Can't Lift My Legs 800m Into A Race...

by Scarlett

Today, I was running a 2 mile road race on a fairly hilly course- there were two major hills, one at the end of a large loop and one at the start of a smaller loop. To complete the course we needed to run 1 large loop, then a small loop and then, finally, a large loop. As a result, we needed to run up quite large hills 3 times. I would say that I am not a cross country runner or a long distance runner (my preferred distances are 800m and 1500m on track), but I still compete during cross country season (normally races are around 4km) and I am usually in the top 5 runners in my national races- and I even won a bronze medal in this same race. This is why what happened today surprised me so much, as I am usually in the top pack and don't struggle until at least 3/4 into the race. Here's what happened:

I'll give some context, it was incredibly cold, rainy and windy, and we had to wait on the start line for about 10 mins, so maybe that is partly the reason for the problem that I had, maybe I just was cold and my muscles seized up.

The race started, at a faster pace than last year, but not sprinting, just a fast pace. I was just behind the leader's of the pack, in a good position that I liked. There was a bit of pushing and shoving for positions, but ultimately, I made it into about 5th. We then started our first descent, which would take us down to the first hill and then we would climb all the way back up to the level that we started at-so it was a long descent. However, I still felt fine on the downhill. Next, although, on the flat before the hill, I almost felt that my muscles tightened up or seized up. Therefore, when I started the uphill, I felt as if I couldn't lift my legs to run. Now, this was only the first 800m of the race, so this was not a normal end of the race feeling. I was struggling to run up the hill and watching people pass me by (people who I normally beat). My legs felt heavy and tired, but not something that I could push through, and it was hard to move them. After the hill, I ran for another 200m, but I was almost crying and I was practically at a jogging pace in a race. So, when I saw the next hill coming up, I decided that my legs just couldn't do it, and I pulled out of the race. This was my first time not finishing a race, so it was hard, I definitely felt annoyed at myself for giving up, disappointed that I didn't finish, but I also felt that it was the right thing to do, as I was struggling (but not the normal amount of struggling in a race). I was crying in the moment and upset, but I managed to walk off the pain whilst searching for my mum (I can't really remember if my legs were still sore after I stopped which makes me kind of worried about if I stopped too easily, as if the pain went away straight away, it can't have been that bad). Afterwards, I started to over analyse the race, and now I am wondering if I gave up too easily (was my mental attitude bad when my legs started to hurt and I fell back), or were my legs really that sore, was I ill, am I just not able to keep up with this faster pace, or is this a problem which is going to prevent me from running in the future? I still don't know the cause of it, and I am worried, as this sort of heavy leg feeling has happened to me before in track races nearer the end of the season, so is it a problem that is going to stick with me for life? Am I going to be terminally heavy-legged? And if so, what is the cause and what can I do to prevent this? Please help :)

Nicole's reply:
Hi Scarlett, thanks for your question.

It sounds like you had a tough race and I can see why you are upset abut it. But you know what, a tough race can happen to all of us no matter what our age and experience and the main thing is how you deal with it and what you learn from it. I think pulling out of the race was a brave and sensible thing to do so please don't be too hard on yourself about it. The main thing now is to see what you can learn from it and understand why it happened.

I don't know your age and your running history but you sound like you are a very good runner and are probably part of a club and perhaps have a running coach. If I were you, I would seek out the advice from my coach as I'm sure he/she has experience of what you described and has most definitely dealt with it before. If you feel that you can't speak to your coach then see if you can find another person who you would trust to get their advice.

Please don't let this one incident derail you as there could well be a simple cause that can easily be sorted out. Think of it as a experience from which you will learn something which in turn will make you the best runner that you can be in the future. I hope my reply has given you some help and best of luck with your future running.

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