If you listen when your body whispers, you will not have to hear it scream. Author Unknown

Many years ago, before I found yoga and Pilates, I ran my first marathon. It was grueling. Fortunately the summer I trained was fairly temperate for the D.C. area, unlike this past summer, so heat was not a big issue for me that year. However, I did suffer from IT Band Syndrome for much of my training and three weeks before the race I paid a visit to my orthopedist to make sure none of the bones in my foot had a stress fracture, since it had become difficult to walk. It turned out the issue was tendonitis, probably brought on from bad movement patterns created by my largely unaddressed IT band issue. I hobbled across the finish line with my fellow runners, happy to have finished. Success. My goal was simply to finish before the 14th St. bridge closed.

Did I know that my knees hurt long before my foot started having issues? Of course I did! But at the time, I stretched and I iced but I did not know about foam rollers or the stick and my coaches never mentioned them, probably because I did not ask. I just thought this was what you dealt with when you were not a distance runner trying to be a distance runner and I ignored the whispers until my foot was screaming.

All of our bodies are a bit different when it comes to how we absorb the world. I sweat. My cousin Danielle put it best one day, when pondering why anyone would go to the gym with a full face of makeup and perfect hair, because her sweat has sweat and that would just be a waste of time. I can totally relate. Charles on the other hand carries extra water in his running belt for me, because he handles the heat much better and does not need to consume as much as I do. Over the years I have learned what works for me when I run or exercise. I know what food to eat, what not to eat, at what rate, what water to electrolyte intake I need. And above all I pay attention when my body whispers.

In June I ran the NorthFace Endurance Challenge half marathon from Great Falls Park to Algonkian Park. Our spring here in northern VA was very cool, I did not have one long run training day over 70 degrees. On race day the forecast was estimated to be a high of 95. I know myself, I know I have heat management issues, I run with a bottle of water/electrolytes and fuel with extra salt, but 95 degrees… again I had a goal to finish. No record setting in those temps, which I was totally cool with. Charles ran the 10k and had a personal record! The heat is never an issue for him.

At about the 8 mile mark and 6 miles in to a 7 mile water stop gap, I came upon another runner. He was 20 years old, lying on the ground with debilitating heat cramps in his leg. He had taken some salt; my guess was way too little, way too late. He did not have any more. It had been long enough that it should have been working, it was not. I offered him my water. At first he turned me down; he didn’t want to take the last of what I had. I asked if he had fuel, he did not; I gave him a block with 3x salt he tried to wave that off. Then a fellow runner came around the corner with two water bottles and a fair amount left. So he accepted the fuel, drank the water and asked if we could help him stretch and get moving. Fortunately about the same time a water station person had hiked in on the trail and we were able to replenish our water until we could get to the station, still about 1 mile away.

When we got him up and walking, the young man commented that his dad ran the 50 miler the day before. Shouldn’t he be fine this was only 13.1? He was not taking into account that this was also his first half marathon and the spring training season was vastly different from the day we were faced with. As we walked I asked if he’d had any chills before things started locking up. He had. The other girl with us immediately said “wow that’s not good.” He asked why and we told him that chills are an indicator of the onset of heat exhaustion. We told him if he experienced that again he needed to walk immediately and increase his fluid intake until well after it had passed. As we walked we talked about what a cool spring training season it had been, his body just was not used to the heat and that is totally ok, a learning moment. It is better to take extra walk breaks and slow your pace in those conditions than to get carried off the trail by the medical staff. He finished the race, without serious injury, but it was hard fought for sure.

In any type of activity from climbing the stairs to running a marathon our body communicates when it is not at its best. If we listen to the twinges and the whispers and take appropriate action, hopefully we can head off the screaming. For most of us we are not out to win the race we are just out to finish, enjoy the journey, and maybe have a personal record along the way. But the most important thing is that you finish healthy and do not do any permanent damage. There is always another event to compete in, but you only have one body to live in. So hear what it is telling you and make sure you take the time out to really listen and take action when necessary.

I would love to hear your story about when you listened to the whispers or maybe you didn’t and the outcome of that circumstance… leave it in the comments below.