I'm doing my first long race this Sunday - the Broad Street Run in Philly - a 10 miler. I began running 7 months ago and it has been ultimately leading up to this race. I've been training very hard and sticking to a schedule. I'm really proud of my efforts because never in my life have I done anything athletic or active and it's quite an achievement for me.
Let me break my problem down. I've progressively added to my mileage. Over those months, I've done four 5K's and an 8k with success. About 3 weeks ago I began encountering some back pain...lower back to the right. It started happening around the 6-7 mile mark. Not debilitating, but by mile 8-9 it had difficulty lifting my leg.
My last long run was 2 weeks ago - 8.5 miles. Again, the pain started around mile 6. In the past 2 weeks, the pain now is on and off. I consulted my Dr. who told me to stop cardio (except for a 5K I did last week) and just walk. I actually did well during that 5K. I started off with the dull pain and it didn't really affect the run at all. I actually felt better after it...felt amazing, actually. This past week, the pain seem to be consistent - it's not debilitating....just there. A PT friend of mine came over and evaled me. She said I had weak glutes and tight hip flexors and I may have strained something. For this week, I've been doing core and lots of stretching exercises with an hour of very brisk walking. I stopped the walking on Wed because the pain wasn't lessening. Last night I did some hard core stretching and the pain was worse than ever after.
I woke today with just a little pain, and it got worse as the day progressed.
Okay - finally the question. I think I may be hyperfocused on this. I'm scared to death of this run. I know in my mind, body and heart that I am ready. I know it. My first 9 mile run was 2.5 months ago. I'm ready and rested. I'm afraid I'm making more of this pain that's there. My friend told me that she believes I will finish but don't have high expectations. The only expectation I have is finishing! I'm not into the "good time" thing. For the 5Ks and 8K, I did 10/mi. I think I'll do 11 for the Broad St and that's totally fine for me. I think I will have pain during it....and it will get worse as the run goes. My fear is that it gets so bad that I can't finish. I would rather not even do it than fail.
Do I do this? Run through this? Or is it a mistake and I just try again next year? Does this sound familiar to any of you? I know you can diagnose me (besides being a basket case), but any advice/suggestions would be helpful.
I'm sorry for the super-detailed post, but for any of you with experience, I thought a good picture of what's going on would be best.
You need to do an honest evaluation of what is causing the pain, while disregarding any race consideration. It's unfortunate that your doctor told you to stop cardio without giving you a diagnosis, which would have been very helpful in determining your course of action. Probably all the stretching you've been doing is not helping. If it's a muscle strain, extensive stretching is not the best thing for healing. I can't tell you to go or not. You have to decide for yourself what risk there is in running the race, even at a reduced pace. Good luck. (I'll be there.)
Yes, after 7 months of solid running with an eye on competition, you are not completely built yet, and would probably benefit from backing off this run. You are probably suffering from overtraining.
We've all seen boxers keep boxing until they get beat up badly, and the same Peter Principle applies to athletics. We tend to keep promoting ourselves to the point of breakdown, then wonder what happened. Fortunately, in running, even if you make the ill-advised decision to force yourself through this run, you will probably eventually recover. The question is, how long do you want to suffer?
There needs to be a point to this. If you are trying to become a better runner, learning the hard way actually takes longer. Instead, you can take our advice and sit this one out, recover more quickly, and experience earlier success in what could be a long running career ahead, filled with many personal bests. This race, on the other hand, could just wind up being a cautionary tale that sets you back. No point in subjecting yourself to that.
Tight hip flexors can come from overtraining and from too much time in chairs. This recent a runner, yours could be a result of both. The main hip flexors attach to the lumbar spine, and can cause pain there. They could be knotted up and hypersensitive from too much training and stretching. Let them heal. Rest can make you stronger, too.
This might be a good time for a form of cross-training that is less aggressive, but keeps your blood flowing so you can heal better. Don't beat yourself up pounding the streets. Your body gets the message, and will continue to strengthen. This is just a wake up call to how much is too much.
This is a clip of one doc treating the main hip flexor Psoas muscle, which when tight, can actually pull one leg up higher than the other, leading to a dangerous scenario for further injuries. Your friend can help you with this.