One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made since I started running trails nearly 13 years ago was ignoring the pain in my left knee in the summer of 2018. What began as mild discomfort and then occasional sharp, stabbing pain on a random step once every couple miles transitioned over the course of a few months into a full-scale running shutdown.
By ignoring strength training, stretching, and a variety of other daily maintenance activities through the years – and especially from winter 2017 into 2018 – my flat-footedness combined with muscle weakening in my legs led me to go from mild to major pronation. Gait analysis revealed that every time I landed while running, my knees buckled inward and caused the cartilage under my kneecaps to wear down. It was a problem for both knees, though far worse in my left. The result was about eight months of physical therapy and no running while focusing on strength and rebuilding my legs. There was a time when I wasn’t sure if I’d run again, let alone ultras, though with time and patience I’ve returned to both.
Still, I wasn’t thrilled to close out February and begin March with a wonky left knee, but this time I learned from my past mistakes. I had a good idea what the problem was, based on how and where in my left knee I felt discomfort and how my foot was landing in a new pair of shoes. This time, rather than letting the issue fester, I backed way off for two weeks (which fortunately coincided with my nephew’s visit to tour a few local universities) and switched back to the shoes I’ve trusted for the past few years.
In just two weeks’ time, the knee quieted down and I was able to ramp right back up with no pain and no noticeable loss of fitness. I put up 111 miles of running for the month of March and moved my yearly total to 427 miles for the first three months of the year. The March tally included a 20-mile day at the Blue Hills that has me back on track to run my fifth “Don’t Run Boston” 50K on April 16 and then continue to build to the Notchview Ultra 100.7-miler in July.
March was about patience and – ultimately – progress. Onward to April!