I remember the first time Runner's Knee paid me a visit- It was the year 2000. I was but a young lass struggling to make varsity on my high school cross country team. We had reached our turn around point about four-and-a-half miles into the trail when my knee began to twinge. Within a half mile that twinge had turned from mildly annoying to a searing "oh-my-god-what-the-hell"; it felt as if a little dwarf was inside my kneecap pickaxing away for diamonds.
Runner's Knee sucks; it is something almost every runner is going to have to deal with at some point. Running through it can cause further injury and really the only cure (if you are the type who refuses to change shoes and form) is ice, ice, rest and ice. Now, most of us have read Born to Run, and it is fantastic; but personally I am not interested in barefoot running, especially on the streets of San Francisco; I fall into the type of person who refuses to change her shoes out thus spending time on the couch giving my knee frostbite. In that time, I've started to notice a trend in how recovery plays itself out:
1. Stubbornly run through it. Now, I don't necessarily advise that this is your first course of action, but if you must run through the searing pain, at least be smart about it- grab a knee brace or tape up, take it at least a little easy and for Ryan Hall's Sake, ice after you run! All of these can be accomplished during a 10.2mi run from the Ferry Building to Sausalito. In fact, there happen to be several bars along the way that will gladly let you sit and ice your knee with a cold beer. And by "ice your knee" I mean "drink a Racer 5 and talk about how great the weather is".
2. Stubbornly run through it while looking like an idiot. When my knee started annoying me this time around I ignored it at first, then stubbornly ran through it and then stubbornly ran through it looking like an idiot. Imagine if you will the Tin Man trying to run down a hill having just run out of lubricant for his left leg- that is basically what it looked like. This weird hobbling mass moving fairly quickly, half her body in perfect running form and the other half looking like her leg had been replaced by a plank of wood. There's only one word for this, "Graceful."
3. Admit defeat and prop that leg up. Look, there's no shame in admitting that you need to take a day off; especially when you put off going to the bathroom because your 100 year old office building has women's restrooms on the odd floors and your office is on the tenth floor and you'll be damned if you're going to ride the elevator just one floor because that is silly.
4. Continue to admit defeat and meet friends for a drink or five. You know, maybe there's something to this whole "not running every day after work and getting to hang out with people" thing. A girl could get used to Martini Mondays, Trivia Tuesdays,Wine Wednesdays, Thirsty Thursdays, Fuck Yeah Fridays...
5. Wake-up and remember why you stopped drinking and started running. It's not like I don't drink at all, I'm a Hasher, c'mon. I just had stopped drinking from 6pm to Midnight on weekdays that end in "y", pushing off the alcohol until 7pm or so, after a nice run, and kept it on the moderate only going out a couple nights a week. There's something about that extra hour, 2-for-1 Specials, and the damage you can do to a keg in that time; it has the ability to remind you that you aren't 21 anymore, the liver is not as evil and worthy of punishment as you once thought, and drunkenly stumbling up Lombard isn't the best idea for that knee you've been trying to heal.
6. Go to the gym. Sitting on my ass drinking Tricerahops and hoovering samosas and chicken tikka masala into my mouth hasn't been doing me any favors- time to go to the gym! First thing to remember is that this gym trip isn't about dreadmill sprints or squatting half your body weight- it is about physical therapy. Drop the weight on your leg presses to 30% of your usual, or if you really want to be crazy: avoid weights on your leg all together. Runner's World and ABC Body Building have a great articles about Runner's Knee and ways to help move the recovery process along while strengthening your legs to avoid it's recurrence.
7. Ice, Rest and Recovery. Let's face it, the only true way to recovery from Runner's Knee is physical therapy focusing on strengthening the leg, icing and resting. Don't be a fool and go balls out tearing down the trail when your knee is acting up- listen to your body. Ice a couple of times a day, for about 20mins each time, take an anti-inflammatory, chill out for a week. If you've been running hard enough to get into this situation, chances are a few days out of your Asics aren't going to set you back too far; being an idiot extended this bout of knee pain for an extra five days. We're runners, we're stubborn by nature- when the body quits our brain is busy getting cattle-prodded by our hearts to push us on-on; but unless you're Oscar Pistorius pre-Valentine's Day, chances are you want your legs in tact. Honor thy knees, guys.