Friday, March 28, 2008

Thanks to Crocs I Can Run Again!!

A true story....

I love to run. I started running in 1979 and haven't stopped since. I've run 142 marathons, 122 ultras, and too many shorter distance races to remember. I used to keep a very basic daily running log but stopped that when the new millenium dawned. Now I just run. I've been wearing Crocs since they first appeared on the scene several years ago and thought I'd share the story of my latest running adventures.

Since 2000 I've had a non-functioning Achilles in my left leg. (Very long story.) As a result, my left calf muscle has completely atrophied. With no calf muscle and no Achilles, I have no power or strength in my left lower leg and get no rebound or return of energy whatsoever. In addition, due to the lack of a functioning Achilles, my left heel slams down. This causes the heel to become very painful after about 10 miles of running.

Even though my left lower leg is weak and less functional, and even though I always ended up in pain, I continued to run long distances because that is what I love to do. I run trails and roads, marathons and ultras. Before my condition developed I was a successful competitor in a variety of distances from 5K to 100K. After my Achilles problem I continued to run, albeit not competitively, constantly experimenting with all types of shoes, pads, and orthotics trying, unsucessfully, to eliminate the pain I would ineveitably experience after about 10 miles.

Over the years I have worn several brands of rubber garden-type shoes to provide some cushioning and alleviate the milder heel pain I had when simply walking around. When I discovered Crocs, I discarded all others. I was hooked! They were lighter, more cushiony, and more flexible - and the colors were great!

I started running short distances in my Crocs in 2006, wearing them on my daily 3-5 mile runs with my dog. They were so much more comfortable than my running shoes! I built up to two hour runs in them but I wasn't sure if my leg and foot would hold up in such a soft shoe for a *really* long run so I never tried wearing them in a marathon. Until recently that is...

In October 2007 I had to stop at 62 miles into a 100 mile trail race because my heel was just too painful to go on. A week later I ran a marathon in Santa Clarita and after 10 miles my heel was killing me. I was so frustrated that at the half-marathon turn-off I ran to the car and changed into my Crocs. I even had to remove the chip and tie it aorund my ankle with a shoelace! I added over two miles to the marathon distance but once I got back on the marathon course I ran the second half of the marathon in my Crocs, pain-free and with spring in my step!

Since that October day in Santa Clarita I have run three more marathons, two half marathons, two 50Ks (one on sandy, rocky trails), two 10Ks, one 5 miler, and one 8K, one 5K and the 36 mile Haleakala Run to the Sun in Hawaii - all in my Crocs! I have finished in in the top three in my age-group in every one!! In April I’ll be toeing the line at the Boston Marathon. I qualified for my age-group at the Surf City Marathon on February 3, 2008 – running 3:53 in my Crocs!!!

It's really amazing to me that I am now running pain-free thanks to my trusty old Crocs. I would never have imagined that after years of trying so many different shoes, inserts, and pads that I just had to get rid of my running shoes to enjoy pain-free running again. I still have a weak and non-functioning lower left leg but the Crocs actually give me some bounce in my step and keep my heel from slamming down. I feel much smoother even though I still have an obvious biomechanical issue. The Crocs are so light that it's not an effort to lift them, a real benefit for my weak leg. Even in the pouring rain of the Surf City Marathon, with soaking wet socks and feet, they were fine.

In the past I always had to repeatedly stop after a couple of hours of running to deal with the heel pain - take off my shoe, squeeze my heel, replace the shoe, hobble on down the road until I had to do it all over again. There was also a loss of form and functionality at the end of every run. Not any more! Now at the end of runs and races I can still run smooth and can actually pick it up for the last mile instead of dragging my leg and slowing down. I can finish strong and happy. Thanks to my Crocs I have found the joy of running again!