It’s no secret that I truly enjoy a good 5K run. At this stage and era of my life it seems to fit me quite well. It’s a perfect run length for staying fit, burning calories, and offering the chance to stay mildly athletic while competing in occasional weekend races. I consistently keep my pace below a ten minute mile, and many times close to a 9:30 on average nowadays. That’s ok by me.
Over the course of the past year and a half I have completed 25 or so races now, along with many evenings or mornings of training runs of three to five miles. I have pushed it now and then to a 10K distance and a few 8-10 mile runs when mentally and physically I felt up for it. I have been extremely lucky in that I have incurred very few injuries other than some muscle soreness here and there. Nothing to impede my running. That is until recently when I pretty much blew out my hamstring at the Hard Grove 5K in New Jersey.
Figures, it had to be New Jersey of all places! The Durty JerZ. The place many of us New Yorkers like to poke fun at. The land of the Sopranos. I think the ghost of Tony Soprano put a hit out on my leg.
As with many of the races I enter this one was for a good cause – Autism Awareness. I am always happy to compete for a worthy charity. It was a beautiful weekend morning. The subway ride then ferry across to Liberty Island where the race was held offered some splendid views during the run. Well organized with a bunch of vendors offering free drinks, snacks, a DJ, and even massages! Oh yeah, I took advantage of that, especially after popping my hammy. I just felt sorry for the massage therapist who had to deal with all of us sweaty runners. Yuck.
This race started out fine, and pretty much normal for me. Did some stretching. A light jog to limber up. Felt great. After the initial announcements and course info the buzzer sounded, and off we went. It was very sunny and a bit hot out, but nice weather for a morning run. The first mile I felt really good and hit a 9:49 pace. Second mile was also decent at just under a ten minute pace. The third mile I was cruising along at a ten minute pace too, and felt fine. My goal this race was to not kill myself, but keep the overall pace at under ten minutes or so. I figured I would hit the speed button the last two-tenths of a mile and finish with a 9:50 pace or close to that. As I was moving along I saw the finish line coming up in the distance. It’s always a welcome sight to see that, and I get a rush of energy to finish strong.
Then it happened. As I pushed past the three-mile marker I felt, and might have even heard, a loud “POP” in my left hamstring. OUCH!!!! OUCHY OUCH!!!!
I felt as if I had been harpooned into the back of my leg. I immediately came up lame, and jumped up and down a few times in place. As I slowed to a walk I stepped aside off the course and tried to decipher what had just happened. I pretty much knew I strained it. Pretty bad. I tried some stretching and walked a bit to help loosen it up a bit. This was no normal muscle pull or soreness. I messed myself up pretty bad. Even though this was gosh darn painful, I was not going to walk off this race and give up on it. I was determined to cross that finish line and earn that medal. No excuses! Time to man up!
Ever watch a baseball game and see a player blow out his hamstring running to first base? As if his leg suddenly decided to become a rubber band. How he can barely limp back to the dugout. Sometimes with a coach helping him off the field. That’s how this felt. Except I was alone. No one to lean on. That last tenth of a mile felt like an eternity as I limped and hobbled towards the finish line. Running really is a lonely sport. Good thing I was alone as the expletives coming out of my mouth would have made a truck driver blush. As I crossed the finish line it felt like someone was jabbing an electric prod into my ass. Yeah, tons of fun!
It was too funny, as that last tenth of a mile I registered as an 18:16 pace on my running app! Somehow, I still ended up with a 10:18 pace overall for this run. Not horrible considering what I did to my leg.
Yet, I did have a fun time at this race in spite of me blowing out a tire. Good people who put this event together, along with friendly staff and volunteers. Hey, I had to appreciate they had a professional masseuse on site, which I made a bee-line too after receiving my medal and something to drink. She did a great job, and really helped me feel better if for a short while.
Of course, I took a few weeks off after this to try to heal up. What I experienced was a nasty hamstring strain. I’m already back to doing some controlled light runs. Slower pace, keeping care of my form, and making sure I stretch well before each run. Doing some strength training movements in the gym too. At this point it’s not about speed, but healing up and training smart. After a few three and four mile training runs my leg is feeling much better, but is still a bit tender. Slow and steady wins the race, as the saying goes.
This kid ain’t giving up just yet. I plan on earning a few more 5K medals before this year is over. Even if I have to drag my “achy breaky” butt over the finish lines!