Plaza 10K 2017 – my running lament

I suppose I should write something about this. I ran the Plaza 10K for the fifth year in a row over the weekend. And by “ran” I mean I ran and walked it. I’m pretty sure I ran more than I walked, but I haven’t bothered to analyze the stats my running watch recorded, so that might be wishful thinking.

This was the slowest I’ve ever completed this 10K and possibly every 10K I’ve run in my half dozen years of throwing my feet in front of each other. (But I haven’t bothered to check my statistics to confirm that either.) I accepted the medal they gave me once I crossed the finish line, and I drank five cartons of chocolate milk afterward, but it wasn’t a good race for me, and I was glad it was over. Oddly, of the nearly 3,000 runners, I was in the top two-thirds, which surprised me given my performance. There were more than a thousand runners who finished after I did. Nor was I last in my age group, which was a position I had regularly defended in my early days of running.

I haven’t written much about my running lately mostly because I haven’t been running much lately. And that’s actually on doctor’s orders. (The Plaza 10K was, obviously, done in defiance of my doctor.)

My running has grown miserable in the last several months. I just don’t seem to have the lungs for it. I can run at a decent, seemingly sustainable pace — and feel fine — and then have to stop and gasp much sooner than I would have on the very same route only a year before. (Two years ago I ran the Plaza 10K with a friend, and because she needed to walk some of the hills, I would run circles around her and even run backward just to stay with her, but I never had to stop running.) On Saturday mornings each week I would run the same route, and week to week I was finding my performance diminishing. I was stopping more frequently to catch my breath until I was down to quarter mile intervals.

I blamed it on training too much on a treadmill through the winter. I never selected a program on the mill but just trotted along at a constant pace for an hour, able to sustain this (with a good amount of sweat). So when the weather got decent enuf for me to hit the trails outside, and I didn’t have a constantly turning belt to establish and maintain my pace, I found myself going too fast, faster than my heart and lungs could support. So I told myself that I was having trouble reining in my pace, and that was why I was getting winded.

But that didn’t explain the week-to-week constant decline in performance, especially in the last few months. When an intended three-mile run was cut short at one mile, I called my doctor’s office on my misery-soaked walk home and made an appointment for the very next day.

The doctor took my complaint seriously and immediately had me give blood for some tests (all results within normal ranges) and submit to an EKG (also perfectly normal). I was then scheduled for a stress test — more treadmill running with sonograms of my heart action before and after — which turned up nothing. I’m sure the doctor initially thought that for a man my age, my problem was with my heart, but that hasn’t seemed to be the case.

Nor have I had any chest pains when I run. I’m pretty sure my heart isn’t the problem. (Though maybe my soul is.) Maybe it’s to do with my lungs, though I don’t know what could have changed recently and so significantly that I was having a decline in performance as I have. I’m supposed to do some lung tests soon too. The doctor had suggested other possible causes, including an endocrine problem, but I guess he’s ruling out the more likely culprits first. And in the meantime, he’s forbidden me from any vigorous exercise. I am allowed to walk my dog, but that’s about it.

Since I don’t believe I have a heart issue, I intend to go ahead with a 5K I have scheduled for next month at my old university, and I actually have a half marathon in late October I’m signed up for. And unless the doctor turns up something tangible, I intend to do the half. But if I do find a continuing decline in my running performance in the weeks before, I may decide for myself not to run it.

It’s disheartening. I’ve given up my goal of running a thousand miles this year (though I was on target for it as recently as July). I’m not eyeing the race calendar as I used to, looking for things I want to do. I’m going to give the medical possibilities a chance, but if nothing turns up, and if I can’t seem to turn the tide on will power alone, I’m not sure what I’m going to do.

There’s probably a story in this.

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One Comment on “Plaza 10K 2017 – my running lament”


  1. Good for the writing, but bad for the life. Let us know how it goes.


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