In Search of: Confessions – I’m No Runner

Okay. So I’m struggling with something. I thought perhaps if I put it out there on the blog, I’ll finally get it through my thick head. You see, I can’t run.

I could once run. I did an entire marathon for goodness sake.

But if you followed my blog back then, you know that during my marathon training, I developed a problem in both of my knees. My physical therapist told me it was iliotibial band syndrome (IT band syndrome, for short). I could once run 13 miles without stopping, and then suddenly I couldn’t run even a mile without excruciating pain in my knees. As I used to describe it, it felt like someone was driving a screwdriver into the side of my knee while I ran. And if I kept running, it sort of felt like they were then using a hammer to drive that screwdriver in a little further. At that point, I scaled back my running and went through physical therapy for a couple of months to treat it. It didn’t get better. I did every single exercise every single day for months on end. But it didn’t get better.

The injury was always temporary. At best, I would stop running and the pain would stop. At worst, it would be sore for a few days after running and then go away. I ended up having to walk the majority of the marathon because of it. Turned out my time as a walker wasn’t all that different than my anticipated time as a runner. So I was happy with my outcome. (What can I say? I’m a slooooow runner and a much faster walker.)

Anyhow, fast forward a couple years. I’ve tried off and on to go back to running. I’ve started slow. I’ve run/walked on a very specific program. I’ve done exercises to strengthen my knees. The best I’ve ever managed to build up to without pain is to run approximately 3 miles. I have never been able to get better than that. So I’ve done a few 5Ks and felt pretty good about them. I’ve never been interested in running to win a race. I’ve never cared that I’m a slow runner. I just have this thing with proving my own strength to myself. And I really, REALLY hate it when I feel like I can’t do something. That’s motivation enough to prove that I CAN. And dammit, I decided a few 5Ks wasn’t enough. I knew I would never be able to run a full marathon. But a half marathon? That, I thought might be possible. Perhaps I could train for that.


So yesterday I went running for the first time in a couple of months (mind you, I exercise nearly 7 days a week, so this was not some crazy idea to exercise after being sedentary for months — I just hadn’t run. I live in Vegas. The summer heat is freaking unbearable. I wasn’t going to risk heat stroke to get in a good run.) And in less than a mile, with my heartbeat in a good range and me feeling pretty good about my fitness level, I felt that familiar twinge in my right knee (it’s always my right knee first). “You have got to be kidding me!” I thought. So I stopped for a moment, did a few stretches, walked. And then I attempted to run again. It got worse. I continued on a fairly sad 5 mile run/walk until I made it back to my house, somewhat disheartened.

Sadly, I think I’m at a point where I need to admit — I can’t. I simply can’t keep running. And I sort of need to stop before these luckily ‘temporary’ pains turn into something more permanent. And this makes me want to throw a book at someone. Perhaps I’ll throw a book at one of those runner friends of mine that like to tell me it’s mind over matter, I just have to keep pushing. But mostly I just want to scream. Because, dammit, I’m Heather Murphy, and Heather Murphy does not quit. And a little pain doesn’t get in her dam way.

But here’s what I’m realizing. This isn’t quitting. This is taking care of myself. There isn’t one other physical activity that brings me this type of pain. Nothing else bothers my knees in this way. My knees don’t hurt when I do plyometrics. When I hike. When I walk for miles on end. When I do Zumba. Or take ballet. Or kickbox. They only hurt when I run.

So why exactly is it so hard for me to just stop running and focus on all these other awesome activities that I love to do? I’m stubborn I guess. I don’t like to fail. I really hate to admit defeat. Ah, the upsides of a Type A personality.

So I’m putting it out there: I’m no longer a runner.

I am, however, a dam good kickboxer. I’m decent at getting out there and having fun at a 5K. And I just signed up for hula, so perhaps I’ll be a good hula dancer too…

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