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Half a year after she was diagnosed with a prolapsed disc, Syida Lizta Amirul Ihsan is ready to hit the races again
IT has been more than six months since I ran competitively. It was last December at the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore when I completed my last half marathon, running 16km of the 21km route, in utter pain.
The stubborn girl that I am, I told my legs to just swallow the pain and move on. “We have weeks to recover from muscle soreness. Right now, we have to complete this race we have started,” I said.
After all, isn’t long distance running a question of mind over matter?
I finished in the top 10 per cent in my category. But I limped back to my hotel. I limped from the MRT station to my lunch treat, murtabak and a plate of spicy biryani.
I should have known that my happiness was going to be short-lived. I had not had this kind of pain before.
A month later, I found out I had a prolapsed disc, it wasn’t just soreness of the muscles. That diagnosis cost me two months of being barred from running.
How did that feel? Bad. Really bad.
For two months, I went to the office gym (yes, I am very lucky) in the morning and did all sorts of combinations with the elliptical trainer, stationary bike and Concept 2 rowing machine.
One day it was 30 minutes on each machine, another day it was the hill ride on the bike. On certain days, I’d use the elliptical backwards, just to work on different muscle groups.
Yet nothing came close to running. I had been running for two years before the injury happened and suddenly, I was stumped.
But I knew if I jumped on the treadmill — my orthopaedic surgeon had warned me against this — I would have to rest even longer.
The road to recovery is a long process that will test patience and mental endurance more than long distance running itself.
I felt sad when I saw runners pounding the tarmac. I wanted desperately to join them. I missed watching the sun rise on weekends — I used to start running my 12km route at 6am.
STARTING FROM ZERO
When my rest period was up, building my stamina and strength was another long and tedious journey. I could no longer do a lot of squats or lunges like I used to.
My leg muscles had weakened and I needed to remind them that running was what they were used to.
It seemed that my legs had forgotten the rhythm, the momentum and the joy of running that had been a part of them for the last two years.
But muscles are amazing machines. Teach them slowly and teach them well and they will show that they can do what you think is impossible.
I built up my running mileage from eight to 12km in a month, and followed that with 16km when I felt my stamina was up to it.
In between, I continued my lower body exercises. Lots of squats and lunges, stair climbs, leg extension and of course, yoga, to stretch and make muscles lean instead of bulky.
Last weekend, for the first time in seven months, I clocked in 21km comfortably.
More than happy, I am relieved and grateful that I am on track again, in a sports that defines who I am. And that teaches me about patience, perseverance and endurance.
This Sunday, I will be running my first half marathon this year. It is supposed to be my first full, but with the injury, I could not train enough to merit running 42km.
The old me would have felt agitated at not being able to carry out what I had planned. But after the injury that took me off the track, being able to lace up my trainers for a 21km cruise is, in itself, victory enough.