Tag Archives: Piriformis syndrome

Race Report: Philadelphia (Half) Marathon, November 17

by Paul Thompson

Last weekend I started the Philly Marathon with Mo’ath Alkawaldeh. Mo completed his in a little over 2:37, a great debut. I meanwhile DNF. Or more precisely I took ‘advantage’ of the option to bail out at half way. This option, open to all marathon entrants, gets you timed and scored as though you had started the half that’s run simultaneously.


Mo and I just before the start.

My game plan all along had been to pace Mo through half way. Approaching 13 miles the course does the splits – turn left for another 13 miles or turn right for a 100 metre dash across the finish line. As I turned right course officials, spotting my marathon bib, gestured me to turn left. I almost had to run over them. I had mixed feelings crossing the line. I felt relieved not to be in Mo’s shoes with 13 miles left. I felt great for having logged 1:13:20 after weeks of battling sciatica. But I felt a bit of a fraud with the marathon bib – a job half complete. Was it a DNF? And, soon after crossing the line just ahead of me, Eric Shafer turned to announce he was a masters runner. That left me in second place for the masters, a one second deficit costing me $500.

Mo followed his first half 1:17 with a solid 1:20 second half. Mo and I used to train together when he lived in New York. Keen to run a fast debut marathon in the 2:30s he flew to New York from Jordan to stay with us for the week leading up to the race. We drove to Philly where we stayed, with Mo’s friend Osama Al Qattan (who PR’ed with 3:26) at a hotel in the city’s suburbs.

I had offered to pace Mo to half way at around 2:30 pace. We set out at 5:45 pace but after 2 miles he was a few seconds adrift. I felt ‘up for it’, my sciatica lost without trace. Pre race he suggested I race it. So I did. My pace making days were over before they even started.

As 6 miles approached, in the spectator packed Downtown area, I decided to step on the gas and, hopefully, do enough to take first masters and the $500 prize. My 10k split of 35:23 (5:41 average) compared with 5:30 average for the latter 11k which took in the two hills in West Philly.


Racing to the finish

Philly is a great race. Some 23,000 ran the half and full combined. The course was pretty fast and varied – city center, riverside, park ‘an all. Spectators came out in their thousands to bellow their support. In the Drexel University area this extended to students completing a marathon night of revelry with beers on the sidewalk.

Mo and I enjoyed elite entry status. This meant we had the ‘luxury’ of hanging out in the elite tent pre- and post-race.  And a designated restroom with no line. The elite tent gave us the opportunity to study the pre- and post-race routine of real elite athletes.


Chatting to some Kenyans post race

One standout was the heightened security, a legacy of the Boston bombing. This extended to clear only baggage and restrictions on spectator access. But what was clear was that New York and Philly have overcome the restrictions and put on even better marathons than before.


UPS vans ready to take the clear bags to the finish area


Sometimes Victory is Bittersweet

by Paul Thompson

A few days ago I won the accolade of being Men’s Runner of the Year, 45-49 Age Group for the 2012 season at the New York Road Runners (NYRR) Club Night. It was one of my goals of 2012 so it was mission accomplished. But any desire to celebrate was tempered by a dogged injury.


I’ve won the award for 6 straight years, every year since I turned 40 back in December 2005. My aim is to make it 10 out of 10 during my 40s. But these past few weeks I’ve come to realize that the biggest hurdle to achieving this is unlikely to be my ability to sustain the motivation and training nor is it likely to be my competitors, formidable as they are. Rather the greatest obstacle could be injury.

A month ago I felt invincible as I racked up the quantity and quality of my training. In January I was running 75-90 miles week and pushing low 5 minutes per mile (MPM) at the end of long tempo sessions. Now I have been humbled by piriformis syndrome which has so far proved hard to budge.

And so here I am in Boulder CO.. What was to be a long hard weekend of training as a final platform for a crack at running the London Marathon under 2:30, bag a PR and win the M45-49 age group has instead turned into a rehabilitation camp.

This morning, during a snow storm, I ran 6 miles at 8 MPM. And it did not feel anything like as easy as the pace would suggest. The past month I have run barely 40 miles versus over 300 in January. I’m now stretching.

The moral of the story is that when you are feeling invincible and lauding it over others you are at your most vulnerable and all set for a fall. As my mum would say “don’t get too big for your boots”.


Watching from the Sidelines is Harder than Racing

by Paul Thompson

This morning I was in northern Manhattan watching the Coogan’s Salsa Blues and Shamrocks 5K. It was one of those rare occasions when I was watching from the sidelines rather than competing. And I learned it was not only harder to watch than race, as I did last year, I am also less good at it.


The leaders make there way up the first hill

My spectating was forced on me by injury. I am three weeks into an injury which has gotten progressively worse, dragging my fitness and spirit down with it. Fortunately, since my last blog post, I am one step closer to getting over it. Thanks to Facebook friends I think I now know what I have and how to treat it.

The problem seems to be piriformis syndrome. A complex sounding condition which boils down to something very simple: a ‘pain in the butt’, literally not just figuratively. My physician confirmed it on Friday and at noon tomorrow I will be at New York Physical Therapy.

Self treatment started last week. As I write I am sitting on a baseball: I would not know how to throw one (I come from a country that plays cricket) but I sure know how to sit on one to get some relief. Another series of stretches I found useful were on Youtube. And yesterday I found myself rolling my feet on small balls (!) with five women. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Hence, with injury here I was standing roadside cheering on team mates, watching and listening to this colorful part of Manhattan. I found it colder, much colder, standing around in several layers than racing in singlet and shorts. Watching also reminded me of my problem: I just wanted to be running.


On course entertainment

I am just plain out of practice when it comes to spectating: many of my Warren Street clubmates I came to cheer along went by without me noticing. I ‘practice’ running 20 hours week but I only spectate once in a blue moon. My wife, Shamala, a veteran of most of my races, is far better at it. I now know why she complains about ‘hanging about’ trying to catch a glimpse of me running

Though injured life has its consolations. Having entered the race and gotten a number I was able to share in the free post race refeshments, a curious combination of Guinness, shepherd’s pie and sesame seed micro muffins, at Coogan’s Restaurant, at 9:30am Sunday.


An unused number but at least it got me two free drinks coupons