alsoran runners Hammies!

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In February 2001 I ran my PB (personal best) marathon in a time of 3:58:17.  Now anyone who knows me can imagine the ‘low flying’ I must’ve been doing!  For this ALSORAN runner, things just went really well on the day and before I knew it, I had broken 4 hours on a marathon, the Cango Caves Marathon to be exact!  Nowadays I have to race to break 5 hours.  How times have changed (literally and figuratively).  I digress!

Well I felt pretty good after the run.  My celebrations did not stop at all that day.  By the Monday morning, I was back on the road with my running buddies.  We took things easy as I had a warm sensation at the back of my leg starting from my butt.  I figured it was tired legs after Saturday’s effort.  So the next morning I was out on the road again, warm butt/leg and all.  By Wednesday the warm sensation was feeling more like a burning sensation.  I figured it might be a good idea to pop in and see my physio and just get her to give my legs a good old rub down.  I was planning on running the Cape Town marathon that coming Sunday.  What can I say, I was young and bullet proof!  Well my physio took one feel (which I felt, ouch!) and told me the sad truth.  I had a torn hamstring

Up to this point in my running I had no idea what a hammie even felt like.  Alas, it appears I had pushed it beyond its capabilities.  Never to be put down by a running injury, I asked my physio to sort it out so I could run my marathon on Sunday (ok again, I was young and foolish!)  This is when she told me the sad reality.  She said “Nikki. If you run Cape Town on Sunday, I promise you, you will not run the Two Oceans this year”!  It was like God himself had spoken those words.  She wasn’t kidding, no smile on her face!  Well as punishment I was ‘banned’ from running for 2 weeks.  That was her deal.  In that time, I saw her regularly and she worked her skill and her magic on my leg each time. 

After 2 weeks I was allowed gentle running to get the leg working again.  She also told me that hamstrings have memories, they don’t forget easily!  Even though I was running again, I knew the hamstring was there!  It would take months before it went into hiding.  The good news is that I was able to get back to my training, albeit a little slower than before, but I made the start line of Two Oceans and continued on to run marathons and ultras for the rest of the year.  This was a happy ending.

Then in July of 2006, having run the Comrades Marathon 3 weeks earlier, I ran the Knysna 21km as a “fun run” before the Rhodes Ultra Marathon which takes place a week later.  Well I was running in a very festive bus (the Sub Sober bus to be exact) but they picked up the pace towards the end and I fell off the bus.  Not wanting to come in on my own, I gave chase with about 2km to go, catching them just outside the stadium.  We finished all together and I thought that was that.

During the week that familiar warm sensation made a return.  Hello hamstring my old friend, you’ve come to run with me again!  Unfortunately for me, I was in transit, we were travelling up to Rhodes so there was no chance of physio in between.  The other problem was that there was no way I could pull out of the race, I was ‘defending’ a Rhodes ticket and had missed the deadline for substitutions!  I had no choice but to run!

If you have ever run Rhodes you will know that it is a 52km trail run at altitude in freezing conditions!  So my hamstring and I set out and did battle with the mountains all day.  It burnt, it bitched, it bit me!  Running hurt and so did walking!  Eight and a half hours later we were done (in more ways than one!)

That put paid to the rest of the year in terms of racing anything.  I still ran Voet and Winelands but basically I had stopped training altogether in between, choosing to ‘run on memory’.  Not really a good idea!  I guess I wasn’t particularly ‘phased’ because I had achieved what I wanted to for the year, namely finishing the  Comrades Marathon.

Come the new year, when training needs to start in earnest for Two Oceans and Comrades marathon and my offending hamstring was still there!  Now I was ‘phased’ because I had started my “focus” for Comrades and needed to do the training.  Well to cut a long story short it involved almost weekly physio from January until June as I continued my training for Comrades.  I had to run at a slower pace so that my hammie wouldn’t twinge.  I also had to stretch before every run (and as you know, runners don’t stretch, that is, unless they are injured!)  As luck, rest and good physio would have it, I lined up for my 10th Comrades feeling strong and fit and proceeded to finish comfortably in 10:52, with no hamstring side effects!

What have I learned from all of this? 
  • That hamstring injuries don’t just go away or get better. 
  • They need to be treated with respect. 
  • LISTEN to your physio when you are told to REST. 
  • Run SLOWER and DON’T PUSH if you are in the “hamstring repair” phase. 
  • Hamstrings do have long memories BUT they do get better if you play by the rules!

Key words: marathon, torn hamstring, running, Comrades Marathon, hammie
Internal links: stretching, physio, focus, running buddies,
External links: Official Comrades Marathon website, Two Oceans Marathon, Rhodes Ultra Marathon

Copyright Nikki Campbell 2008