Wednesday, November 12, 2014


I have been competing in races since 1996; to have this kind of longevity, you need to be fortunate enough not to be injury plagued throughout your running career.  During the turn of the century (first time using this phrase), I was hit with a case of Achilles Tendonitis in my left ankle.  This was caused by the increase of mileage I was putting on my body, as I had just made the jump from 5K races to half marathons.  My brother Mark (who is also my doctor and my savior) fixed me up, and I did not miss any significant race time.  Since then, I have run relatively pain and injury free…until now.  I am about to miss my first race ever (the St. Augustine Half Marathon) because of a partially torn hamstring in my left leg.

About three weeks ago, I noticed that my hamstring was a little tight after running during the week.  It appeared to be nothing more and nothing less.  The following Saturday, I went out for my usual long run.  The plan was to do 13.1 miles, as the St. Augustine Half Marathon was only two weeks away.  I had lost close to 20 pounds this summer, and my running times have reflected my newfound skinniness.  I was looking forward to this race, with the prospect of running with my friends Jen and Mary.  During the Saturday morning run, the hamstring was still a little tight, but nothing that prevented me from running pain-free.  Around three miles into the run…BAM!  The hamstring really tightened up to the point that I could hardly run without limping.  I stopped to stretch it out, which seemed to help a little bit.  I decided to keep running, hoping that the pain and tightness would subside.  This was probably a bad decision.  The tightness and the pain got better, and I decided to “just” run 9 miles instead of the 13.1 I had originally planned on doing.  If this had been a race, I could have completed the additional distance.

Since I am always in half-marathon shape, I decided to rest up during the week, and test the hamstring again on the weekend.  Lindsey wanted to go out for a three-mile run on Friday, which was the perfect opportunity to see how the hamstring would respond.  I ran pain-free, with just a little stiffness.  Based on these encouraging results, I decided to try nine miles on Saturday, which was one week before the race.

It was a typical Saturday morning run, as I was out the door before 5am.  The hamstring felt tight, but nothing out of the ordinary.  About two miles into the run, it occurred to me that I should have put a compression sleeve on my thigh.  I was tempted to go back to get one, but I obviously made the wrong decision.  I was now in Cypress Park, and more than five miles into the run.  As I was circling the soccer fields, the pain came out of nowhere!  This time, it was obvious that I was not going to be able to gut it out, and decided it best to go straight home.  Only one problem…my house is over three miles away from the park!  I considered calling Glenda to come and pick me up, but I knew she was still asleep.  I hobbled back the rest of the way, which was very painful.  I knew this could not be a good thing.

As soon as I got home, I put an ice pack on the hamstring.  I’m pretty sure I should have put the ice pack over my shorts and not directly on the hamstring, as I burned the bejeebers out of my thigh.  Since the race was now one week away, I asked Mark to come over and evaluate the hamstring for me.  I hate to call him about medical issues when he is not in the office, but he was going on vacation this week.  I did not have an appointment scheduled for this week at his office, so I wanted to be very proactive and cautious about the injury.

Mark told me that I had a partially torn hamstring, and the best treatment for this injury was rest.  He said it typically takes four to six weeks to heal, and obviously it would be best if I did not run at all during this time.  When I told him that I had the St. Augustine Half Marathon this weekend, his advice was to test the hamstring out first before committing to the race.  Mark suggested that I wrap it up as tight as possible, and give it a shot this week.  My plan was to wear a compression sleeve, along with athletic tape.  I would wait until Wednesday to run five miles, as this seemed to be the make-or-break point.  Sadly, I could tell that the hamstring was not feeling well enough, and didn’t even bother to test it out.  It was with great reluctance that I officially announced earlier today that I was withdrawing from the race.

Most people tell me that one of my strongest personality attributes is my common sense.  With five more half marathons and possibly one full marathon scheduled in the coming months, I don’t want this race season to end before it starts.