Since February this year I’ve been having the IT band syndrome. An injury common to runners and since I was doing lots and lots of running it was an injury waiting to happen. Or was it really?
It all happened when training for my second marathon and in parallel training a lot to gain speed for the annual half marathon de Venloop in my birth town Venlo. The combination of long runs over 30 km’s in the weekends, short speed runs during the week and some matches in between was simply too much. At some point after running 18 km and still having about 10 km to go, I decided to run past my uncle and aunt to get something to drink. Immediately after stopping running I felt a pain on the outside of my knee. I didn’t dare running any further and my aunt brought me home.
I went to the physical therapist and was diagnosed with the first stage of the IT band syndrome. Nothing big, the therapist assured me. It would go away in a few days and I could resume my training program.
The weeks after that the pain did indeed go away and I decided taking on yet another match in which I had a chance to become third in my age catagory. Which, in the end, I did.
The weeks after that also went great and with the Venloop in sight, I had a good feeling that everything would turn out just fine. Until the last week before the Venloop. Again, during a short run of about 12 km I felt a pain in my knee. This time during running, which I know was a signal that it was the second stage of the IT band syndrome.
At that moment, ofcourse, I should’ve cancelled the Venloop. I should’ve taken some rest, done some exercises, stretching, etc. All the stuff that all the websites about IT band syndrome propose. Instead, I ran the Venloop. I told myself to stop running as soon as I would feel any pain. And, ofcourse I did feel this pain after about 9 km. And, ofcourse I did not stop. I knew my parents would be at the 11 km point. I didn’t want to dissappoint them and I didn’t want to step out of the match I trained for so much. So I continued running. And magically after 12 km the pain went away.
The result was a great half marathon in a personal record time of 1:32:16. The drawback though was a terrible pain in my knee in the evening, with a forced cancelling of the Rotterdam marathon a few weeks later. And, as it turned out a few months later, several months of no running, and even cancelling the New-York marathon later this year.
Now, five months later, I still have minor IT band syndrome symptoms. I can only run for a few km’s at a time. I’ve done stretching, core stability exercises, icing, etc. All to a point where it would drive my family crazy. I’ve bought two new pairs of cushioned shoes. I went from anti-pronating shoes to neutral shoes. Nothing really seemed to help.
Then I read about natural running. I read about people having knee injuries for years until they started running in a more natural way with minimalistic shoes instead of well cushioned shoes that forced them to land on their heel. I’ve started reading “Born To Run” by Christopher McDougall. And, ofcourse, I started natural running…… yesterday. I bought me a pair of Saucony ProGrid Kinvara 3’s and did my first round of 3.2 km yesterday.
So this is a new chapter in the running/IT band syndrome book. The first round yesterday made me very optimistic. The first few meters I still landed on my heel, but quickly after that, I started naturally increasing my cadans and landing on my mid-/forefoot. I could immediately feel the reduced impact/pressure on my knees and for the first time in months I didn’t feel my IT band irritating during running at all.
Ofcourse it’s too early to jump to any conclusions, but I’m very optimistic for the first time in months. Next to that, it’s fun to try something new and learn a more natural way of running. A next chapter might even be to try barefoot running, but for now: let’s focus on recovery and a smooth running form.
A nice video about natural running, which is interesting for all runners in general.