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Running (and blogging!) after the Big Hiatus

by Emily Gindle » on Apr 24, 2011 12

A word of advice, because here on the VFF blog we’re all about offering advice: when you’ve given up your running training regimen because you’ve decided to take that gigantic piece of time you spend pounding (or in the case of VFFs, gliding) the pavement and you instead use that time to do CrossFit/yoga/meditation/writing/climbing/backpacking/cycling/sleeping, don’t slap on your shoes and go on a training run with your sister-in-law who’s running a marathon. Don’t even think about it.

We were going to run six miles. And sure, I hadn’t really even been trail running in a month or so, but six miles wasn’t a big deal to me anymore. Moreover, I had already put in the painstaking training to make six miles not feel like a big deal, and mentally there was no way I would admit I was back to square one, where just two miles felt like a slog. But a full year after stopping my regular running regimen, I was back to square one.

What running I had been doing was on trail, not on pavement. I thought there wouldn’t be a big difference; after all, trail is harder, right? It’s more dynamic and explosive movement. You have to adapt faster. The rocks and the crushing uphills are really hard on your legs. And it hadn’t been that long since I’d done six miles on the trail. Granted it was six miles of ooh-stop-and-see-the-pretty-hawk kind of running, but hey, six miles is six miles. Right?

I’m visiting my brother and sister-in-law in Philadelphia (and by the way, Fivefingers are the BEST THING EVER to wear while you’re waiting around planes and airports), so we step out into the humid, slick post-rain street and start running down to the river. We’re following the river three miles to the crew houses, where every Sunday the rowing teams are out for the regatta, and boats abound in the water while mothers of old money in furs abound on the shore. It sounded pretty cool. Half a mile into the run a hawk swooped in front of us and landed on a tree branch right by the river path. I stopped and watched it for a bit, while my sister-in-law waited anxiously for me to get going again.

Two miles in I was starting to feel like I was pushing my halfway point. The slog began. We ran up to a police barricade blocking off the street for a 10K race. Runners in high visibility vests cruised by while the police officers told us the regatta had been cancelled; a thunderstorm the night before had the river running high and mud-brown, pushing debris that snagged in piles on the bridges. So we turned around.

On the way back I started to get really tired, which in any running shoe is bad, but in Fivefingers feels particularly terrible. I could feel my feet start to slap flat on the pavement, rather than with their regular springy forefoot step, and my calves and muscles alongside my shins were cramping up. It turns out there’s a big difference between trail and pavement: pavement is hard and unforgiving, and it’s boring. The river was pretty and the hawk was pretty, but my body was bored with the same foot strike on the same surface over and over. Four miles in, the bones of my feet started aching; the skin on my toes got sensitive. Maybe I was strong enough to pull this off, but my lower legs weren’t accustomed to the impact. I started walking and sprinting in intervals, trying to simultaneously shake things up and give my body a break. Meanwhile my sister-in-law was chugging along, breath not even audible.

Lesson learned: be humble about your abilities and pay attention to what your body is screaming at you. My sister-in-law ran back with me to the house, five miles total. I sat down on the floor for a good long stretch and she set off on her own for another ten miles.


  1. Chris Lee

    April 25th, 2011 at 12:58 am

    Nice post. Kind of a bummer that’s the way it works out but good to know. I know my initial attempt at running in Fivefingers left me hobbled. Been much more successful as of late. Your experience is telling me not to slack off though. :)


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