8 August 2011

Pace vs knee pain: my running paradox

N and I have signed up to run a half marathon (Kaveri Trail) and I have been training for it from early July. Since I was trying to lose weight by running, it made sense to have a goal for the work out. (Note: interested readers may wish to be informed that I have lost NO weight whatsoever since I started running. Go figure.)

I enjoy running, well...at my pace one may call it jogging or trotting. My pace has never been great but sometimes, when my heart is beating steadily and my shoes beat rhythmically against the asphalt, I reach a place of immense tranquility - this is when I think I am in the zone. I feel like I don't ever need to stop running. Luckily (?), the shrill piercing sound from a horn of an irate driver is all it takes to break the spell.

The problem with running though is knee pain. It normally manifests during my longer runs but in this training cycle I was rather amazed that even the weekday runs were turning sour. A kilometer into the run and my knee began to announce it's unhappiness, escalating quickly to a screaming inflammation in the next 10 mins or so. This is not fun. It prevents me from getting in the zone; heck, it prevents me from simply signing off from life and living in my head for a while. I can't think: that's the level of pain I experienced. I tried ice packs, strengthening exercises and the whole drill that worked previously, but to no avail. Then, at my last run, not wishing to prolong the agony (my goal is always distance not time) I decided to quicken my pace. And lo! no pain. I went from doing 8 - 8.5 Km/hr to 8.2 to 9 Km/hr. It's not a major change in pace at all, but the relief from knee pain is immense. I never thought that increasing my pace would reduce the pain. I have only tested this hypothesis on the treadmill and will explore it more when I run in the park on Saturday.

It's counter-intuitive but I am fairly certain that increasing my pace has improved my running form to the extent that I am knee-pain free for a large part of the run. Tomorrow morning will tell if there is any stiffness but already while doing bends I don't sense any residual throbs of pain in the knee. Hurrah! I do wish all solutions in life came so easily.


  1. Does your posture/stride/gait change as you pick up the pace? I guess it must. Hooray for running without pain!

  2. Hi Lindz,

    It is puzzling but delightfully so. Another reason I was offered for this is that running faster equals faster circulation and so anti-inflammatory responses are reaching more quickly/ inflammatory molecules are being whisked away from quickly.

    Hope you are enjoying the new job!