleague of Doman who we failed to meet before the start. Edward, Doman and me were wearing the same sleeveless jersey, despite theirs was red and mine navy blue. This is a very good brand from and acquaintance of Edward, KWARK, 100% handmade in Poland.
Dominik and Agnieszka were focusing on breaking the 4h limit, and stood few sectors away behind us at the start. Marcin, whose plans were the most ambitious (he is tall and significantly fitter), stood with us. After a first start for the favorites, the signal was given for the rest of the almost 5000 competitors. We moved slowly out of the stadium and rushed onto the streets, under a grey sky, without wind and ideally fresh air for such event. Our strategy to position ourselves in a quite early sector, in order to avoid the traditional traffic jam of the ruck, paid out.
The first 15km passed quite quickly, and all factors on our watches showed we were well into the bracket to achieve the 3h45 plan. The run was feeling kind of unreal. Despite distance was indicated every kilometer, the itinerary was new and unknown. They had decided, for this jubilee 30th edition of the event, coinciding with the very mediatized soccer UEFA Euro 2012, a brand new route: the marathon was visiting a new piece of fresh motorway, then a diversion to run around the above mentioned soccer Stadium, then back to the city centre, a triangle to the south, again the centre, and the finish at the Olympic stadium.
Various things were dispatched along the way to make the run as less monotonous as possible. First, on the wide motorway portion, many bikes were seen accompanying runners and providing strategic advices to them. Near the stadium, rockbands, cheerleaders, and musicians of all sorts where seen here and there. We turned back while reaching 18km, and I found myself unusually fresh for a distance I rarely run. Edward and Doman, constantly monitoring their heart rate, were also feeling good. We passed the mid-distance ideally fresh, still smiling and posing funnily when pictured by cameras.
As we ran back to the centre, I kept constantly an eye on tram stops dispatched along the avenue: digital timetables displayed the time, and I was looking for the predicted moment, more exactly ten past twelve, when we would pass the Helios cinema in the centre, the first agreed place to meet my small crowd of supporters. As we ran past the corner, I saw them in delire: Dorota was cheering me up, my mum as well in french, like I have rarely seen, and Mikolaj, barely understanding what was going on, ran to me with two of the tubes of gel in his hands, screaming "Dad ! it's dad !".
Then came the long triangle-shaped diversion through the south of the city, during which sun appeared. The scenario of the day finally loomed when the first bounce of the race occurred near 2/3 of the distance. As we stopped to an umpteenth refreshments pit-stop, Edward spent more time than usually refreshing his face, and as we started back, it became more and more obvious he was struggling to follow the initially agreed tempo, and slowly faded out few meters behind us. Doman kept strong, and as I was wondering if we should wait for our friend to support him, he asked "How are you feeling Eric ? It's fine with me, let's go ahead !".
We abandoned Edward and ran as a duo towards the city centre again, both motivated by the apparition of our supporters (Doman's familly was also expected on the way). We met his wife and daughters a bit before the market place, which boosted him. Few minutes later, I noticed Dorota, my mother and Mikołaj for the second time, but due to the dense crowd and narrow width, it was very sudden, and kind of too brief. "Go Eric go !".
We left the market place on the north and started running the six last kilometers to the finish. Doman's cheerful face had given place to winces of pain. "Feeling OK Doman ?" I asked. "Not really. But I'll manage, we're almost there", he replied. The boost of the passage through the centre evidently left sequels. On my side, I was feeling better than ever, despite starting to feel some genuine fatigue in the legs. But our pace was significantly fading, which allowed me to rest somehow a bit. As we ran towards the large Sienkiewicz avenue, Doman ran really slow. I asked once more for news, and it became obvious the difference between our states ordered me to fly with my own wings till the finish.
The apparition of the KM39 sign seemed to coincide with a tacit agreement. I looked backwards to him, and he nodded down, seeming to say "don't wait". I literally took off for some kilometer, overtaking a mass of people, euphoric and telling myself I would do so till the end. However, I found KM40 particularly long to wait for. Km 41 even more, but the end was near. We tend to forget that a marathon is not forty kilometers, but forty two... this extra bit killed me. At 41.5, I suddenly felt a strong pain in the muscles of my thoracic cage, something I never experienced in my life before. "Calm down", I told myself. I stopped overtaking people and ran quietly into the stadium. The digital clock was showing 3h46.
Knowing we previously had abandoned a lot of advance on the initial 3h45 forecast, it was quite pleasant to see I had regained most of it during my final sprint.
I looked for Doman and Edward at the finish line. Doman seemed to have recovered quite quickly from his Km39 crisis, as he came less than a minute later. Edward five minutes more. Marcin was also freshly arrived three minutes before me. Dominik and Agnieszka both broke the four hours by few seconds. All six of us had achieved personal initial expectations, and those not running for the first time beaten their personal records. Edward and Doman were kind of shocked by the scenario of the end, I realized they did not expect me so much to hold their pace, and even less to sprint away as I did.
Thinking back, I think I could have ran this marathon significantly faster. I ran their pace as this first marathon was a kind of experiment, in which I could verify everything went well. My aerobia and heart rate had been absolutely quiet all way long. My muscular fatigue was average, but most of all the length of the effort within time had affected by feet, ankles and knees. I am tempted to argue that having ran a little faster would perhaps have better distributed my fatigue, soliciting more my endurance and stamina, but shortening de facto the total time length and then the toughness. I think I can fairly pretend that 3h45 was well within my possibilities, and maybe 3h40. But only hypothetical new marathons will tell.
As I sat to untie my shoes, I barely was able to stand again by myslef ! The plan of the rest of the day was to get back to the city centre where mum, wife and son were impatiently waiting for me, and eat with them. I waited for a hypothetical tram that never came, due to... circulation being blocked by police officers, the marathon not being finished despite most people were walking though their sixth hour of "race" ! So I walked back to the centre, some 5km on foot in the streets. First upset, this walk finally had re-healed effects in my legs. I ate with them, learning by the way that Mikołaj had been ill all day long, having diarrhea between my two passages in the centre during the race ! We all went home by bus.
I felt ok till the evening, but it was only the day after I could observe the real extent of the damages. My skin was burnt under my armpits, and terribly painful. I had also caught a fair sunburn on my neck and face, despite the cloudy sky. But most of all, I was almost unable to walk. Or rather, able to move myself only on flat terrain. Stairs, especially going down, was a real pain ! It lasted two or three days.
But the worst was not even this. Feeling pain in a place quite uncomfortable to explain, what was my horror to discover a vein had become abnormally prominent, which considerably complicated some daily tasks that you can imagine. A visit to the doctor concluded to a suppositories prescription, along with a forced break of at least two weeks. Fortunately, biking wasn't too affected by this issue and I could cycle while being on holidays in France during the couple of weeks after. Of all the sequels I had this was the scariest. I had no idea if and how it was related to the marathon, but here is another proof of how marathons are a special effort, more than just a race, but a genuine ordeal for the whole human organism.
Edward and Doman prepared to another marathon taking place only a month later. As they asked whether I would join or not, and while explaining the lack of training due to being in France, I teased them telling I would run the next one after they beat my time ! Doman and Edward kept training on the same training schedule till the Poznan marathon. I must believe having ran a previous marathon a month before is a major factor in the preparation, and that my cheeky sentence provided another source of motivation. In a race scenario which seemed to be a repeat of Wroclaw without their respective crisis, they not only they dusted my time, but also well below the initially sought 3h45 limit (3h43 exactly). I was fearing Doman would able to achieve it, but not do much Edward who had more than five minutes to get back. The lat argues being particularly sensible to the sun, which played against him in Wrocław.
So, when will I run my next marathon ?
Most of all I'm not so sure I want to be a regular marathon runner. While we all were suffering after the race, some acquaintance of my friends, tall and skinny, smelling ointment and sprays of all sorts, and evidently fresher, was chatting with them. "I know a very good medicine that helps for this and this. Yeah, really, it works, you guys should try it". Just listening to his preaching gave me nausea. For me, running marathons will never be a goal in itself. Marathon champions look awful, anorexic. I'm short legged and heavy, my running style is rather in strength. I'll run perhaps some more, but I will not focus on marathons. I have better achievements to do on shorter distances: half-marathons, trail running, duathlons, triathlons...
Assuming I will repeat the experience, I am not sure I want to run Wrocław a second time, even if I enjoyed it. Temperature in this year's edition was OK, but 2011 had 28'C ! In September, it's kind of too early before the end of the season, and monopolized a lot of time in training which I could have used for more seasonal activities like biking.
Cracow takes place in the spring, but paradoxically, despite taking place in Poland's cultural capital, the marathon (organization and popularity) is said to be so-so. Some say that one's organism needs a year to regenerate between each marathon, some say less time. I don't know in which category I am.
Poznan, despite smaller city, owns a more popular event, which gathered up to 6000 runners in 2012, with an even more festive atmosphere. It takes place in October, in a better moment. And, for sure my friends will have run all marathons before and I can make sure to measure myself to them in their optimal form, not risking to see my time dusted after-while ! We'll see in 2013...
- Since this is a portal dedicated to biking, I posted a limited amount of marathon photos, but the whole gallery (which I purchased) is here.
- Edward also wrote a very nice report of this event under his angle, but only in Polish
II Bieg Bystrzycki
After a long sabbatical post marathon break, I progressively felt the need to restart running again. There was a last small event before the end of the year, again in Kąty Wrocławskie (April's 10 miles race), rather a cross race, along the scenical banks of the river Bystrzyca. Autumnal atmosphere and slippery leaves for the II Bieg Bystrzycki. The preparation for this was a little chaotic with irregular running trainings, and I was a little disappointed with my time, but the terrain was a little excuse. I kept running regularly till December before Christmas, where a long cold interrupted it.
Bieg dla WOŚP Żórawina
The trainings resumed just after I recovered from the cold, and I restarted to train intensively during the Christmas and Sylvester break. The new year was an occasion to watch the calendar for the events and elaborate a draft. With, as an opening of the season, a race in the snow: Bieg dla WOŚP Żórawina ! (charity race)
By some coincidence, the length, not a round number, was identical to the previous one, 11.80km. However the snow, especially when slippery, is obviously a more difficult surface to run on, and I couldn't run any faster than a tempo I usually keep for much longer distances. It took me two minutes more than the November autumn cross.
Another huge break occurred in the trainings again in January when a sinusitis kept me stuck with high temperature for more than a week..
Despite the recent illness I tried to make the most the remaining week I had before another event, Wrocławska Dycha (Wrocław's ten). I manage to get there in decent form, despite not optimal, but I felt immediately the harm of not having ran outdoors for a too long time. Freezing temperatures made breathing more difficult, and during the second half, which is usually the one I feel the best, I rather started to feel tiredness, and survived till the finish line without being able to accelerate. The illness probably has some responsibility in it. The distance also showed 300m longer than announced. Subtracting one and half minute, it gives almost the same time than Bieg Koguta in June, the second of my back-to-back races. Well, that's not so dramatic...
Z Biegiem Natury to the disaster
Instead of coming with its true weather, spring came at least in the calendar. In the middle of February, I took part to the shortest race I ever started, 5km. This was the fourth edition of a five events grand-prix, and the only one I could join on a Saturday, my wife being on holidays. I had made a try just before on the threadmill, in order to see how long I was able to hold the 4mn/km rate, which I barely managed for this distance. But the day of the race, conditions were far from this. Slippery ice, cold temperature, and thick fog for what looked more like a cross. I never felt really in the right tempo and ran out of breath the whole distance, fighting with Irena, a nice female rider who introduced herself at the end and became a facebook friend (I had finished just ahead of her during Wrocławska Dycha too !).
Next weeks were 3 or 4 of such short races on 6km and 10km, but I skipped them for various reasons: weather (still snowy !), too short, too muddy, or too nice weather not to use it for something else ! Like biking: season is coming.
And the disaster occured during my second biking training, with Cesar, a Spanish friend. While chatting, I felt stupidly in a puddle of mud. Skin totally scratched on the hip, but it turned out during next days that the worse wasn't there. First time I ran after that, I felt an unusual pain growing in the left knee, but I didn't pay attention as it occurred just at the end of the 10km. I was satisfied I held the tempo despite of the bike fall. But the pain did not go away so quickly. Next saturday, second training with Przemek, another friend, this time outdoors. We ran up and down a hillet in the park. The pain suddenly popped back, much starker than before, during the run down. Next days, I felt it every time I walked down the stairs. I waited a couple of days more and decided it was time for a gentle training indoors before the half-marathon, planned in one week. Since recently, I am training indoors measuring the heart rate with my Garmin watch (I found how !). This was one of the weirdest trainings indoors. I got tired unusually quicker and the heart rate rose surprisingly fast. I did not make it for the whole distance without diminishing the speed prematurely, wet of sweating. Perhaps I'm ill, I told myself. In the end, the pain came back, and I realized I was not running symmetrically, and this was perhaps the reason of it. I gave up and went home sad, telling myself there should not be any more training before the half-marathon, if I really could run it.
Pain was not the only detail that made me hesitate to run the half-marathon of Ślęża, weather forecast was showing increasingly cold temperatures, and showed as cold as -7'C for Saturday. Another reason to at least not attempt a record. Since I already paid the registration long ago, I waited till the last moment to take the decision to run it or not. Feeling the knee better than before, and feeling boosted by the race atmosphere, I finally decided to go...
Ślęża half marathon, 2013
And came finally the so awaited event that last year put me into the running orbit.
Not less than 8 members of the now enlarged team of "Los Bieganeros" were taking part, including Doman and Edek, my most faithful partners with who I ran most times, and most direct concurrents. Time to show them who is the boss on half marathons, after I showed on a full marathon ! (despite meantime they performed better in Poznan in October).
The cold temperatures were compensated by a bright full sun, and the fields were still covered by remains of snow from the last week, that multiplied the luminosity ten times, and paradoxically diminished the feeling of cold, partly also due to the absence of wind.
The attendance of the event was slightly smaller than last year but not less great, and the start was a memorable moment. I had dressed with a thick jacket with long sleeves and hood. As expected Doman, Edek and me took a fast start, slaloming between slower concurrents, quickly finding ourselves running on a speed that varied between 5mn/km and 4:30 depending on the slope. We kept chatting and joking but indeed all curious about the dramatic untying of our inside battle that would inevitably take place during the second half...
After the eighth kilometer began the long run up to the Tąpadła pass, highest point of the race and point famous for being the first milestone for changing race scenarios. Some say "if you ran well to the Tąpadła pass, you won your half-marathon", despite not even 50% of the distance is covered.
And so I told myself, thus despite Edward and Doman began a fast downhill. No time for recovering a bit ! Times when we were good friends and amatorship is over... They want to show me, I want to show them... So I began to ran fast with them. But not so fast. I decided to spare a bit my knee and myself for the rest of the distance, leaving them few meters of advance. At the half of the downhill, where there is a temporary flat portion, they had some 50m of advance. I'll catch them back, I told myself, the rest is flat, remembering the so many threadmill indoor trainings, which I once aligned like a running robot, barely tired by the average speed that was ours today.
But, during the second and final portion of downhill, the knee pain invited herself to the party. I slowed down a bit more. Edward and Doman had a fair advance, but I told myself the hardest was done, and if the knee from now spared me with worries, I would still make it. I'm a man of fast finishes ! But it wasn't so. Thunder-lights occurred more and more frequently in the left knee. I decided to stop and stretch, swearing myself this is the ultimate stop before the final fight. This short session had a healing effect, but not for long. After I ran 500m more meters, I was the same state. Since a little group of photographers, supporters and policemen were gathered at the junction of a secondary road, and realizing I would not make it, I took the hardest decision. Nonsense to make it worse. I sat in the police van till the "broom-car" came, and I sat in it watching the last runners moving slowly during the never-ending rest of the race. I had to step down just before the line, which I walked, limping on one leg. People applaused, some screamed to me to run till the end and not give up, which made me feel so ashamed and embarrassed. A woman gave me the medal and congratulated me for "making it till the end".
As I walked, frozen, to the sport hall, where most people were gathered, I met Edward and Doman, who surprisingly ignored all of my calvary. "Eric, did you pass us or did you slow down ? You so suddenly became out of sight !". They had both finished in 1:41, a very good time given the temperatures. Later, Przemek who succeeded to finish his first half-marathon in less than two hours, like myself last year, asked me, puzzled, when did I "slow down", as he did not recognized me at any moment. I replied I was in the car...
The pain was so strong that after the return by car, I felt my leg like paralyzed. It remained painful for few days. A visit to the doctor indicated it was from the cartilages. I will pass a radio on April 11th (from which I don't expect much), and probably after a visit to the physiotherapist.
This is the end of the running for an undetermined period of time. The Cracow full marathon, planned for end of April, is cancelled. Next year... And since I paid a quite consequent amount of money for taking part in the MTB Beskidy Trophy stage race in end of May, I decided to stop all running activity till this duedate. And for few weeks, to limit as much as possible any intense physical activity to put all chances on my side. I've done too many stupidities the few days before the race, including doing the race itself.
Future will tell when I can run. Hopefully in June. There is a brand new race, called the Wrocław night half-marathon, June 22th. No slopes, totally flat. Who knows, this could be my chance this time...
I had pain in the knee for a couple of weeks, during which a week-end at the spa with thermal waters helped a bit. During this time, I re-started walking normally but avoiding to load too much my left knee, in which I was feeling the tickle of forthcoming pain every time I walked steps down.
Later, I did not feel pain at all but I avoided running for another month. The initial idea was to go to the doctor, then do an ultrasonography and then appointment to the physiotherapist. But the reality of Polish health system caught me back when hearing the soonest ultrasonography appointment in the public sector was next year, and "only" next month in the private. Oh well.
Building on the initial conclusion of the generalist doctor who confirmed it was cartilages, and basing on commonly spread statements in running forums, I started to take glucosamine pills and instead of running, did more swimming and eventually biking. By some coincidence, in the end of April, during the week-end of the Cracow marathon which I initially planned to run, I met Doman's brother who plan to run with them and who is, by some coincidence... physiotherapist. He kindly examined my knee and his conclusion was "Eric, time to start re-running progressively" !
Which I did for a couple of times, first indoor, then for a quick 5km outdoors, a week before "Bieg Firmowy".
"Bieg Firmowy" (the Firms's race) was the first edition of a 4km relay-race for 4 people teams from companies. Before the knee issue, I had suggested by firm, Atos, that we could register one, since many of us run. Eventually, I turned into a sort of "not-running" captain because of the knee. But the withdrawal of few running candidates combined with the physiotherapist's advice to get back to the run, led me to join back the team.
Subscriptions were paid by our company and jerseys were ordered. Arek, Joanna and Dorota were the happy team that was to run with me. Of course the girls were a bit slower, but we would do it for fun.
Knowing that I would attend the event boosted my motivation to restart training.
We decided our common strategy would be to put the fast relayers, Arek and me, at the start and in the end. Probably for rewarding me for having the idea, I had the honor to be chosen as the finisher.
Arek turned to be the fastest of us and ran in a bit more than 16mn. Joanna and Dorota ran in 21 and 23 mn. I completed the job in 16mn54s, not as fast as Arek but not too bad for a return. And most of all I won a tight finish sprint on the line !
Atos was ranked 85th over 238 teams, and 30th over 136 in the male-female category. A fair result !
4km is not a very significant distance but this run was definitely an important achievement to boost my moral. During the time I did not run I realized how sad I had been and was missing running a lot. And, definitely, this day with my colleagues was a good moment with a great fun.