A few weeks ago, I was out running with my niece Caron, as she trained for her first half marathon in Vancouver. We were 2/3rds into a 16 k run, pushing steady and hard towards what was appearing to be a personal best time for her. Arriving at the stop sign of a rural concession road, we looped back onto the shoulder of a busy provincial highway for our “home stretch”. Caron steered herself a little further off onto the edge of the shoulder of the road. She was taking every precaution to avoid being run down by some distracted driver, as they sped along, sometimes over 100kph.
As Caron made that slight change of direction onto an ever sloping shoulder, and as her right foot landed, a sharp jolt of pain exploded within her knee. A muffled cry escaped from her lips and as I looked over, her face had lost it’s colour, and had the expression of fear and pain. Would that one errant step slam the door flat in her face of fulfilling her dream of running a half marathon?
As my own mileages have been increasing in preparation for my full marathon in Toronto, I have been finding that ROAD CAMBER had really been wrecking havoc on my knees. Construction Engineering Scientist defines “Camber” as “the slope of the line joining the crown and the edge of the road surface”. Country roads do not usually have storm drains, so in order to drain the water away during rain storms, the road is sloped, or cambered. For the runner, this means the right foot will land a bit lower than the left. Multiply that by a 15, 20, 25 k run and the knees begin to protest. Ideally the safest part of the road “FOR THE KNEES” would be right at the crown (the centre of the road). But if there were any traffic at all, it would not be safe at all for the rest of the body.
With this full marathon less than 6 weeks away, I have desperately been needing to get some more long runs in, but NOT at the risk of losing it all to injury. So I have changed WHERE I do my long runs, and now drive to the rail trails to do my runs. To the amusement of my family “Mr. Environmental Man” is now “driving, so he can run”. The rail trails are GREAT. There is no, or very little camber, which is much easier on the knees. They are not as hard as asphalt, which is easier on all the joints. With no traffic, you eliminate the risk of being run down by a distracted driver. And with running in nature, it is a whole lot more pleasant mentally. Just keep an eye out for the bears though! 🙂
Fortunately, my niece Caron’s story had a happy ending. She felt like she could keep going, but I certainly must have sounded like a broken record, “Are you sure you are okay”? But all of a sudden, “Personal Best” was the LAST thing on our minds. We slowed our pace, keeping to where there was less camber. As we keep going, Caron’s sharp pain dissipated into a dull pain, until when she finished the 16k’s, the pain was nearly gone. Just a few weeks after that, she did a tremendous run to complete her 1st half marathon in Vancouver.
Knee problems are just one of many ailments that can sideline runners training hard for an event. The Running Advisor is an excellent resource on running injuries and how to prevent them.
Have you ever been training for an event, and had to change how or where you train, due to injury, or to lesson the risk of injury?