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I choose left.

As a kid, I decided I liked Left better than Right. I don’t remember why I thought I needed to make a choice about them, but I always went with Left. And I could write a power paragraph about why. “Right” can be so many things (Something being correct. Something being proper. An entitlement. 90 degree angle.) “Left” is just that. So I picked the underdog and have been a loyal left supporter since then. I don’t enjoy being right handed. I don’t like it when someone ends a sentence with “Right?” or responds to my statements with “Right.” Left it is. I would rather hook a golf shot than slice it, I like loosening a screw more than tightening and I vote blue over red every time.

That being said, you would think that after a lifetime of dedication and commitment to left, I wouldn’t be betrayed. Yet since marathon training, it’s my left leg and hip that have caused me pain. Never have I had a single issue with my right leg…it’s strong, obedient and low-maintenance. My left leg, on the other hand (pun intended), is a trouble maker.

While training for my first marathon, I developed hip pain on the left side. After researching stretches and doing my best to ice it (do you know how hard it is to ice a hip?), I finally stumbled upon compression shorts. Now these aren’t the type of lightweight spandex briefs that men wear under their running shorts to prevent the family jewels from chaffing. These are specific for holding, protecting and stabilizing muscles. And by God are they hideous looking. Imagine the material of a wet suit – very thick, barely pliable spandex, sewn together with seams in very unique places and a waist band that would make Oksana Baiul look like she had love handles. They cost me $99 for one pair and despite how disgustingly ugly they made me feel, they worked. The pain I felt went away…and nary a discomfort I felt during the race.

While training for my third marathon, I developed knee issues. The IT band runs from your hip to your ankle and is a common running injury. Guess which leg hosted this injury? Yep. My favorite. I purchased a knee brace to keep the IT band in place while I ran. It seemed to help during my training runs, but by mile 8 of my marathon, the pain started. I made a conscious decision earlier in the day to not bring IBUprofen with me. There are plenty of debates on taking any sort of pills before rigorous exercise so I decided to forgo it. Big mistake. I tightened the band. Loosened it. Moved it above my knee. Below my knee. While my knee was throbbing, my Achilles and hip started to work overtime. The tri-fecta. By mile 16, I stopped to stretch. By mile 17, I was hobbling. I saw my husband at mile 18 and sobbed as he finally brought me those 3 little brick-colored magic pills. He ran that mile with me (I use the word “run” loosely) and once the pain pills kicked in, I kicked in. Full speed ahead for the last 7 miles, limp and all. When I crossed that finish line, I dropped to the ground and a woman brought me a bag of ice. I laid in the grass icing every joint on my left leg. That night, I couldn’t even bend it and walked with a peg leg to my celebratory dinner (Wearing flats, mind you! I don’t do flats. I wear 3″ heels just about everywhere I go so when I wear flats, you know that I am either in a lot of pain, or am rebelling about something I hate – like jury duty.)

So now on marathon 4, it’s once again my left side that I feel. This time, in a brand new place…my tailbone. (Or somewhere in that vicinity.) I notice it most when I take my first few steps after sitting down, just after a long run or when sitting on something hard like a tile floor or a wooden chair. I can’t ice it…hell, I can’t even reach it. So I am just ignoring it. We’ll see how that strategy works come Sunday. Trust me, I’ll have reserve IBUprofen at the ready.

Injuries are no joke. We have a plethora of running tape, ace bandages and ice packs at our house. I often fall asleep in a room smelling like a nursing home after an Icy Hot massage. While training for my first half marathon, I took a class organized by Bricks to Bricks. The most valuable thing I learned about was how different parts of your body can get injured through running. Runner’s knee, sciatica, plantar fasciitisshin splints, we covered them all. I’m not promoting self diagnosis over seeing a doctor, but, there is a great section on Runner’s World on Injury Prevention. Tell them where it hurts and an abundance of information on running-specific injuries, treatment and stretching will appear. In addition, The Running Company is doing something really cool. They have partnered with a Sports Medicine group that will talk with athletes about what ails them. What a fantastic and non-intimidating way to make sure that what you think is just a little twinge, isn’t in fact, a stress fracture. I’ve been lucky that my injuries have never forced me to stop training, but knowledge is power. Listen to your body. Know what possible causes are and take action quickly.

So, tonight I am going to have a little fireside chat with the left side of my body. Left has two strikes already…I hope I don’t have to reconsider right.

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