I completed a half marathon 2 weeks ago. It was my second time doing a 21 km run. The first was about 2 years ago, during the Army Half Marathon. I did a couple more long runs that year, but nothing as long as a half marathon. 2014 was a good year mainly because of all the running distances I had clocked. Prior to that year, I have never participated in any race, I reasoned ‘Why pay to suffer?!’ I was contented with my own-pace-own-time jog.
Then I found out about the Singtel Cancer Run, a 15km run where all monies collected go to the Singapore Cancer Society. I thought that it was at least something meaningful, like killing 2 birds with 1 stone, getting a good workout while doing charity and that was when I signed up for my first run.
After a year of good runs, I ended 2014 with a torn meniscus and strained ligaments. My knee were swollen and I could barely walk. I couldn’t swim, because I couldn’t kick with my injured knee and any form of exercise was out for me, even brisk walk. Rest was all I could do.
I was advised by my orthopedician to go for regular physiotherapy to strengthen my muscles so as to regain mobility of my knee. I went for the first few times but decided to stop as it was too time consuming. It didn’t make sense for me to travel an hour just for 15 minutes of exercise. Due to the injury, my left knee was unstable and could ‘give way’ when I strained it, eg while going down a flight of stairs.
It was good to rest! I could indulge in a chocolate cake without having to think about burning off the calories! I could sleep in and not struggle with ‘I should have gone for a run’. I realised that the should-haves created unnecessary stress in life.
With rest, the swell on my knee went down, I could walk better but I still couldn’t fully extend and bend my knee and I was still limping. I read that I could do some exercise to strengthen my quads so as to help stabilize my knee. My thoughts immediately went to my bike that had been sitting pretty in the living room.
I started off with my son’s bike, which was smaller in size, before going onto my own bike. I had to lower the seat so that I didn’t have to extend my legs too much and I couldn’t go fast. Still, I was exhilarated that I could finally ride my bike!
I thought to myself ‘Nobody could tell I was limping, It was good to feel brand new, It was good to feel strong’. I realised that it was easy to take all these for granted.
In the beginning, I got aches and pains after each ride. My knee swells on occasions when I cycle too hard.
My cycling routine wasn’t intensive. I cycled about 2-3 times a week and usually do about 20-30km. It took me about an hour or so and it fits right into my mornings while my younger one was in preschool.
Cycling, unlike running, is low-impact but has several aerobic benefits. You can ride uphill in a low gear to build strength. You can do short sprints to spike your heart-rate and build speed. You can also go for a longer, steady ride to build endurance.
After 4 months of regular cycling, I finally attempted a 9 km run outdoor. I was thrilled that I could complete the run. It sort of gave me confidence for the upcoming 15km race for Singtel Cancer Run in July last year (but was eventually cancelled due to haze).
With my younger boy joining his brother in Primary school this year. I had a good 6 hours to myself in the morning. I could run and cycle or do both!
I didn’t push myself very hard as I was careful not to worsen my injury. I tried to do at least a 10 km run every week and keep to cycling during the week. Once a while when I was too tired to do both, I rollerblade. I found out that excessive pushing of the rollerblades caused the pain on my knee to return and I was not as mobile. I was happy to put on my rollerblades but it was no longer like before. (I still hope that it could get better)
Apart from cycling, I attend Pilate class once a week. The class helped to strengthen my core muscles and force me to stretch muscles which I wasn’t very disciplined to do.
Cycling at a moderate pace had helped to strengthen my quads, build up my aerobic fitness and improve my endurance. Being able to run a 21 km was the best testimonial.
I enjoyed the run better this time. Apart from stopping at drink stations to grab drinks and taking a few pictures, I basically ran all the way. My hamstrings hurt during the last 2 km but I could continue even without any heat rub! (unlike the last run)
I came in with a better timing and was in a better state than 2 years back when I did the same distance. However I was famished and gobbled up 2 bananas as soon as I crossed the finishing line!
I didn’t collapse in a pile when I reached home. I showered before heading out for Tim Sum and spent the afternoon shopping! I remember sleeping the afternoon away after the previous half marathon. My fitness had definitely improved. And I am planning to sign up for more runs to motivate myself to continue this fitness regime.
Though my ranking at 500 plus amongst 3000 over female runners wasn’t something to shout about, I am happy that I have beaten myself, in terms of timing and overcoming an injury.
And that befits what we want to teach our children, that ‘the only person they should try to be better than is the person they were yesterday’. (Of course, I had my husband to thank again. He was once again my guardian angel throughout the run)