Running: Now With Hamstrings!

Folks warned me, and I should have listened–5k’s are addictive. About a week after my 5k back in October, I signed up for another 5k on December 11. It’s not a fundraiser and so is more expensive to participate in ($35), but I’m actually using a training program for this one.

The classic Couch-to-5k isn’t a good fit for me–I’d be starting several weeks in, and 30 minutes doesn’t equate to 3 miles for me. Going for a distance-based training program led me to Hal Higdon’s novice 5k routine. Not the most conservative program, but it’s silly to only increase by 10% when you’re starting at 1.5 miles.

I can’t believe how much I love running. How did I ever stop doing this?

If I’m running with Greg, I get to try to hold a conversation and match paces. Why did I pick to be with a dude that’s taller than me? I’ll never do it again. If I run alone, I’m mentally choreographing dances to whatever I’m listening to.

…Shuddup. Yeah, I’m a dork.

Even worse, I try them out when Greg’s not home.

Under-training for the 5k in October has left me with sad legs, though. My right hamstring (and surrounding inner thigh muscles) is tighter than a mofo. Sitting with my legs spread (oh, yeah!), I can put my face on my knee on the left side, but can’t get my hands to my ankle on the right side. I missed three weeks of hip-hop after the 5k as a result, despite half-hearted stretching attempts.

I’ve never had hamstring issues before. Quads, shins, calves, yes. It’s scary how tight it can get, but it really only actively hurts during hip-hop. Add mild shin/calf pain from the new routine, and I was pretty discouraged a couple of weeks ago.

Taking on basic (but lengthy) yoga is helping quite a bit. Downward dog is the best calf stretch I’ve ever found, because it’s easy to shift and twist a bit to stretch my feet or calves a little differently. (If I have shoes on, I can do the hang-off-the-stairs stretch, too, but shoes limit my range of motion.) The age-old wall stretch does nothing for me and never has, even when my calves are tight.

Just keeping my calves limber is doing wonders for running. Flexible calves help absorb the shock of running, and when mine are tight my steps are pretty close to flat-footed clopping rather a good rounded mid-foot strike. I’m stretching before (*gasp*) and after running, though.

For hamstrings, I’m doing the classics: the bend-over-and-dangle stretch, the split-leg stretch, and the lying hamstring stretch.

Those aren’t working so well for me, and I’d love suggestions of others to try. I can get more limber, but it’s very temporary; within a couple of hours, it’s tense again, and if I let 24 hours go between, I’m essentially starting fresh. I’ll be bumping this up to 3-4 times a day to see if that helps. I had to do a similar frequency when I had quad tendonitis.

The good news is that with the current amount of tension I won’t need to pass on the 5k, and I still have a month to fix the hamstring. Those of us only doing the 5k on December 11 (rather than the marathon or half-marathon) don’t get chips and such during the race, but I’ll clock my own time and use that as a baseline for improvement.

Does running to beat my own times make me a competitive runner?


  • Jed Carty

    I do not run, but when I have trouble with my knees or back when biking ibuprofen helps a lot if I am sore or after being a slacker for a few days. According to the doctor it does not cause health problems like acetaminophen and it keeps swelling down. I am not sure how it would work with your hamstrings, but it let me work on my knees without causing more damage.

    • Melissa

      Unfortunately, I can’t take ibuprofen (or aspirin, or any NSAID). I can only take acetaminophen, which doesn’t help much with swelling (or pain, for that matter >_<). That's been the bane of my running "career", for sure.