Experiment on Self: Time Out

by Carl Strang

From time to time I have been describing my progress in a physiological experiment: using a low-impact style of long-distance running to see if I can return to the sport years after joint problems forced me to give it up. There has been continued progress, but it hasn’t been without challenges. One of these has been an injury to the joint between my left second toe and its metatarsal bone.

Note how the second toe sticks up on the left foot, relative to the right.

I don’t think this injury was from running. I help teach Eskimo roll at a swimming pool kayak class in winter, and wasn’t quick enough to dodge a student’s flailing paddle in February. Months later, the joint still hasn’t healed, and in fact began to get worse when I reached my target weekly mileage.

Here are the feet entire. Not works of art, but they carried me miles at a time. Though I use the barefoot technique, I wear shoes when running.

After moving outside, I gradually increased my regular run length to 6 miles (4 of these per week), and my long runs to 10, with up to 2 days cross-training on the bicycle. A year ago I would not have thought this possible. I still was not fast, but where I was running 2 miles at 9 minutes each when I started last September, I’ve been running around 8.5 minutes per mile even on the long ones. So, progress was encouraging. A few weeks ago I developed an inflamed right sciatic nerve with occasional local numbness. Fortunately this did not prevent me from running, but the pain has been a distraction (you may have noticed that many recent blog posts have been brief; I’m minimizing sitting at the computer). It’s great to feel like a runner again, and I have to credit the barefoot running technique.

However, I have decided to stop running and go back to the bicycle until the foot heals. My physician has referred me to a podiatrist for the foot, and physical therapy for a possible pinched nerve; I’m awaiting x-ray results. I enjoy bicycling, but running is part of my identity and I am hopeful
the respite won’t last long.

%d bloggers like this: