On Monday I had a 55-minute run to do. It was the final session of the seven-week Returning to Running program I have been following, and I looked upon this run as a graduation of sorts.
In the past seven weeks I have found the confidence that I have finally overcome the injury that has plagued me for the past year, stopping my training and racing dead in their tracks (for the first time in 17 years) just as I was at the peak of my fitness -- a 3:00:29 marathoner ready to go faster.
Seven weeks ago, I tentatively did the first session on the program -- two 5-minute runs with a 5-minute walk in between. The roller coaster of hope and disappointment from the past year kept a lid on my optimism. Yet I knew that my body felt different too.
Yesterday I ran 55 minutes without stopping, bringing my weekly running total to 2 hours 20 minutes. Guesstimating a 5-minute per kilometre on average, I ran 40km for the week. While that's not even half of the 100km weeks I had grown used to doing, it now feels like a lot of running.
Throughout these seven weeks I have remained both careful and vigilant. I have done nearly all my runs on a flat course, first walking about 15 minutes and cooling down with the same (that's also the time it takes to walk from my house to the start of a flat running route.)
I have maintained my yoga routine, taking 30 Bikram classes over the past seven weeks, or an average of four per week, to keep increasing my flexibility and strength, particularly in the right hip / glute area. That's six hours of yoga a week.
And those 90-minute Bikram classes are challenging workouts in themselves each time. There is a reason teachers tell beginners that their main goal is to try to stay in the room. At the Sea to Sky Bikram studio, owner and teacher Jena often reminds us to "stop wrestling with the door, you have already decided to stay."
"Until you do it you can't comment on how difficult it is. It's tough. It's ugly," Wimbledon champion Andy Murray has said of Bikram, which has reportedly been a key part of his training for the past five years.
Aside from Bikram, I also stretch after each run, using a sequence of at least eight stretches suggested in Pete Pfitzinger's Advanced Marathoning. As recommended I hold each stretch for about 30 seconds on both sides, doing each one twice.
And I roll. Daily. I use the TP Therapy ball and roller but especially the ball and particularly for the right side of my hip and glutes.
During the past seven weeks, I also had another five massages to help preserve and advance all the flexibility I have gained in Bikram. And I will keep working at that diligently. Especially as I increase my running.
It is exhilarating to be running again. I am so grateful.
I know that there is a long road ahead before I will be back at my fitness level from May 2012. But I am patient. And determined.
Over the next few weeks I plan to increase my long run slowly to 90 minutes by the end of August. With that, I'll be ready to start the training program for my next marathon.
I have already got my eye on one...