I can be a little meticulous about taking care of things. I have an Excel sheet to track my car’s maintenance and a little kit for cleaning my camera lenses. When I started running, I made darn sure to spend as much time as I needed learning proper technique before upping my mileage, and even then I did so slowly. In general, this is a good system and keeps things lasting a long time.
However, when something beyond my control goes wrong, I do tend to overreact. So consider this:
I have a sore leg.
It started around New Years; left calf, deep inside. Didn’t improve for a couple weeks, and after running a hard 100-km week on it, a friend suggested that it might be a muscle tear and I should take it easier. So I have. I’ve been stretching obsessively and running very little for two weeks. It has not improved one jot, but neither has it got worse. Obviously, deep, excruciating muscle pains with every step could be signs of an injury, and should be treated with respect. Except those aren’t my symptoms.
My leg has the most mild, tiny twinge, barely there when I run. 90% of the time I don’t feel any pain whatsoever. Sometimes when I stand up it hurts momentarily, but mostly it hurts when I poke at it to see if it is still painful (duh). As a result, I now find that I have probably taken two precious weeks off training when all I really needed was a massage or a new stretch.
This is not a new problem. I actually wrote this blog back in July and am now simply substituting “left calf” for “right knee” since my previous “injury” involved quads that just needed a stretch, yet caused me more than two months of doubt. Of course it went away, just like that similar mystery pain I had in my shin. Or that time my ankle swelled up a tiny bit. And yet, even though I can clearly see the pattern, every new pain renews my Runner’s Hypochondria, convincing me that this time it is something serious.
Obviously I am just worrying too much. However, running until something finally does get injured is even worse! This isn’t about pain – I’ve happily run with a big gash in the bottom of my foot, or continue on barefoot even after an encounter with a thumbtack, cases where the cause of the pain is obvious and won’t lead to further injury. But I hope to get through my ultra career with all limbs intact - longevity is more important to me than outright competition, so where does the balance lie?
I cannot be the only runner to suffer from an over-eager self-preservation instinct. Where is the balance between overtraining and too much caution? How can we differentiate between an imminent injury and something that needs a stretch?
Comments, advice and discussion appreciated
Writing words here and there on adventures running out in the forests and mountains