Going the Distance, Part 2

The second installment by The Advocate's resident marathoner, Shawnn Slaughter, details the oddities and exhilarations of running a half marathon on the Las Vegas Strip.

BY Shawnn Slaughter

January 08 2008 12:00 AM ET

As I approached
the final mile I began to feel a shin splint in my left
leg. This is an uncomfortable injury to the muscle attached
to the shin; luckily, the discomfort was minor. Around
that point I passed a table of people who were handing
out beer -- it wasn't even 9:30 a.m.! I declined
their generous offer and pushed forward to the final
stretch. My time at the finish line was 3 hours, 5
minutes, 47 seconds, putting me at a pace of about 14
minutes per mile. Not my personal best, but I was not
in it for time; I was in it for the challenge and endurance.
This was simply a practice marathon for the 26.2 miles
I will run in Los Angeles in three months. I felt
immensely proud and elated to be a part of the Las
Vegas event for the second year in a row. I also received an
awesome medal depicting the world-famous Las Vegas
sign and two running shoes.

Now it’s
time to slow down. Three weeks before Las Vegas I injured
myself (not seriously). I had what is called
iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS). The iliotibial (IT)
band is a muscle band that begins at the hip,
extending to the outer side of the shinbone (tibia) just
below the knee joint. ITBS is an irritation to that
band, usually occurring at the outside of the
knee joint. When inflamed, the IT band can become
excruciatingly painful. ITBS has many causes, such as
running on a banked surface, inadequate stretching,
running too fast, or simply overdoing it, all of which
I did. Remedies include icing the area, proper
stretching, and anti-inflammatory medications like
ibuprofen. I previously experienced ITBS in both legs
when training for the San Francisco Marathon. It was
almost debilitating. My legs felt like uncooked
macaroni, and I was walking bowlegged.

Fortunately,
stretching and using an occupational therapy/physical
therapy roller have alleviated the symptoms. The roller,
three feet long and 20 inches in circumference,
is black molded firm foam with a smooth surface.
It’s not too comfortable to roll on, but it does the
trick and stretches out the IT band. I'm now also running at
a slower pace of 15 minutes per mile; I was running at
a pace of 13 minutes, 30 seconds per mile. Going
slower has worked out extremely well for me, as I have
had no further ITBS issues.

A few weeks ago I
had received some encouraging news from my doctor. My T
cells -- which fight HIV infection -- are now over 200,
which is the minimum we want; and my viral load, the
amount of HIV in my body, is considered undetectable.

That’s it
for this month. To follow me and keep up to date with my
training, check out my video blog at www.RunShawnnRun.com.

Tags: Sports

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