Lessons learned from a habitual outdoor runner

Month: November 2018 Page 2 of 5

Mississippi River Run


I spent the weekend in the Quad Cities area of Illinois and explored a few running routes along the Mississippi River each morning. The weather was cold and wet which makes exploring new routes a little more challenging.


I do enjoy the exploration even if it can be a little intimidating when you don’t know the surroundings very well. The fresh snow covering the path added to the difficulty.

I commend the city of Moline for having these dedicated trails that appear to be well maintained except for some snow removal on the low-traffic portions.

Running along the river did remind me of the few times I’ve found routes along the Mississippi in the Memphis area. The river is a little bit narrower on the Northwest side of Illinois than it is a few hundred miles south in Tennessee.


Why run?

people doing marathon

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I’ve had these questions asked in various ways.

  • Why do you run?
  • Why don’t you run races?

You know, there is this 5k here or this 10k there or this half-marathon, marathon, etc. Or the “you should” statements come out frequently along the same lines. Other questions that baffle the non-runners include:

  • Why would you run if no one is chasing you?
  • What is your motivation to run every day?

It’s sort of comical now after all these years and I usually answer with something like “running is my time,” “it’s what I like to do to stay healthy,” “I like to eat a lot.” These are all elements of running for me, but not all. There are books about getting in the “flow” when running and there are times I can relate to that, but most days, not so much.

I do find running provides health maintenance, but I’ve really come to the point where my morning is more of a meditation, learning, and me-time which I just happen to do while running 8+ miles. That 1.5-hour slot opens my day, and I would miss it terribly if I couldn’t exercise to start my day. The nice thing is I don’t hurt or have any real recovery time needed to do this routine.

I was reading today about folks who do like real runs and racing. I was reading about people who do 100-mile runs in 12+ hours. Wow, that pace and endurance must require a lot of training, and that’s cool for them. I do think about this kind of running from time to time, I’m just not sure that’s where I want my running to take me.

I do like to run in new places, new cities, parks, etc. When the surroundings are new, the miles seem to go by so quickly and with less effort.

Low Traction Running

snow covered ground

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This morning (Nov 15) was our first significant snow. I’m estimating 1-2 inches was on the unclear roads in the country. I have forgotten how much additional work it is to run when each step is on loose snow!

Post-run2018-11-14Before the first mile was complete, I could feel the additional energy drain. I have had to break out my heavier winter gear the last few days due to the cold wind chill (as seen on the right).  Today the temperature was in the upper 20’s with the wind in the upper teens making it a bit more bearable.

I wear layers of clothing always trying to get the proper temperature where I stay warm but not sweat excessively as to cause a chill as I deal with the wind changes. My outer layer is a lightweight coat I found at Farm and Fleet in the raincoat section. It is very water resistant and blocks the wind well. Today I had three layers under the coat and insulated wind pants, hat, gloves, and scarf.  I stayed warm but a little too warm while running with the wind. I can unzip the coat about half-way down and close the gap using the velcro tabs thus allowing some airflow.

The first 4 miles it was still snowing and blowing from the North, but as I rounded the route West toward home, the snow had let up, and the rising sun was brightening the pathway. The strain from running with such poor traction had me drinking water by mile 5, which is unusual in such cool weather.

Run 2018-11-15I was able to complete my 8+ miles at a slow pace, but it was a good workout, and I’m very grateful to be able to get out there and run even if the conditions are a little rough.

My feet were a little wet from the snow melt, but they weren’t too cold or uncomfortable.

Stay warm, run strong!

What about injuries?

grayscale photo of man

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When is everything just fine? Seldom ever!

If I think about it, there is some pain somewhere in my body every day. When you’re a runner there are common areas that can ache (or worse) regularly; then there are those pain points that you can’t ignore.

Get to know your body parts at least at the high-level, so you know what hurts and what you may be able to do about it.

Know your buttocks! This may sound funny or the start of a joke, but for the runner having an understanding of what all connect in that part of your body can be helpful. I know I’m not alone in saying the sciatic nerve and piriformis muscle can be a pain in the backside.

In your legs be aware of the quads and hamstrings of the upper leg, the knee area (for example the MCL, ACL, LCL), the lower leg with the tibia bone as the main support and fibula as the smaller bone structure, and the Achilles tendon running down the back of the leg to the heel. In your feet get to know the plantar group which runs across the bottom from the heel forward. These are my primary points of attention.

There are a lot more muscles and technical information available. If I can toot my company’s own horn for a moment, I like the book “Running Anatomy” by Joe Puleo and Patrick Milroy in our collection of Running Books here. As of this post, the 2nd edition is available. What I like about this book is that it contained some technical information and structures for practical application for the non-anatomy-expert.

The rest of your body is involved in running as well. I was surprised how I injured my rib cage and shoulders while running! I’ll talk about the head and the impact of our thinking in a different post. I mentioned in another post about my non-running exercise; these upper body injuries are the reason I do the extra workout. Be sure to keep your torso strong and flexible to make your running more effective and enjoyable.

Do I stop exercise when I have an injury? No, I compensate.

For example, when I separated some ribs, it became challenging to take a deep breath thus making a full run out of the question, but I could power walk and walk I did!

With leg, knee, ankle, and foot issues, I find ways to compensate for the pain or injury. This may include less aggressive speed, reduced difficulty routes, a change in gait which often includes a change in the foot strike zone. Whatever I can do to keep moving. This tactic has worked well over the years. A note of caution – oft times when compensating for one injury you can create another pain point, be sure to pay close attention to what hurts!

You may want to consider Pilates, Yoga, or other massage and stretching therapies. Here is a great resource from a Physical Therapist and Pilates expert on dealing with pain and injury.

Listen to your body, but don’t stop moving.

Do I always want to run?

woman sitting on rock

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The short answer is no!

Some mornings it is hard to get out of bed and face the cold or the heat or to deal with an injury or a sore muscle.

Like everyone else, some days I would rather sit by the fire with a hot cup of tea or coffee while snacking on something sweet. Or cuddle up in something warm and soft while binging on movies.

But I don’t! I get up and get it done. It’s not really a negotiation, it’s what I do. If there is a decision to make then I have a chance of getting it wrong, so it’s not something to decide, I just do it.

What are your non-negotiable items?

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