What If?

Before I get started with my post, a little housekeeping note. If you didn’t win my Pacific Health Labs giveaway (and 117 of you did not!), they are generously offering my readers a 20 percent discount on all orders through Feb. 15. Just go here and enter the code ZIPPY.

Back to our regularly scheduled program…
If you had to put racing on hold for an entire year and just focus on running in an entirely new way, would you do it? Would you be willing to go through (temporarily) losing some speed, enduring some adaptation pain, all for the sake of a future of injury-free running?

I think those are the questions before me right now. I LOVE to race. I love training for a race, I love planning my splits, I love the nerves I get on race morning (well, not quite so much). But, I think I understand that the right path for me is to give up racing for 2011 and concentrate on getting healthy, relearning how to run, and ditching my traditional running shoes.

I’ve been told it will likely cause my PF ridden feet months of arch pain. I’ve been told I’ll probably be slower for a while. And I’ve been told that if I’m not willing to invest the time–months to more than a year even–don’t bother.

This is a tough pill to swallow for me. However, I think it’s the right pill. I’m figuring out how to reframe my coming year of running (as soon as I’m back to running) in this new fashion. I’ve faced obstacles before and I know one thing about myself–I am one determined soul. And right now I am determined to kick injuries to the curb once and for all. Giving up a year of racing will be worth it.

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  1. Gracie (Complicated Day) says

    I took a big break last spring after hurting my knee, and it was worth it to get healthy. But it sure was boring!

  2. Jesse - Run To The Border says

    It would be difficult to take a year from racing, but I would say that it's worth it in the long haul.

    At least you're smart enough to know that the transition takes time. So many people end up injured from making the transition too quickly (myself included – extensor tendonitis, although it cleared up after a month or two of complete rest).

    I don't wear my Vibrams all the time, but I have found that the improved running form that I've developed because of them has increased my speed (whether or not I'm wearing them or regular shoes). If you make the transition, I wouldn't be surprised if a year from now you were blowing your old PR's out of the water.

  3. J says

    That is really tough but I think not racing for a year in order to run/race for the rest of your life is worth it. We are here to support you and when you get back to running it will be worth it!

  4. Bethany + Ryan says

    wow, i'm sure this is really difficult news for you to hear. For me, i would do it. "racing" just means running fast, you can still run "races" if you wanted to, right? You'd just have to go slower and stick to shorter races? Maybe you could focus on running some 5ks with some of your friends who have never ran one before? just to keep busy and pass the time, ya know?
    I think it is totally worth it to do whatever needs to be done to ensure that you will be running well into your 70s! or however long you plan on running for! good luck to you!

  5. Teamarcia says

    A bitter pill for sure but it does sound like the right choice in order to sustain running longevity. I think it's important to fill the void you'll have by not racing with something equally productive/enjoyable/fulfilling. Cycling? Swimming? Something else? Hugs girl!

  6. Lisa says

    I hardly ran at all last year because of my foot injuries and it was really tough. But, if it's the difference between running now and running for many, many more years, then I think it's worth it! You'll still be running, right? Just not as fast and it may hurt a bit while you're getting used to it. But at least you'll be running and you're going after a great goal!

  7. *~* *~* Tracy says

    a racing hiaitus, not a running hiaitus, right?
    Definitely worth it in the long run. You can fill the 'racing' void by volunteering at races. It's a lot of fun and race directors always need reliable volunteers.

    A year is a long time, but the rest of your running life pain-free is hopefully *much* longer

  8. misszippy says

    Tracy nailed it–this is a racing hiatus, not a running hiatus. So while difficult, I'll still have the sport I love, just in a different way. And it's all temporary!

  9. Jeff - DangleTheCarrot says

    I'd think for most of us it would be difficult to give up racing but I also think if anyone can do it, it is you Amanda. You have the drive and willpower to focus on your goals, whether it be a race or changing your running style. If this is your goal and you are confident it is what you need to do to prevent further injury then it is well worth the cost of not racing. And next year at this time you will reflect back on what a smart decision you made. You still get to run and if you look at it as a new challenge to be conquered then you will nail it!

  10. Matty O says

    OH? Drinking the magic kool-aid are we?

    I am doing it…. I have not bought minimalist shoes, but my IT Pain is minimal. When I take normal strides while running, flares up. Makes you wonder huh?

    DO IT. Its one year… but think of the pain and frustration you are dealing with now. One year of changing form and style… well worth it in my book. I am just not taking time off from racing… haha.

  11. Allie @ The Constant Pursuit says

    I think giving up racing would be REALLY difficult (I know it would for me). But, I think besides it allowing us to cope with injuries, I think for me it would also remind me why I love running, which I know I sometimes forget as I'm trying to get faster, stronger, etc. It might put the "why" back in a little bit more, which isn't a bad thing. :)

  12. Jim ... 50after40 says

    Wow … that would be a tough one – I don't know if I could do it. It sounds like you've made the best decision for the big picture though.

  13. bobbi says

    I could do it, but races are what keep me motivated, so it'd be tough. Good luck to you – we're all cheering for you, even if the finish line's kinda far off…

  14. Mamarunsbarefoot says

    Zippy it's worked for me!!! Now I will suggest you don't use Vffs. I took 8 months off of racing. I just started from scratch. With my barefeet. Now as you know I'm working back into a shoe, but it can't be heavy, supported etc. Be patient, obey the rules of the process! Those who get hurt and blame it do not do this. :)

  15. Mamarunsbarefoot says

    BTW your arches will ache for a bit BUT it does go away, from someone who had constant arch pain I suffer no more! It's just your feet getting stronger. Just the muscles having to work, that's it! PF will/should never be a prb with this because your feet will support themselves strongly.

  16. SupermomE12 says

    I think the long term big picture of being able to run without injuries is more important than the short term (racing this year), even though racing is so motivating and so much fun. And who knows? Maybe your body will surprise you and you will be able to race sooner than you think. Good luck!!

  17. amy says

    I would definitely do it, in a second. Looking forward to hearing all about the things you try and your progress. This is very exciting!

  18. Julie says

    You've got A LOT of years left of running if you take care of yourself, if you don't…maybe not so many.

    Totally worth it!

  19. Evolving Through Running says

    That's a tough decision to make, but I think you should do it. You've taught a lot of people a lot about running, and this would be another part of that evolution. I'm VERY interested in following your progression with this, as we seem to share a common set of ailments. Still wishing you fast healing.

  20. Andrew Opala says

    Wow, that's a serious decision before you. I feel like I need racing, even on certain days of the training week, to gauge my progress. Let alone once every few weeks for real.

    Injuries though are tough. Our bodies can't just leave what their doing to let us run. We need to cooperate with the body more to make it our friend.

    Maybe there's a compromise in there … maybe laying off at the start can help you jump in and be 100% or better much sooner.

  21. Michelle says

    It sounds like a year away from racing is worth it if you'll come out stronger on the other side. I admire you taking such a long term view of your running – definitely something I could learn from! I will look forward to following your progress!

  22. Running and living says

    I personally don't think that there will ever be a guarantee that you are never going to get injured. I'd be skeptical of anyone telling me this. I would seek another opinion. Good luck with whatever you decide to do. I am excited to follow along:)

  23. Amanda - RunToTheFinish says

    i agree that is a tough decision because you love the racing, but in a way you are still putting a challenge before you to complete just with a different end game. For long term, yes I would be willing to trade one discomfort for another to ensure I could keep on running

  24. Marlene says

    If I had legitimate reason to believe that something needed changing AND it was coming from a reputable/reliable source that I trust AND I would have the support/guidance needed to make the transition… then yes, I would do it!

    You have a lifetime of running and racing ahead of you, so I think it's worthwhile. Good luck to you!

  25. Ewa says

    I had to find another goal to pursue because of silly Achilles tendon. I could probably resume more regular running now but I don't want to abandon our long trek in the Sierras. Running will be there when I am back.
    Heal fast and well – I know how much you love to run.

  26. abbi says

    That would be difficult since the races are really what motivates me but it sounds like you are looking at it realistically for the best in the long term!

  27. Katie says

    I would do it in a freakin heartbeat. but i've had a tough time with injuries and haven't really even done a lot of racing, so my view is very different from yours. it's a tough decision, but it sounds like a good one – you want to be a runner for life!

  28. Johann says

    I'll give up racing because I just run for the love of it anyway. I never chase times so normal running is fine for me. I'm just not convinced about the whole barefoot/minimalist scene. As I mentioned before I don't believe it will be good in the long term. Also, if you reduce your training and move over to running in a new way while you wear your current shoes I believe you will also be injury free. You will just be able to race again much sooner and much more for many years more. That's my personal view on this. I'm just glad I'm not the one that have to make this decision. All the best with this, I've got nothing against it but you now know what I believe. Enjoy your weekend!

  29. Big Daddy Diesel says

    I am addicted to racing, thus last season aquabikes, I am pretty sure thats not an option you want to pursue, but if I were you, I would race, telling myself from today on its all about the finishline and not my times

  30. The Hungry Runner Girl says

    Oh girl, I am so sorry! It is easy for an outsider to say of course I would take a year off from racing etc. but I can't imagine having to make that decision for myself. Girl, I am praying for you! You are such an amazing athlete and I know you will make the right decision! GOOD LUCK!

  31. Runners Fuel says

    It will be worth it! Overall, one year isn't that much over your lifetime. And after you heal, you can slwoly get back into it. At least you can run!

  32. Kiley says

    Man, injuries cause so much more than just the bodily pain. Sorry you can't race, but hopefully taking the time off to change things up will be worth it!!

  33. funderson says

    Bah! Going fast is overrated. WHY hurry unless the weather is crappy?? :)
    I've learned that if I don't listen to my body about slowing down or taking it easy, it will MAKE me listen by breaking.

  34. Dash says

    I took 2 years away from racing, and I think I definitely needed it. I was able to really enjoy just running again and I think it really helped my body which seemed to be having lots of difficulties at the time. Yes, my first race back was an eye-opener, but once I was training, it wasn't long until I was back to where I had previously been. I know it's not the same for you as to why, I'd be interested in if you can really learn to run differently as opposed to just your natural stride/flow. It'll be interested to hear the difficulties or ease in which you do it, so please share!! :)

  35. Laurie says

    Looks like you've got it figured out with the "racing hiatus". I'm sure it will be tough but you're tough and at least you don't have to give up running altogether. Might have to change your name from Miss Zippy though :S ha ha, just kidding… you'll always be super zippy! Hang in there. :)

  36. Kate says

    I would do it , especially if I were you. You have so many amazing races under your belt. What is one year of hard work, slowing down and starting over if you never have to deal with this again? I think it's nothing in the grand scheme of things. You will kick ass next year in every race you show up for.

    Wishing you the ABSOLUTE best.

  37. Jill says

    I HAVE done it. When I run now, my long run pace is a good min/mile slower than it was and it about kills me, but at least I can run now knowing that I'm not causing my foot any more problems … the pace will come, if I am just patient enough.

  38. Aimee says

    I would totally do it! Taking the time now will benefit you in the long run! Plus, you could still participate in races!
    If you're talking about going minimalist or barefoot, I was there too. I got a pair of VFF bikilas this summer and started slowly transitioning to them. I love them and I loved the way I ran when I was wearing them. I stopped wearing them when I started training for my marathon and it was a big mistake. Now, I have to start all over again. But, to me, it's totally worth it!!

  39. Paul says

    If I were in your position I would make the same choice.

    In the end you have a good chance at being injury free because you are stronger in the right places. This will also make you faster as you'll be able to train harder (plus your shoes are lighter!)

    You'll also be able to race for years to come and enjoy your sport for a long time.

    But, I would have a lot of caution..in the case of barefoot running the pendulum seems to be swinging too far in one direction (as seems to always happen with new ideas that catch on).

    Recently at a party I met a 40-ish guy in a full leg boot. Ruptured Achilles tendon from sprinting in Vffs (with no warm up he says). So another problem may be the feeling of power you get will be ahead of your bodies ability to take it!

    I have an intuition that down the road there will be a smarter paradigm for minimalist shoe training/racing..e.g. it's probably ok to use more cushioning for hard/long races.

    But I think it's going to work.

    Anyway, good luck, we are crossing fingers AND TOES (see my blog) and keep us posted!!!!

  40. AbigailRuns says

    Taking a year off would be so hard for me, especially since I just started. However I would do it if it would help me heal. You are such an amazing athlete….you would bounce back so quickly :)

  41. BrianFlash says

    Lucky for me I haven't had to go thru any long term injury. And this is coming from a satisfied Asics wearer, but if I needed to take time off from racing, I'd attempt to head toward minimalist shoes or barefoot running.

    After this year's 8 marathon, 20 race schedule I might need to take some time off!

  42. marathonmaiden says

    such a tough decision. i don't know if i would be able to be strong enough to do it! so ((hugs)) to you. you are one tough cookie!

  43. Petraruns says

    Yup. Do it. No question about it. THIS is no fun, running with pain and constantly worrying about it. Take the time, regroup. Trust me, you will come back stronger. Do it!

  44. Lesley @ racingitoff.com says

    You can do this!!! A strong and admirable decision (coming from a race addict). Looking forward to following your fight back this year. :-)

  45. Caroline says

    Big decision for sure…the most important I think is to get better but also to be "at peace" with what you decide..that is the tricky part, you can do this, I bet you caome back stronger and for longer

  46. Leah @ Chasing Atalanta says

    I wouldn't do it. At least not at this point in my career. I'm not convinced that the new minimalist trends aren't just a fad. Is it really guaranteed that you'll never be injured again? I doubt it. We're runners. Injuries happen and there's not always a clear cut solution. That being said, I truly hope it works for you. And if you're totally jonesing for a race you can always enter one and just use it as a training run. You don't have to "race" it. Best of luck in whatever you decide.

  47. Jason says

    Honestly MissZ if you think about it in the framework of life it makes sense. 1 year today to race 10-15 years later. It becomes somewhat of an easy decision.

    Not to mention it is not as if you won't be running. You can create your own races. Run the MissZ 5k and the MissZ 15k later as training allows. No reason to not 'race'

    If going minimalist is what will help then do it but re-frame your mind to think about how you 'race'

  48. Christina says

    ohhhh, tough question. Racing yes…running no. But I suppose if you can run later healthier and happier then its worth it.

  49. Jess @ Blonde Ponytail says

    I would absolutely do this if I were you. YOu are so talented and have MANY races ahead of you when your body heals. Though I am learning racing is fun and provides focus, a body you can use for a long time is workth more.

    As a running coach, I'm sure your clients would have even more respect for you listening to your body.

    I'm sorry you even have to consider this, but in the long run, I want to see you race pain free again!

  50. ajh says

    Yeah I could do it. I didn't race for about 5 months recently with my injury. I missed it but first the biking kept me very happy and then I started running but not racing. You'll get your speed back. Good luck.

  51. Holly says

    You can still race — just don't go for the long ones or the PRs. Do races for fun. Work you way up to a 5K with your new running form. Then go there for fun. Seriously. You can still get the T-shirt and goodie bag :)

  52. Katie says

    I don't really have much advice except that you have to do what is right for you. It sounds like you know what is right :)

  53. Irene says

    I've taken a few breaks, twice due to broken bones, and other breaks due to illness, but it's hard for a runner to be out. I've finally accepted not being as fast as I once was, but I still have the joy of being able to run and being able to participate.

  54. Char says

    I'm on a break at the moment – not sure for how long but I've resigned myself to the fact that it'll be so worth it in the long run to feel better. It's hard to stop – really hard – but I have to focus on the rewards.

  55. Beth says

    Oh, I guess I would cheat and "go to races" without "racing". I really enjoy the social part of running and races are like a party. I've had to give up "racing" at times and have just gone and used the race as a training run or even have just walked.

    I think you will be glad that you invested the time in yourself. It will be worth it!

  56. Fran says

    I'd give up the racing or just do some short ones without goal setting, just for the fun of it.

    You can still run, it would be more difficult if you had to give up running completely.

    You are worth it to take some time off racing and you will come out much stronger.

  57. sisterbison says

    I'll bet that once you are on your new path and are able to set discrete "non-racing" goals for yourself you will do fine. You're just talking a year here, not forever, and you will be running just not in the same way you used to. Best of luck!


  58. Caratunk Girl says

    If giving up 1 year of racing meant many more years of racing injury free, I would be all over it.

    I am curious about what you are planning!! Good luck.

  59. Cynthia O'H says

    I've thought about this question many times. I think it is important to pull back and take it easy so that you can keep running in another 10, 15 or, even, 20 years. It is a tough decision, yes, but the long-term benefits are huge.

  60. Meg says

    With the injuries I've had lately, I definitely think I'd take the time off and not look back. Today at the championships, I saw many, many women and men between the ages of 45-81 who were out there racing the Cross Country Championships!! They were strong, incredible and having the time of their lives. If you want to be like that at their age, you've got to be smart. I know you already know that. I'm justing affirming your thoughts…

  61. lindsay says

    that would be so hard, but worth it! at first i thought "no way" but then i remembered how i practically took a year + off anyway with health crap. if your body demands a change, you should probably listen to it.

  62. MCM Mama says

    I could absolutely give up racing if it meant I could keep running. I might run a short race or two, but I've already proved to myself that I can run a race at a slower speed and enjoy it. And I'd definitely volunteer. But, yeah, I could do it.