Running and My Knee...
I’ve been meaning to write about running basically since I started getting serious about it a year ago, but it never felt like quite the right time. Either I was too early in my training and I didn’t feel like I had accomplished enough, it was too soon after my marathon and I needed more time to think about it and figure out my next race and long-term goals, or I was getting married and going on a honeymoon and just didn’t have time.
Funny then, that I’m writing this at a point where I haven’t run in almost exactly two months, and my prospects of having running being a major part of my life for the foreseeable future are the lowest they’ve ever been. But, such is life. It’s also the day before I was supposed to run my first 50k around the Marin Headlands, but that’s not happening. So if you came here for a breakdown of my training regimen or running gear reviews, you’ll have to wait a bit. This is mostly just me opining about getting old.
September 12, 2017 - I played a game of rec-league basketball at the JCC like I do most Tuesday evenings, and nothing was particularly memorable about this game. I probably made some 3-pointers and played mediocre defense. No specific memories stand out, which is weird, because the next morning my right knee was super swollen and stiff. Not painful, so I powered through and kept biking to work, and even went for a 10 mile run that Saturday. My knee loosened up a few miles in and it was a good run. The next day, it was swollen and stiff again, and now had some weird stability issues - I needed to use a knee brace for my wedding dance lesson that day.
All the while, it still didn’t really hurt. Physical activity or long periods of standing would make it swollen, but not painful. The stability issues became less frequent as I rested, so I hoped that it was an overuse injury such as Runner’s Knee and it would heal up given some time. I also had a wedding and honeymoon going on, so taking a break from the time-commitment of running was probably smart anyway for the future of my marriage.
After settling back into normal life post-honeymoon, I booked a doctor’s appointment, got an x-ray, and finally figured out what was wrong with my knee…
A mild case of osteoarthritis. It took me completely unprepared considering I figured I had at least another 20 years before having to worry about that. Unfortunately that’s not the case. After having ACL surgery in high school it was always a question of when I would develop arthritis, and since then I’ve played seven years of competitive volleyball and then practiced off-and-on long distance running culminating in my marathon this year. Two of the worst things for your knees are… jumping and running, particularly uphill and downhill. I live in (very hilly) San Francisco. Given my history, the doctor was a lot less surprised than I was.
So yeah, that’s where I’m at. Currently, I’m doing knee strengthening and stretching exercises combined with yoga and bike commutes - all low-impact activities that should help build up muscles that support the knee and take pressure off the joint. Assuming those go well I’ll hopefully start gradually getting back into running in the new year. Luckily I was able to transfer my 50k registration this weekend and instead I’ll be basically walking the 10k (mostly so I can wear the shirt, and it helps that I’ll be with my wife and a friend).
I’ve got a short term plan, but I don’t really know what the future holds here. Finding info online from people in a similar situation has been surprisingly difficult - most accounts of runners with arthritis are that they “deal with it.” I’m looking for a little more specificity. What can I expect my upper bounds to be now? Should I abandon the 50k’s and switch focus to something more attainable? Or are those still within reach (without aggravating my knees so much I need knee replacements before I’m 40)?
In any case, I intend to find out. Running has been by far the most consistent exercise I’ve committed to since organized sports, and I hope I can continue to have it be a part of my life in some form for the long-term. Regardless of what ends up happening, I just wanted to put some thoughts down while they’re still somewhat fresh. I think this is the most sudden realization of my own aging that I’ve had so it’s been a bit of a shock, even if I’m still generally optimistic.