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After a 45-minute run this past Monday, I decided to take a full week off, focus on my PT exercises and continue to take it easy until I get rid of my lingering hamstring discomfort. It’s minor, but it’s there and I’m sick of it messing up my training. Not running has been tough – I really need my stress-release right now, with more exams coming up and countless other things on my plate – but now’s the time to focus on recovery. Chicago training begins in June and I am determined to begin, and end, that training cycle injury free!

Taking time off means that I won’t be in racing shape for the Brooklyn Half, but I entered that race knowing that would probably be the case. It’s only a few days after my final exams, and I highly doubt I will be primed to PR. That’s why I signed E up too – it gives him a good excuse to visit me (not like he needs one) as I celebrate finishing my first semester, and it will be a great opportunity for me to finally pace him in a race. My goal is to bring him in under 1:50, which was his goal in the NYC half. I normally wouldn’t sign him up without really asking, but the race was selling out so quickly and I knew he would want to run it if he had a spot. That’s the nice thing about dating another runner – I don’t think I could randomly email a race confirmation to anyone else and get “woohoo!” as a response.

The running aspect of my relationship with E is actually a feature of my Running Story, which I’m excited to report was published this past Friday in Sam Murphy’s Real Women Run, by Kyle Books. If you’re interested, you can check it out at the publisher’s siteAmazon or Amazon UK – my story (pictured below) is in the preview pages! Awesome.

This means that I can finally share the actual text of my story, to accompany all the photos and past entries I have posted since Sam – my UK running coach- first asked me to contribute to her new book in June 2011.

Here’s a bit of context – she invited five women of different backgrounds and ages to write a short piece on why they run and how they integrate running into their lives. She wanted my story, which describes how I got back into running while living in London, to represent the perspective of a twenty-something woman with a busy career and social life. I found it challenging to write what running means to me in just 500 words, while representing this specific point of view, but it was a fun project.

I figured I was entitled to a bit of dramatic license, so I embellished and twisted things around slightly. My job wasn’t so high-powered that I rushed off to important early morning meetings or worked late on a regular basis (once in awhile, sure) as the story implies, and I actually started running again before not after my last relationship ended (but just up to 10k distance). A friend encouraged me to enter the half marathon, and I did so before not after the breakup. But the breakup definitely inspired me to throw myself into training for that race, and ultimately fall in love with longer distances. It was very empowering, tracking my progress over the course of those four months and crossing my first half marathon finish line, faster than I could have ever imagined!

Everything else is true – weekends in Istanbul, beach runs in Zanzibar and all. I traveled and socialized very often, and balancing that with running was at times a bit difficult, but I made it work. One thing I didn’t include in the story is the fact that I trained for that half marathon on occasion with my ex – it was a great way to remain in each other’s lives during a somewhat awkward post-breakup phase, before we became friends again. It was also wonderful having his support on race day – running your first half is scary, and I was glad I wasn’t doing it by myself. It didn’t hurt either that I got to gloat a bit over my time afterwards, although I’ll add for his benefit that two years later, he beat my time by 54 seconds on the same course! That’s okay, no one can take that initial victory away from me. 🙂

But enough of my blabbing…here’s the story!

It was a broken heart that motivated me to start running again. I had moved to London to be with the man I’d fallen in love with whilst travelling through South America – but a year later, our relationship came to an end. Although the break-up was amicable, I was nonetheless devastated and needed a healthy challenge to drive me out of my hole and rediscover parts of myself that I had long neglected.

One morning, an ad for the Royal Parks Half Marathon caught my eye. Although I hadn’t run regularly for years and had never run more than six miles, I signed up. I felt a rush of excitement, and then one of fear. How could I successfully juggle an intensive running plan with myriad other things vying for my time?! Initially, I struggled to find the right balance between prioritizing my training and, for example, staying late at work to finish an urgent project, going on a date, helping my sister plan her wedding, spending a weekend in Istanbul…However, I quickly discovered that running doesn’t take time – it gives life force. With each step, I was both clawing back my old self and building the foundation for a new, improved version.

Fittingly, as I had taken up running to leave my previous relationship behind, I did just that on race day – both literally and figuratively. I not only recovered from my emotional slump, but also smashed my first half marathon to pieces, beating my ex (who also happened to be competing) by four minutes! He was proud of me, but visibly annoyed, which made victory that much sweeter.

Perhaps it isn’t a surprise that my passion for running ultimately sparked my current romance. I was at a party, chatting about training for my first marathon, when another runner joined the conversation. It was refreshing to finally connect with someone who shared my love of running! We dated for several months, and after I had completed the Paris marathon – aided by his support and encouragement – my gut confirmed that he was the right guy. Seven months later, we both finished the NYC marathon – his first, and my first sub-3:40. I was incredibly grateful not only to have achieved my goal, but also to celebrate with someone I love who understood exactly how I felt, down to waking up the next morning and hardly being able to hobble to the bathroom!

As time goes on, running continues to inspire me – as I coast along the river before the Monday morning rush; as I furiously attack an interval session prior to an important meeting; as I chat breathlessly with a running buddy in between hill repeats; as I shift gears in mile 16 towards a well-earned Sunday pancake breakfast; as I savour a refreshing breeze along a stretch of beach in Zanzibar; or as I sprint across a finish line and realise – I did it.

What is consistent across all of these runs is that powerful, uplifting feeling of endorphins coursing through my body, translating into the confidence, courage and positive energy that fuel the rest of my day – or dare I say, life.

Photo by Eddie Jacob taken from Real Women Run by Sam Murphy, published by Kyle Books

While I lived in London, I was fortunate enough to discover UK-based running coach and author, Sam Murphy. We met for an initial consultation back in December 2009 and I knew immediately that she would be a great person to guide me through my first marathon in Paris. Chemistry is really important when choosing a coach, and my gut told me we would work very well together.

Her coaching style as well as her patience and support leading up to race day encouraged me to train with her for the NYC marathon too. I had an ambitious goal – to qualify for Boston – and I trusted her to help me achieve it. And I did! Experiencing the benefits of coaching was what motivated me to become a running coach myself this past October through RRCA’s certification program.

I admire Sam’s expertise and the wide variety of things she does in her career. I have also enjoyed watching her success grow since we met. She coaches, leads workshops and a running group, writes regularly in publications such as Runner’s World, The Financial Times and many more, has written seven books and is breaking into the barefoot running scene (she coached me on barefoot technique this past November, and I bought a pair of Vivo’s from her and her husband’s latest venture, a minimalist shoe company). She certainly was successful when I met her, but she seems particularly busy these days!

Although I have chosen the field of Nutrition as my primary path, I plan to develop my own coaching career over time. I feel it’s important to have role models as I gain experience and try to figure out what I want to achieve. It’s great that I can look to Sam for inspiration, and hopefully I will meet other coaches I admire in NYC too!

Anyway, I’ll get to the point of this post. Last summer, Sam asked me to contribute to her next book, called “Real Women Run,” which will be published in late March 2012. I was very honored and obviously said yes! I enjoyed writing my short “running story” (which I will share on this blog once the book is published) and modeling at the subsequent photo shoot in Southeast London.

We needed to take two photos to accompany my “story” – one standing still (pictured above) and one action shot (pictured below)- but I ended up staying a bit longer to model for other chapters of the book (hill running, for example). It was exhausting, since I basically did a mini hill repeat session on top of my morning interval workout, but I had a great time!

I’m excited to finally post some of these photos on FFR! I believe these four will appear in the final version of the book. I saw part of the draft a couple months ago, and it looked great. I can’t wait to receive my copy!

A big thank you to Vicky Orchard for emailing these to me, Eddie Jacob for his photography skills and of course to Sam for inviting me to be a part of her upcoming book!

Stay tuned for more info on where to get the book if you’re interested, as well as the text from my contribution. In the meantime, enjoy!

Photo by Eddie Jacob taken from Real Women Run by Sam Murphy, published by Kyle Books

Photo by Eddie Jacob taken from Real Women Run by Sam Murphy, published by Kyle Books

Photo by Eddie Jacob taken from Real Women Run by Sam Murphy, published by Kyle Books

Forgive my silence. I’ve needed the past few days to process some upsetting news I received on Friday, during an eye-opening physiotherapy session. I just wish I had gone sooner, rather than at the end of week 5 of my marathon training cycle.

I resisted seeing a physiotherapist until now partly because rest and sports massage has healed most nagging aches and pains in the past and I was convinced that the pain in my right hip and groin would eventually go away on its own. Also, I didn’t want to shell out hundreds of pounds if I didn’t have to. But most of all, I really didn’t want to hear the dreaded words that I knew would be spoken:

YOU CAN’T RUN.

I can handle a week or two off – that’s what I just did. But longer? As I enter week 6 of an already messed up marathon training cycle? As I prepare to leave my job and become a running coach while starting the long road to becoming an R.D.? As I count the (relatively few) weeks left until an expensive and exciting destination half marathon in Iceland? That’s a bit harder to handle. Running is my foundation beneath all the positive but scary changes going on right now. I want to be feeling strong and in control as everything unfolds, not like someone is yanking the rug out from under me!

Finally, after weeks of faffing around and trying every single thing I could think of to get back to feeling 100% (rest, sports massage, icing, anti-inflammatory pills and gels, hot/cold water therapy, foam roller etc.), I stopped wasting time and sought professional advice. I went to Pure Sports Medicine, a brilliant clinic that I’ve visited many times for sports massage. It’s pricey but it’s worth it.

The news I received sucks – but it certainly could’ve been much worse. Let’s start with the good news first, shall we?

  • My physio is awesome – I have confidence that he’ll get me back to feeling strong again ASAP. And he’s cute too, which surely helps! 🙂
  • I finally know what’s wrong with my hip – and can fix the problem relatively quickly. Essentially, the head of my right femur is sliding forward when I put weight on my right leg, causing labral irritation in the hip joint as well as soreness in certain muscles. This is in part due to weak right hip stabilizer muscles, but also because I’m sticking my pelvis too far forward when I stand/run. Thus, I simply need to strengthen these muscles and adopt a more neutral position.
  • Although highly frustrating, this is only a temporary setback. I should be fine to run the Portland marathon in October and my hopes for Vegas, if I’m fortunate enough to win the Cheribundi marathon challenge, will not be affected.
  • I will become a stronger runner in the long-term – both physically and mentally.

And the bad news?

  • I can’t run – for now. As my physio said, he can’t stop me from running – but obviously I don’t want to risk further injury! I’m looking forward to decades and decades of running in my future, as well as new PB’s, and that means making a sacrifice right now.
  • My time goals for Portland may need some revising. I’m not going to predict anything just yet, but I know I have to be realistic given that I haven’t done sufficient mileage for a couple weeks now. I’m not too upset about this, however – I’m still in great shape. Plus, I wasn’t banking on Portland to be my fastest race – I entered it more for fun, to accompany my coaching certification course. That’s why, in part, I would love to have another marathon opportunity in December.
  • I may not be able to run the half marathon in Iceland – that would be disappointing. The physio said that it’s not completely ruled out, but obviously I have to build up to 13.1 miles gradually, so we’ll see.
  • I’m currently limited to what I CAN do for exercise, which is driving me nuts – my appetite is weird, my body is changing (and not in a good way) and I’m bummed that I can’t do something that makes me happy. I miss running!
  • I must avoid other exercises that may further irritate my hip – this means no yoga, elliptical, lower body strength training or cycling out of the saddle. That makes my usual spin class slightly less fun and I love yoga, but I’ll deal. I can do the stair master and rowing machines, as well as seated cycling and upper body weights. A bit boring, but I’m trying my best to be patient.
  • I can also swim, so this is a great opportunity to finally improve my swimming technique, which I’ve been meaning to do for awhile now so that I can enter a triathlon at some point as well as make swimming a regular part of my cross-training. This morning, instead of a long run, I did some laps – it was tough but fun. I even bought purple goggles and a purple swim cap! I hope to take a private swim lesson this week.

Today was sunny and it was torture to watch so many runners out and about – but I’m staying focused on the task at hand, and have appreciated all the support I’ve received from friends and family. I’m already feeling better after a couple days of cross-training, so that’s a good sign.

I’m seeing my physio again Tuesday afternoon. I’m praying he’ll let me run again soon, but I know it may be another week or so before I’m allowed to – and then only short distances (2M) at first. But I’m committed to allowing my body plenty of time to heal so that I can make a strong comeback.

And I WILL make a strong comeback. 

I recently received some wonderful news: I’m going to be an aunt! My sister is having her first baby later this year, and I am very excited.

As any good sister would do, I’m trying to be as supportive as possible. She will of course get most of her advice from her doctor, but I still want to make sure I’m armed with knowledge to help her stay fit and healthy!

Okay, so maybe my sister isn’t a runner…but I obviously am, so I couldn’t help but read up on running while pregnant as I began to research other topics.

If you do not run regularly, then picking up running while pregnant isn’t recommended. In other words, I will NOT be urging my sister to start running (but will encourage her to stay active in other ways). However, if you’re already a regular runner, you don’t have to stop running during your pregnancy. I have a friend, for example, with two young children who continued to run up until the day before each baby was born! I can’t imagine what that must feel like or, more importantly, how you can avoid falling on your face, but clearly it is possible. Amazing.

Elite runners Paula Radcliffe and Kara Goucher recently continued to run during their pregnancies – they actually trained together, in part because they shared the same due date (although ended up giving birth four days apart). I really enjoyed reading this NY Times article on the topic, as well as the full interview on the RW website. How inspiring is it that two fiercely competitive and successful distance runners became best friends while training together throughout their pregnancies?! The ultimate running buddy, for sure – although I imagine having your young daughter run alongside you also provides plenty of motivation too!

Paula Radcliffe running a 10km race with daughter Isla, only a couple months before her due date

Although running 14M a day while five months pregnant is not advisable for most women, running a more reasonable number of miles (and/or doing other forms of exercise) still provides many benefits to both mother and baby. While doing a bit of research on this, I found a blog post entitled “If Paula can do it…” which nicely sums up the information I was seeking to include here. Rather than rehash it myself, check out the link – best to come straight from a “Mom on the run” who has personal experience to share!

So even if you don’t need to stay in shape for London 2012 like Paula and Kara had to do, try to continue exercising – if nothing else, it will help keep you fit for the day that you will have to start chasing after your little one, once he or she is up and running too!

P.S. Here’s a great interview of Kara Goucher in the NY Times, as she adjusts to being a new mom while getting back into competitive running.

Welcome to FFR

Hi, I'm Claire! I’m a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (MS, RD, CDN) and a Road Runners Club of America certified coach. This is where I share my latest adventures in running, racing, food & travel! If you'd like to work with me, please visit my professional website, Eat for Endurance.

My PRs

Marathon (Chicago): 3:33:18
Boston Marathon: 3:36:14
Half-Marathon: 1:37:21
10M: 1:14:52
10k: 44:52

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