I've been running off and on for most of my adult life. As a younger adult I did it out of guilt and a sense of obligation. It seemed the best way to lose or maintain weight, but my heart was never in it, it was too hard. Sometime later I learned to love being outside and getting exercise, but I wasn't super loyal to running as the one exercise for me. It wasn't until I discovered I had two very distressing hormonal disorders, "conditions" they call them, that make it virtually imperative that I exercise on a regular basis that I truly began to love running.
PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome)and Adrenal Hyperplasia became all the motivation I needed to get my body back in order after my first 3 children because they cause some of the worst symptoms a woman can imagine. They cause things like male pattern baldness, facial hair, and an unsightly spare tire around my middle that no amount of dessert deprivation and dieting could touch. The worst symptom? Menstrual irregularity and difficulty with conception. In short, I was turning into a man. Shudder. My real man and I wanted another baby and it was really messing with our plans, so I went in search of a cure. No luck, except that in my research I discovered that PCOS is connected with insulin resistance and so in theory, changing my diet and exercise routine could help tremendously. I began to run.
I worked my way to doing a 5k run 3 times a week, then 4 miles, then 5, and finally a 10k run 3 times a week. I kept myself on a very strict insulin resistance diet and I lost 18 lbs in 90 days. I felt great and I LOVED to run. I hated the treadmill, but I'd endure it for the endorphin kick at the end, and my greatest love was road running. I ran 18-20 miles a week and I felt great, I even kept running a few weeks into my 4th pregnancy because it seemed my cunning plan worked and we were able to conceive again despite my man-ness. That was in 2009.
I quit running at about 10 weeks pregnant and didn't start again until January of 2011 when my baby was almost 6 months old. I started with what I thought to be a reasonable mileage at a reasonable pace, but BAM! I was down within weeks of beginning with an injury I can only describe as the devil chewing on your heels and the bottom of your feet: Plantar Fasciitis. It hurt. Bad. While I impatiently waited for the appropriate recovery time, I did the proper amount of stretching and read a very inspiring little running book, perhaps you've heard of it: Born To Run. In it I discovered I was probably going about this whole running thing wrong. I changed to minimalistic shoes, I changed my form (or so I thought) and began again after almost 6 weeks letting the damn things heal. BAM! again within a week I was barely walking and suffering from my old nemesis, an inflamed plantar fasciitis. For years I had been blissfully unaware of that part of my body until that fateful year and then had 2 run ins with it in 7 weeks. Lame.
So I waited. I did more research. I read more books, I went to a running seminar/clinic with the guy who wrote Born To Run. I polled every runner there, I polled runners wherever I saw them about the key to running without injury, and so many said the same thing: Vibram 5 fingers, and good running form. The problem was, no one could define for me exactly what 'good running form' was and I couldn't get the 5 fingers on my blasted hobbit feet. There was a couple people I met at the running clinic though, that suggested buying a pair of some new minimalistic shoes called Altras, and taking a class from this short, stocky old man named Tom Miller. 'Tough Sh*#', they called him, apparently that's his real nickname. Who am I to judge? I signed up for his class the next week. It was a 4 week course on form and technique. He was wearing Altras. In short (and I'm happy to give anyone the long version of these events that wants them), I discovered the right shoes for me and endured the excruciating experience of watching a video of myself running in order to improve my form and I'm now the happy, well-adjusted runner you see today :-) Oh, and I quit the road for the rugged terrain of trails, but that my friends, is a whole other story.