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Wan's Column - Of Getting Old and Managing Injuries

I have been running for the past 30 years, relatively injury free (from running at least). I did suffered injuries from badminton and basketball during my younger days. I have since retired from both badminton and basketball for nearly a decade. I am going to share with readers my current experience with injuries, not so much to seek sympathy but to share my experience and the positive outlook we need to adopt moving forward. I believe I have a certain number of readers who are senior veterans or close to that, especially those who know me from the PACM days. I believe you too have to deal with injuries as we get older but are still keen to continue running as it is our favorite sports that give us a good kick after just 30 minutes on the road.

During the New Balance Pacesetters 15km 2007 in May 2007, I ran a fabulous race, clocking 1hr 24mins, just got the beautiful finisher certificate with my picture on it. While the time is nothing to shout about for the faster runners, it is at least 5 minutes faster than my past practice runs on the same course. As the Race Director of this event between 2003 and 2006, I have done both the old route and the current route on many occasions when I prepared for my half marathons. I seldom do the Sri Hartamas route as I hate crossing Jalan Duta, even on a Sunday. It translates into 830m faster as compared to my usual pace, and that's a lot for someone of my mediocre capability. After the run, I rested several days and deliberately skip all races for June and July. I found that I have developed bursitis on my right feet, inflammation of the sac below the Achilles tendon. I read about the injury on RunnersWorld and have been icing it after each long run, cut my mileage. It never healed completely and when I did the adidas King of the Road on 3 August 2007, it came back to haunt me after the 15km mark. After another week rest I went back to my usual routine of 30km per week over 5 mornings trying to live with the problem.

During my Sunday long run with Kim on 26 August 2007, I told her about this nagging bursitis problem I have. Immediately, I got an earful from her, it goes something like this………..."Uncle Wan, you have to go and see Dr. William to check it out, you have always advise us on never too much to soon………..you must practice what you preach……..the Saturday Beginners' Group look up to you as the role model………" The balance of the run from the 5km mark was a repeat of what was said till I commit to see Dr. William on 30 August 2007 when I took a day off to avoid the Merdeka traffic at KL. Well! At least I know I have a guardian angel in Kim who sincerely cares for the well being of her Sunday long run training partner.

Dr. William did an X-ray and Ultrasound scan on my right ankle after noticing a clear difference in the size of my left and right ankle. From the X-ray and Ultrasound, it is very clear, my right ankle was injured badly many years ago, I can recall it was during the school basketball days more than 30 years ago, I have injured my right ankle and left knee in basketball. Due to the injury, my right ankle never fully recovered and has lost considerable flexibility. As we age, the degeneration process will take its toll and a tough road race will result in an injury. The bursitis was a result from the weakness of the right ankle. The treatment is that I need to completely lay-off from running for 2 to 3 weeks and take some anti-inflammation drugs. As my injury is not considered severe, I choose to begin my recovery process after the Mizuno Wave Run on 9 September 2007, the last event before the fasting month when we all take a break from road races.

Managing Risk in Life
Life is about managing risk, it does not mean that with this little set back, I should give up running altogether. After my visit to Dr. William, I fully understand my injuries and what I need to do to get back to running. What is a 3 weeks break as compared to be able to run another 15 to 20 years; using Uncle Hooi Siew Weng and Francis Cheng as benchmark! I have been taught by Professor Heinz, a German professor who taught me market risk management several years ago that when something bad happened, look for the silver linings. Over the next 3 weeks, I have the opportunity to improve my swimming strokes by swimming more to keep my current level of fitness. I could also do some gym work to tone my upper body muscles. I will be able to send my second and fourth daughters to school in the mornings over these 3 weeks and have a little better bonding with them. On Sunday, instead of a long run at Bukit Tunku, I do a long swim at Holiday Villa Club and then have breakfast with my neighbor, Dennis Yee. We had not have breakfast together for a long while. All these soul searching positive thoughts help me take my mind off running.

Injuries Management, Lower Mileage & Cross Training
I know I am not alone in getting injuries. I notice a number of senior PACM members are now less active in running or have given up running altogether. I met some of them during Heng Kok Ching's son wedding towards the end of last year. Some have gone into cycling, a less impact sports but not necessary less risk. I feel the crux of the problem may not be running as a sports but the tendency of overdoing things, overused injuries as Dr. William Chan calls it. While PACM is a running club, it does not mean everyone must run a marathon to prove himself / herself. Running a marathon may be a great personal challenge but it comes with risk of injuries when the mileage goes above 60km a week at the peak of the training. We have to be clear of our objectives in running, most of us just want to keep fit and enjoy the runs we take part in. I have done 4 marathons, started from 1984 in the 1st KL International Marathon, the last one was during the Penang International Bridge Run 2000. Due to an old injury in my left knee from basketball and badminton in my younger days, I get a knee pain when I got to 30/32km mark even in 1984 when I was a young man. Since 2000, I have decided that I stick to half marathons and 10km that are more manageable. I could enjoy them with a 30km per week program, over 5 mornings, 51 weeks in a year. As we get older, getting injured is a painful experience, very frustrating and takes long time to recover. Therefore, injury prevention is critical…….not running too much is the best strategy. Swimming is my choice of cross training activity that I pursue whenever I could. You have to decide what level you should run to attain your fitness objectives. I also take Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate, a food supplement to take care of my joints. You could read about this compound by doing a Google search. I believe I could sustain my simple program for several years to come, modify it along the way with more swimming or brisk walking to achieve the cross training benefits. I hope more of you could continue to run as a sustainable exercise program and perhaps lower your mileage and do some cross training to give yourself a variety.

Mizuno Wave Run 2007
I suppose I can't possibly complete this piece without writing about this event, the last event before the fasting month. It means a lot to some of us, for me this is the last race I am running till I get a complete recovery from my injury. Honestly, throughout the run I did not feel any strain on my tendons or ankle. However, I still take the 3 weeks break during fasting month. Throughout the year, I have been advising the beginners at the Runners Malaysia Beginners' Program to target for the Mizuno Wave Run as their first 10km event. I feel it is the best event for a beginner to go for as the crowd is fantastic, all running or at least trying to run. The qualifying time is generous and even weak runners can fulfill. There will be finisher medals for all. Last but not least, it is organized by PACM, a minimum standard approved by runners can be assured! I have most of my beginners' group members doing well, completing their run within their capability. Chong Ting Chow was so happy completing his first 10km road race in 1hr 25 minutes. He took several pictures with us. Steven See also completed his run in 1hr 30minutes, a great feat for him given his fitness level.


Wan, Kim, Rizal and the veteran champion, Iwata Takatoshi after the Mizuno Wave Run


Chong with his coach, Wan (also his former classmate) with their medals from the Mizuno Wave Run

I don't find any flaws with the run, except for the men finish for those taking between 60 to 70 minutes; they can't run across the finish line but have to queue up to cross the line for their bib numbers to be written on the position cards. This is sort of a victim on its own success with 1616 finishers out of 2048 registration (79% turnout rate). The organizer has to settle for a single line for the men, instead of 3 lines for the 3 men categories due to its timing system. Not having the chips system will result in this minor problem that PACM will have to fine-tune given the likelihood of a larger participation next year.

Wan Yew Leong
17 September 2007
wanyewleong@gmail.com

 
 

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