Well, here it is two days before the marathon, and I think I may have peaked too early. Not physically, of course, because I don't really "peak" in training, but mentally. Right before the half marathon a week and a half ago, I really felt ready to race - really antsy like a race horse at the starting gate. I just felt ready to go. This time around, not so much. Well, rather, I think I did have that feeling earlier this week, but it seems to have come and gone, leaving me feeling mentally kind of drained. Maybe I'll recapture it. Maybe it's just that a person can only handle so much anticipation. I don't know. In any event, hopefully by Sunday morning, some of it will come back to me.
Adding to my Angst right now is the fact that my knee - my "bad" one - has been bothering me the past couple of days. I don't know what tripped that particular trigger, but there it is. I admit I haven't done the best job of taking care of myself lately: strength exercises and stretching have been sporadic at best, icing has been almost non-existent, and foam rolling has remained a good intention left undone. Maybe I finally have pushed myself past what my body wants to be doing. I mean, so far this year I have done four half marathons (one of them being Pikes Peak), which doubles my race efforts of previous years. Maybe my body is finally crying "uncle."
The timing of the knee pain is curious, however, as earlier this week I had the opportunity to attend a talk given by Dr. Bryan Heiderscheit from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Runners' Clinic. He is both a P.T. and PhD, and he is currently researching whether shortening stride length while running can have a positive impact on helping runners overcome knee injuries.
Shortening your stride while running is not a new idea. Many "alternative" running proponents advocate for shorter strides. ChiRunning, barefoot running, and minimal footwear all encourage a shorter stride, as well as faster turnover and softer foot fall. However, there hasn't been a lot of research into the stride length element. In his research in dealing with folks with knee injury, Dr. Heiderscheit has found that by shortening their stride by as little as five to ten percent (using a metronome to increase foot turnover, which in turn shortens strides) runners can alleviate symptoms of knee pain almost immediately - and, if not immediately, then certainly within the first week.
Heiderscheit is the first to say that more research needs to be done, and he is not comfortable yet saying that shortening your stride should be done as a preventative. I.e., if it ain't broke, don't fix it. However, for folks experiencing knee pain, shortening stride length can be a way to alleviate symptoms and keep running, while working on fixing the problem that caused the knee injury in the first place.
As someone who has dabbled in ChiRunning, barefoot running, and minimal footwear, the idea that shorter strides are possibly better for you wasn't something new. I do try to keep my feet under my center of mass and not overstride, but the fact is that without a lot of practice, it's a hard thing to keep up. I guess if the knee really bothers me on Sunday, I'll be more motivated to give it a try, and the mental exercise of holding myself together over 26.2 miles will be taken to a whole new level. Maybe I should take my metronome with me. The incessant beeping wouldn't bother anyone, would it?