September 29, 2023

It was an unseasonably beautiful Saturday afternoon Dec. 19 when I decided to talk a long walk on my treadmill. But it was a game-changing moment when I decided not to do that and, instead, go for a run.

An actual on-the-pavement, under-the-sun run.

My back felt good. Hell, it felt great. All the work I had put in rehabbing after injuring it in Sept. 2019 had paid off with a return to running, a sport I adore. I ran a slow 5K that day, and then I ran another Tuesday. I finished the week with 7.266 miles.

I’m doing it again this week + 10 percent.

I’ll be documenting it all here, too, in what I’m calling my Runner’s Digest. I want to document what I’ve learned and to be an encouragement to anybody who has considered running but for whatever reason hasn’t laced the sneakers and taken to the streets.

The first thing I learned after having not regularly for more than a year is that you *can* pick it back up easily. However, any speed you’ve built, you’ll probably lose. In my case, it’s because I was slow to begin with and because I’m about 20-30 pounds above where I should be.

Saturday, Dec. 19 / Oklahoma City

That’s not an ideal pace, lol. That is old guy sort of slow. However, I was able to run the entire first mile without having to stop to walk, and that was encouraging after a year off. I say “a year off,” but I had run a 5K (at home, in my neighborhood) August 22, at a dreadful 16:39 pace. Before that, my last run was Nov. 9, 2019 — a 14:27 paced 5K.

You might be asking: why haven’t you run for a year? Herniated disk, L5-S1. It left me in tremendous pain for the better part of a year, and I can still feel it from time to time although I’m mostly better. I went through two steroid shots, and I even consulted a neurologist about my options, including possible surgery, which I do not ever want to do if I can keep from it.

Last September (2019), I took a business trip to Chicago. Today I was looking at photos from that trip, and I noticed an ice pack that my sweet wife was able to procure from my hotel in Chicago and have put in my room before I arrived. (She’s amazing.) It’s because I had been on a plane for two hours, and I had texted her that my back was killing me — and it was.

That was the beginning of a 15-month rehab process that will never end. My chiropractor tells me that as long as I keep my pelvis aligned (neither rotated or tilted), I should be good from here on out. That means I have to make healthy choices regarding my movements, especially any lifting or bending.

Anyway, that first run was OK. The second one was better.

Tuesday, Dec, 22 / Oklahoma City

I knocked :19 off my pace-per-minute and 1:10 off my total 5K run. It was much colder that day (46F) and windy, which in Oklahoma can mean a steady 20 mph breeze. It felt like it was in the lower-to-mid 30s.

My next tactic was to do a treadmill recovery run, and I did, although I’m not sure I recorded it right on Map My Run. I wanted it to calculate some distance, but whatever.

The plan moving forward is to do 1-2 mile runs here and there to build up my overall mileage, but then do a couple of 5Ks each week to build distance, endurance and speed. Heck, I wasn’t going to push it at all, but my chiropractor told me that if my legs were feeling like lead past Day 2 of recovery, go for a run. It was lactic acid backed up in my body, and it needed to go.

So, I did that again on Saturday.

In just eight days, I had improved my pace by :49 per minute, and my 5K time had gone from 49:15 to 48:05 to 46:30. My pace is down to 15:00. I haven’t felt much in the way of leg pain after that first run Dec. 19, and I’ve been careful to execute my stretches properly. I do nerve flosses on each leg before my run, and I walk with high legs for 5 minutes. After each run, I stretch my hamstrings, my calves, and I do a butterfly stretch and an IT band stretch as well. I believe one set of stretches is static (before the run) and the other is dynamic (after the run). The latter should be done only after muscles are warmed up.

As we return to work this week, I’m not 100 percent sure how I’m going to handle recovery runs or a mid-week 5K. We’re supposed to have another snowstorm later this week to boot. However, I know my total can be 8 miles (7.99 to be precise).

I did that 3.10 Saturday, and I’ll do another 3.10 Wednesday I believe. That gives me 1.8 miles to do on Tuesday, Thursday or Friday.

Oh, so what is my goal? Well, I’d like to get my 5K down to 36:00, and I’d like to do another half marathon at some point — and keep my back healthy. For me, running isn’t a means to an end. I don’t do it to lose weight, although I recognize that losing weight would help me run better. I run because I love the ritual and challenge of it.

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