A Step Ahead: PT or Just Me?

I am still in physical therapy for the injury that just doesn’t seem to want to disappear completely.

Though, I am now well enough to run regularly.  And running regularly means my mind is churning with new goals, both long (Ironman, Boston, ultras) and short (a huge PR in the half, fall cross country, another full marathon) term.

Yesterday my physical therapist told me that runners are his most annoying patients.  “All you guys want to do is run.

My response?  “Of all of the behaviors that I have engaged in during my life, running is by far the most fiercely addictive.”

He then launched in to an extensive scientific explanation to validate my point (blah, blah, neurotransmitters, blah, blah, endorphins).  Yeah, I’m totally not smart enough to understand all of that yet.  But I will be someday.

***

I have a competitive spirit.

When I first set out to do something, I rarely begin with a normal goal (ie. just try it and see if I like it).  I begin with an absurd goal (ie. maybe I can do this at an olympic level).

I rarely succeed at those absurd goals, but having a big goal makes me want to work harder.  It adds meaning to those baby steps along the way.

I run for a million reasons.  I’m hooked on it for a million more.

I know that my Nike contract will never be on the line, but I have never stood at the start line of a race hoping only to finish.

I have always had a number in my head, or a personal best to best.

So, when on two recent runs I dropped paces in the 7:3x and 7:2x range, it’s funny that my mind was boggled.  I mean, hasn’t this been what I’ve been working toward all along?

Those numbers are fresh out of nowhere.  Until Saturday, my fastest recorded mile ever clocked in at 7:46 (2012 5th Avenue Mile).  Now I’ve bagged that twice (by 20+ seconds on training runs).

I love this, and I want to keep going.  I now plan to aim for at least one sub-8:00 mile in every single one of my workouts.

I’m reeling with thoughts of running a half at that pace.  Can I do it?  Yes, probably.  Eventually.  Soon.

But I have to ask, what is making this sudden improvement in my paces possible?

Is it the fact that I took two months completely off from running?

The “fresh legs” theory is based on the fact that in 2013 I went from half marathon training to 10k training to marathon base building to marathon training to fall cross country to injury.  Then I took two months off and came back with fresh legs, ready to go go go.  And off I went.  Plausible? Maybe.

Is it the effect of physical therapy?

The “core strength” theory is based on the fact that I may have neglected core strength training in the later months of marathon training and subsequently neglected my core altogether while contending with a bad back throughout the winter.  Now I have a PT that beats up my abs like woah and I am dropping speedy paces during training runs.  Plausible?  Well, I’m curious.  I know that a strong core helps with endurance and maintaining proper form in the long run, but where does it stack up for running shorter distances at faster paces?

Or is it simply that I would have gotten here anyway, on my own?

The “self improvement” theory is based on all of the readily available research out there demonstrating that (1) there is a steep curve for improvement in the first few years of running (I’m only back to running regularly since 2010) and (2) women in their thirties are making huge strides in their running.  Plausible?  Likely.  When I started running races in early 2012, my times were in the low 10’s.  I think I only ran one race in the 9’s before dropping to high 8’s later that same year and continuing through 2013 (except for the marathon, which I ran mostly in the 9’s until slowing in the final 5k of the race).  Had I not been training for a long distance race, such as the marathon, or had I not been injured and had I run early spring races this year, maybe I would have started seeing some 7’s in races.  It’s hard to say.  If I ran a race tomorrow, I know that I could see those numbers.  So maybe, for me personally, I could have gotten here on my own.

But I can’t overlook the fact that I did take two months off from running and I have been building a strong core in physical therapy.

So maybe it’s a little of everything.

Who knows?

 

 

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