Typically when I run, I don’t carry anything but my Garmin on my left wrist and maybe a BonkBreaker bar in my left hand. Running outside, I don’t even listen to music. Last weekend, that changed a little. My first 20-mile run of the training cycle was scheduled for Saturday. Due to the Pope and his associated festivities occupying most of my normal running routes in Philly, I decided to head north and do four 5-mile loops around Tyler State Park. I had never run there before.
First of all, contrary to the knowledge on the Internet, it is NOT flat. So I unintentionally did a very difficult hilly and slow (well, I was trying to run slowly, but even slower than I intended) 20 miles. Secondly, because I would be running somewhere new, an hour from home, through woods and meadows and whatnot, I carried my cell phone with me so that I could theoretically call 911 and tell them where to find my body if something untoward happened. Hurrah. I carried my iPhone in my left hand where my Bonkbreaker typically goes. Since I would be looping by my car, I left the Bonkbreaker there until I was ready to eat it around mile 8. Sometime around mile 10, my right glute and hip starting shooting pains to my brain. I immediately slowed down.
I have a few strategies I employ when weird cramps and pains crop up during my runs. I slow down. I concentrate really hard on relaxing whatever area is paining me and deliberately take longer, slower breaths. Lastly in all the sports I have done, from horseback riding to Bikram Yoga, it has been evident that I have a tendency to shorten my right side and weight my left more. Almost always, if a cramp or pain is serious, it is a result of my posture. If I lengthen my right side, drop my right hip back down, and put a bit more weight into my right leg, the issue goes away. So I tried all the things.
Nothing worked. I was starting to get very concerned. I was only at mile 10. The pain was bad enough that I was worried about injuring myself if I continued as things were. I wracked my brain trying to figure out why this was suddenly an issue. The only thing I was doing differently was carrying my iPhone…
I switched my phone to my right hand. Within about ten meters, the pain was gone. It was miraculous! I’m having trouble believing that so little weight could make such a huge difference. But I ran the rest of the hilly and single-track 20 miles issue-free for a very, very slow 9:51 per mile. The experience reinforced my dislike for carrying things while running and made me even more interested in testing all possible combinations of race-day equipment before race-day!
Have you found that small things make such a huge difference while running?