One of the first things I did after realizing that I was really, truly moving to London was to google European fall marathons. So many great options – Dublin, Amsterdam, the Côte d’Azur! I settled on Dublin and looked forward to lots of long runs this summer to explore London and counteract the effects of pub culture, to be capped off by a long weekend in Dublin with 26.2 miles, a new PB and a celebratory Guinness after.
But it is not to be. I wrote about my right knee problem earlier this summer. I thought some rest and a few trips to my PT in the States was enough to loosen up my hip and IT band and strengthen my glute. The first few weeks of running in London were fabulous and I began picturing a 4:00 marathon. You know what they say about the best-laid plans.
I took off a few days, to no avail. Took off a week and modified my training plan, thinking I could at least do the distance even if I lost a few training days. No luck. Finally last week I went to a physio and faced the truth that the Dublin Marathon is not in the cards this fall. There will be other races, but right now, I need to get this fixed.
On the plus side, the physio I went to was excellent. She spent a full hour with me and is the first health care professional I have seen who really tried to get to the root of the problem. I have never had a more thorough exam. My problem is definitely my IT band, but she started with my feet – of course! So obvious that you need to start with the foundation! It turns out that I have poor toe mobility (we laughed about how that sounds silly but it is true), meaning I can’t move my big toe on its own. She showed me that I also have anterior pelvic tilt, common among women, and I need to work on my posture. She also took a video of me running on the treadmill and showed me how my right hip dips down dramatically with every step, which is bad. The entire appointment was fascinating to me, to see literally exactly what the problems are and how my alignment is off.
The good news is that it is all fixable. The PT assured me that nothing is serious or long-term, and it can be changed. Apparently I am hyper-mobile and flexibility isn’t a problem, but I just need to re-teach my body how to move. She gave me a number of small exercises to do to improve toe/foot mobility and practice using my glutes without moving my hips, plus foam rolling. These little movements are hard as hell. Try standing on both legs in front of a mirror and lifting one knee at a time without moving your hips or trunk at all. Hard! But she told me the more I do it, the faster my body will learn how to move. Sold.
I am relieved to have some direction to fix this so I can get back on track and run more long distances in the future, but I know that will be a long-term proposition. I am to take two weeks off running completely, to let my inflammation heal and get stronger, then ease into things with short distances. My physio is also a runner and told me that it is okay to do other exercises, and was understanding about how hard it is mentally and physically to stop running. She said, find whatever it is you get from running and see how you can get it from something else.
I have been going to yoga quite a bit (for me) and I am really loving it. I used up my five-class intro pack at The Power Yoga Company in Fulham and I’m now on a 10-class pack, and I love it there. I’ve been going twice a week and it is fabulous: a good, sweaty workout and a chance to clear my mind and focus. I also went to a restorative yoga class at Blue Cow Yoga, which was different and fun. Very relaxing, but probably not a place I will go regularly since TPYC is so much closer and I’ve loved it there so much.
I also went to an outdoor yoga class at the Serpentine in Hyde Park last week at sunset, a free event sponsored by Lululemon. It was cool – actually, it was quite cold – and the class itself wasn’t amazing or anything, but being outside in Hyde Park practicing yoga was fabulous, as was the free swag (a free yoga mat! plus prosecco, fruit, etc after).
This week, I am signed up to try my first spin class. Spin class is expensive as hell in London, so I am going to use up intro classes as various places and then see from there.
And I’m not going to lie, I’ve already looked into spring marathons. The London Marathon ballot is closed, but there is Barcelona in March and Edinburgh in May. But you know what they say about that picture in your head. One thing at a time. I’m going to go lift my toes, strengthen my glutes, and remember that while running is super important to me, it’s not the only thing.