Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Miserable Runners Group


I'm Bob, and I'm a Miserable Runner.

My goal is to use this Fall and Winter to become Less Miserable, and to run my first-ever half-marathon next Spring.

We all know the saying: "Misery Enjoys Company."  If that's not a great reason to start a running group, I don't know what is!

If you've been reading my blog you already know my story, but here's the short version:  For my entire adult life, running has never been easy for me, especially past the first mile.  I briefly ran 10Ks in my early 30's, but soon quit due to joint and foot pain that didn't go away for days.  Triathlon found me just over 3 years ago, just before I turned 52, and just as my body started falling apart.

My love of triathlon has not permitted me to quit running, and with each new (and old) running problem, I have kept studying the available resources, kept asking questions of doctors, physical therapists, coaches, academic researchers and fellow athletes, and kept learning and trying new techniques to improve my run despite my limitations.

I believe I finally have learned enough to pursue serious distance running with a greatly reduced risk of future injury.  However, I seem to lack some of the discipline needed to consistently apply what I've learned to myself.  I believe I will do much better as part of a group that meets 2-3 times per week.

I'd like this group to focus not on speed, but on comfort over distance.  To be able to eventually run long distances without stopping, and without injury.  Yes, we'll want to go as fast as possible, but speed will always be a minor concern, with comfort and safety always coming first.

I first want to focus on preparing our bodies for running, rather than simply strapping on our running shoes and making the same old mistakes over and over again.  This will involve basic muscle strengthening, improving balance and mobility, and (re)learning the motions and muscle use patterns needed to run comfortably.

In chats with other miserable runners, one common situation I've seen is that many people have no idea what a proper running shoe fit feels like!  While I can't fit a shoe to anyone's foot, I do believe I've learned quite a bit about how you can learn to go shoe shopping and find the best available shoe for your foot.  This is something that must be addressed before doing any serious mileage.

I want our group to be about running, not run-walk or jogging.  I'm talking about non-stop running, where we learn to manage our breath and energy so we don't have to stop due to overexertion.  Where we become able to continuously monitor our running form, and learn to stop running when our form starts to fall apart, long before we cause any injury or pain.  I want each of us to become able to do long distances at a 10 minute per mile pace, and shorter distances at a somewhat quicker pace.

Being allergic to pain (it makes me cry), I plan to do all the above without misery, but with lots of determination.  I think the phrase "No Pain, No Gain" does not and should not apply to age-group athletes.  Let the elites go down that path.  My goal is to find that place where "I Run Because It's Fun".

Also, I'm not a running coach.  I'm just a guy who has been frustrated by some major problems with his own running, and who has studied and tried lots of things to get past them. I still have questions, and I'm still learning, and I'd much rather do it as part of a group.

Most importantly, I'm done with injuries!  I want our group to be all about injury prevention and avoidance.  Safety and comfort must always come first.

So, would you like to join me? Please let me know!


  1. Hi Bob!
    I'm so happy to see your post. As a long distance runner who has reached the point where my times are slowing, I'd like some support from fellow runners who, like me, want to continue to run without injury. Unfortunately, you didn't say where you're located. I'm a North County runner. I used to go to San Diego to run with Team in Training and the San Diego Track Club, but have stopped making that trek in favor of running more or less by myself. I have a running partner who is 77 and the American record holder in the 5K for her age. I'm not nearly that fast, but we run together a couple times a week. She prefers short distances and I'm inclined to run long. I've finished 27 marathons since I was 58 which was 12 years ago. If you think there's a place in your group for me I'd like to hear from you. If not, no worries. I can do it by myself.
    Be well,
    Karen Evans

  2. Hi Bob! As Thursday night swim (and tater-tot eating) disciples, Marisa and I have learned a lot from you and would certainly be interested in joining you to help advance our running skills.
    Marisa has just recently started training for her first 10K and I've limited myself to 5K thus far. Both of us are looking to extend our distances for next season and this sounds like a great idea to keep motivated over the winter.
    Looking forward to running for fun!!

  3. @Karen: The group is really aimed toward those, like myself, for whom running even a 5K is very difficult, painful, or just plain miserable. For people so fed up with running that they are willing to literally start all over again, from a non-running status, and build basic functionality from the ground up.

    That said, *everyone* is welcome! The only risk being that you may get bored. I live near where the 56 & 15 meet, so meeting near Sorrento Valley or Del Mar is easiest for me.

    @Terry: I want to double-emphasize that I am not any kind of a running coach! I was taught basic swim technique, and how to teach beginner swimmers, by some extremely talented coaches. My run knowledge, what little I have of it, has been learned without the benefit of lots of training with talented run coaches and instructors. Lots of questions, yes, but not much direct coaching (for reasons I've described in other blog posts).

    For this group, I am willing to serve as the instigator and organizer, but I will expect group members to do lots of work, study, and learning on their own, and then share it with the group. Yes, we're talking homework!

    Each group member will need to be totally responsible for their own individual participation, to decide for themselves if what I suggest is worth trying, or is total rubbish. This is not a sanctioned TCSD clinic or seminar or class: It is just a bunch of frustrated miserable runners looking for a way forward.

    What I will say is that I believe I have gathered a very simple set of exercises and drills that will build run muscles and balance, and also build basic run technique, all without actually running or jogging, so that nobody in the group will ever again take another miserable running stride!

    I expect there will be many non-running workouts before we do even a meter of any 'real' running.

    YMMV, of course.

  4. I'd love to join too! You are very creative! i love this new group. Also, it's kind of like the epitome of the golfer...always looking for ways to improve his/her swing, get more distance, putt better, etc....
    I'm barefooter, as you know...and I need to get ready for a triathlon on 23 October...and need to get my runs back up to 13 miles again, or at least 10. Let's go...

  5. @Anna: I have no quick fixes!

    I would expect a truly miserable runner to take 3-4 weeks off from running, first to ensure a solid recovery from current problems, and second to start building strength and mobility. Then another 2-3 weeks of dynamic exercises intended to prepare the body for actual running, and also to learn to closely monitor one's self. After that, it will be a gradual introduction to running, starting slow and short, and building from there. For the runner really needing to start from scratch, we're probably talking almost 3 months before running a 5K distance.

    Things can certainly be accelerated for the 'less miserable' runner, but I lack the expertise required to make that happen and still be compatible with the non-negotiable goals of being comfortable and injury-free.

    That said, I've already started working on myself, so by the time the group actually meets I will be further down the road on my own recovery and rebuilding. I'm more than happy to work out with anyone at any level I'm capable of!