It’s 24 hours after I ran a personal best in the 21K, and I am not suffering any of the post-race pains that I had suffered in the previous races. There is a slight tingling in my thighs, but it seems more of muscle fatigue than the joint pains I described in an earlier post. I am also not as exhausted and I was able to get through the day with just a few hours of nap time (in the previous 21K, I was knocked out for most of the day!).
So what explains the improvement? Here are a few possible reasons:
Vibram Five Fingers. I am beginning to believe the hype surrounding that barefoot / minimalist running craze. In my last 21K, the Yamaha Run For Heroes, I wore running shoes and, the day after the run, the hip pain was debilitating. For the Rexona Run I wore the VFF Bikila LS, the same shoes that I wore in the Mizuno Infinity Run, where I also did not experience any hip pain the day after. I read somewhere that one cause of hip pain is poor running form and over-striding. If there is one thing that minimalist shoes prevent, it’s over-striding! You end up taking smaller but quicker shuffling steps because over-extending your legs could get painful.
Strength and flexibility exercises. As I wrote earlier, I started doing a couple of exercises targeting the ili0tibial band, that thick band of fibrous tissue that runs down the outside of the leg. I also added some core strength exercises like crunches and “planking.” No, not that silly fad but this kind of planking.
Post-run nutrition. After the run, I took an energy gel, downed the Powerade sports drink that came with the loot bag, munched on a protein bar on the way home, and then downed a protein-rich breakfast. Running depletes the glycogen stores in the muscle, and many experts believe that you have a short-window after a run to replenish those stores. “Ideally,” this health counselor/marathoner/triathelete wrote, “you should eat within 15 minutes after completing your workout. It’s in this short window that the enzymes responsible for making glycogen are most active and will most quickly replace the depleted glycogen stores.”