Back on My Feet

“When it comes time to die, make sure all you got to do is die.” – Jim ElliotRunners - Sketch

Back on My Feet has dual meaning–my running team in Philadelphia and my return to the trails after a nagging hip injury. This morning’s slow two-mile run down Broad Street with my buddy Andrew was my first since I fell on the ice in December. After more than forty years on the trails, fourteen marathons and countless other races, I never thought a two-mile run could be so exciting.

This was the longest I’ve gone without running since my last knee surgery more than five years ago, and I was reminded of how impatient a patient I am.  Approaching my sixtieth, I’m afraid to stop because I know how long it takes to get back into condition. So I look to the positive.

I’ve become more committed to yoga and am more flexible than I’ve been my entire life. I cycle more which strengthens the quadriceps and hamstrings. And I began an unplanned rehab program–rehabbing houses in the city. Sound crazy?

Rehabbing houses isn’t a training routine you will find in popular running literature. But at its core, rehabbing houses requires carrying eighty-pound bags of concrete up and down stairs, mixing mortar, lifting drywall, climbing ladders, and other forms of strenuous physical labor. It’s similar to the approach I described in My Blue-collar Marathon Training Program that appeared in Runner’s World in January. In the article I wrote:

“As a shipyard foreman working on aircraft carriers, I would climb ladders hundreds of feet high every day. Up and down and up I would climb—seven levels down from the hanger deck to the tanks below and 13 decks up to the top of the mast. The only way to inspect the three-feet-high water and oil tanks in the bottom of the ship was to walk hundreds of feet in a squatted position, which strengthened my legs and glutes like no program that even the most sadistic personal trainer could devise. I would climb into a pressure vessel through an 18-inch manhole to weld metals pre-heated to 400 degrees. It was the ultimate extreme heat endurance conditioning. Suddenly it hit me—my job had been my training program.”

So that’s the formula I used for this rehab: yoga, cycling and manual labor. Now I need to put in the miles and get to that first ultra by the end of 2014.


About Jim Brennan

Jim is a Philadelphia-based writer, author, poet and editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal.
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8 Responses to Back on My Feet

  1. runner500 says:

    Great news that you are back on the road, it’s been a long time …..


  2. I’m so excited for you that you are running again!!! I’m deep into ultra-land now, clocking some crazy trail miles here, and I’m loving it. Despite running for 10 years, this is definitely new territory for me and I’m learning so much about myself, both physically and mentally. It’s an amazing journey that I’m so grateful to get to experience. I can’t wait for you to join me and see what you make of it! 😀


    • Jim Brennan says:

      Well, Fullmoonrunner, I’m excited for you, and just reading your message gets me excited to join the party. I’m still far from rehabbed and conditioned, but I’m optimistic I’ll get there. Thanks for writing.


  3. Jim,
    Glad to hear that you are back it it. You know the routine – slow steady progress in miles. In no time you’ll be ready for your next marathon!


  4. gorunjess says:

    Congrats on getting back to it! I’m working my way back slowly & have taken to plenty of yoga myself. Would love to hear more about the house rehab work!


    • Jim Brennan says:

      Good luck with your rehab too, Jess. I have been the biggest violator of stretching for most of my running life, but yoga has changed me. There are things I can do now that I couldn’t do twenty years ago. Even my daughter, a clinical exercise physiologist, is amazed at how flexible I’ve become. So stick with it and be patient (and that’s coming from the most impatient man on earth.) Thanks for asking about the house rehabs. I think I’ll do a post specifically on that topic. Stay well and good luck!


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