Sunday, March 28, 2010

Running on the boardwalk

Every time I go to the beach, I see runners on the boardwalk pounding away merrily, chugging along at a leisurely pace which, in part, is influenced by the speed restrictions on the boardwalk. Every time I see them, I wonder, how much does the pounding on the boardwalk hurt in the long run? The slow speed definitely makes it easier on the legs but overall you're still pounding concrete and I think that has to hurt over a period of time. When I was in my 20s, I could run anywhere and the next day would still be the same. Now that I'm in my 30s, where I run and how long I run can and does affect how I feel the next day. Indeed, if I run on concrete and/or tar roads, I am more likely to have sore legs the next day than if I run on dirt trails. Especially, if I run hard.

The other problem with concrete running is the monotonicity of the surface. Over time, this can lead to weaknesses in muscles. Variety, as that found in trail running or running on other uneven surfaces, gives the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and other assorted unpronounceable parts, a chance to work out and in the process, strengthen themselves. Running on the boardwalk fails to provide this variety, unless of course, the boardwalk is covered with potholes or little sand dunes from overnight tides.

Nonetheless, this is all still anecdotal evidence. I wasn't able to find any studies on the effects of running on concrete for several years. A proper research study would definitely make for a stronger case. If you do know something like that, please drop me an email.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

iPod on the run?

Is it a good idea? Listening to your iPod while out for a jog? Two incidents in the last week bear mention. First, the female runner who apparently was killed by wolves while out for a run in Chignik, a remote part of Alaska. Second, the beach jogger who was killed by a plane making an emergency landing in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. In both cases, they were apparently listening to an iPod.

Now, it's hard to make a definitive statement that without the iPod, they might still be alive. The runner in Alaska was 4'11" and probably weighed less than a single wolf, much less a pack. Regardless of whether she was running with an iPod or not, if they had attacked, she probably would have stood no chance. In the beach case, apparently the plane had cut its engine and was gliding. Combined with the sound of the waves and wind, one can see how it's possible to not hear it come. Again, it's not clear how much of a difference the iPod would have made. On the other hand, it's possible that someone else saw the plane coming down and started yelling but the jogger didn't hear it because of his iPod. You can never know for sure unless you were there yourself.

Personally I never listen to music while out for a run. Safety being the first factor, but also because I don't like having things in my ears. Even if I did, I don't think I would do it while out on the streets. Maybe on trails.

Music might be helpful and in some cases, maybe even essential, for some people to go out and run. However, one should be aware of the fact that he/she is taking a risk while doing so. How much of a risk? It depends on the person and the environment. Some people have a tendency to get lost in music so much so that they lose track of what else is happening out there. That definitely puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to dealing with any unexpected turn of events.

The environment makes a big difference too. For example, city streets are definitely not the place to run while listening to music. Some people might argue that city streets are not the place to run. Period. Even out on trails, one needs to exercise caution and weigh the risk factors. A couple of years ago, I was in Katmai, Alaska which is another remote part of the country and a great place to see grizzly bears. Even though it was beautiful and very tempting to go for a run, I chose not to mainly because I didn't want to go alone. On the other hand, I've gone running in Yosemite out in the wilderness by myself. These were on plains where I could see the terrain far into the distance and it was in the middle of clear and sunny day.

In the end, it is a choice you make for yourself. Just be aware of your choices and the associated risks. Happy running and stay safe.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Can you get a running injury while driving?

That's what I asked myself a few times after I picked up an injury earlier this year. Internet sleuthing led to the conclusion that it was some kind of tendonitis of the foot. Funny thing is I had been running a consistent 35-45 miles a week for about two months. Then one week I couldn't run much at all. Instead there was a lot of driving, especially of the slow, stop-and-go type, where you're constantly rocking the gas pedal and the brake with your foot. The next week I went for a run and by the time I got back I could feel a niggle under my driving foot. Sure enough, another run confirmed there was something wrong.

I ruled out a bunch of factors. There was no ramp-up in mileage. I'd been at a consistent 35-45 mpw for over two months. Running terrain was the same. Shoes were in decent condition. That pretty much narrowed it to the driving. In retrospect, the other thing that I neglected to do was stretching. Usually, I do. However, this time I didn't.

For the past couple of months, I've been babying the foot. Lots of rest, icing, and a bit of compression. Also bought a new pair of shoes and an arnica-based gel to apply. Cut down running. Restricted myself to around a 9 minute pace. Been doing some walking. All this seems to be helping. I've been able to get some decent running in for the last couple of weeks. Just have to take it slow and steady.

Frustration is the enemy and patience is the weapon in this game of recovery.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Prefontaine Classic 2010 - tickets and lineup

Tickets went on sale yesterday for this year's meet. In about half an hour the best seats were gone. Sounds like a concert, doesn't it? Actually, it's better. Much better.

Interestingly, Section U was marked "unavailable". This is the one that is right in front of where the finish line for most track events is. You get a front facing view of the athletes breaking the tape as they finish. I have a feeling that this section is probably reserved for season ticket holders or someone; the website didn't make it clear.

As per a news release on their site, released much after the tickets went on sale, this year's athletes include Kenenisa Bekele, Yelena Isinbayeva, Tyson Gay, and Sanya Richards. Should be exciting.