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When you’re new to the running game, you want to learn as much as you can, as fast as you can. It’s easy to become addicted to running blogs, magazines and the advice of fellow runners as you try and soak up every last bit of information that can help you improve. But your thirst for knowledge can do you in if your answers don’t come from a reliable place. Every runner out there probably has a story of ill-fated advice they eagerly followed and then immediately regretted. “You can eat whatever you want!” leading to a frustrating weight gain. “If you want to run a half marathon, just start running long distances!” ending up in injury. Or “You’ve got to carbo-load the night before a race!” turning into a morning spent in the bathroom.
My personal horror story came from making the mistake of listening when someone encouraged me to “run through the pain!” I was in college and just a casual runner, having traded high school track for the university equestrian team. For some reason, I decided I needed to up my game and increase my mileage and intensity. I immediately launched into a self-prescribed program of faster, longer runs. I can hear the collective forehead smack of smart runners everywhere, and I know what you’re thinking. And yes, you’re right—soon I was limping along with some serious shin splints thanks to my gung-ho attitude.
But here’s where it gets really bone-headed. Did I turn to a seasoned runner for tips? Maybe ask my coach for her athletic pointers? No, my sage advice came one morning in English Lit when a random classmate saw me wincing, and when I mentioned the shin splints, he said, and I quote, “Dude, that happens to my sister all the time. You just gotta run through the pain, man.” Of course! I thought. It sounded like the kind of advice people say all the time, so it had to be true. “I’ll simply run harder and this burning hellfire below the knees will just go away!” So I popped some ibuprofen and kept running and—shocker!—by the end of the week, I could barely walk, let alone run. It took a few weeks and many, many bags of ice stolen from the school cafeteria before I felt better and got both my legs and my common sense back.
So what’s the moral of the story? Don’t listen to the weirdo in the back row giving second-hand, unsolicited running advice. Kidding! The point is, whether you’re a brand spankin’ new runner or an old pro, if you’ve got a problem, turn to your peers in the sport and let those who have actually been there point you in the right direction. And don’t forget to listen to the best expert on your body—you! Take if from me—if it hurts, take it easy, and save yourself the bags of cafeteria ice.