12 Weeks to NYC Marathon: Side Stitches Suck (Plus Almond Butter!)

18/08/2010 § Leave a comment

Goal last week: 22 miles (4 miles, 15 miles, 3 miles)

Actual mileage:   19 miles total (4 miles, 15 miles)

Goal this week: 24 miles (4 miles, 16 miles, 4 miles)

I had a minor setback this week, and didn’t get out for my third run of the week, booo!  Whatever.  A setback is just temporary and this is a new week, people!  I have to admit, my long run was tough.  I just couldn’t get it started for some reason.  I had a hellacious side stitch for miles 1 – 4, and while it got better after mile 5, it threatened me throughout the entire run.  Side stitches are the.worst.ever.  No one can agree on their exact cause, or the best way to get rid of them, but we can all agree that when they arrive on the scene NO ONE wants to keep running.  All you can think about is how on earth you are going to get rid of the stabbing pain in your side.

My long run was pretty enjoyable, leaving aside my battle with the side stitch.  I ran from home in lower Manhattan all the way to the 100s on the west side, and back.  I didn’t even time it because I didn’t want to be frustrated with how long it took me; instead I focused on simply staying on my feet for 15 miles.  I put some new music on the iPod, stashed 3 Cliff Shots in my strategic pockets, and brought along a bottle of water.  The weather was exceptionally compliant (always a plus!), and I got to run along the newly opened part of the Westside Greenway, which is in the 80s.

I might have even experienced a bit of a “runner’s high” near the end of the run– but I can’t be sure.  Maybe I was just delirious from exhaustion…

Tip #4: Stitch be gone!
I have a few techniques that I use when I have a side stitch, but it’s honestly a crapshoot.  Sometimes nothing works and you just have to tough it out..or stop running for a bit.  First, while you are running, try to modify yourself.  Are you leaning to one side?  Are you hunched over?  Is your stride lazy?  Or maybe is it overlong?  Are you breathing too shallowly?  Are you running too fast?  Are you doing some kind of combination of all of those things?  Try to stand up a little straighter and take more regulated breaths.  Sometimes this will be all you need to do.  Didn’t work?  Second, while you’re still running, try applying direct and upwards pressure to the stitch with your fingers and breathe as deeply as you can manage.  Still didn’t work?  This is when I stop running to try to address the problem.  I link my thumbs and reach up with my hands above my head, to stretch out my abs and take a deep breath.  Then, in one continuous motion, I force the air from my lungs using my diaphragm and swiftly bring down my arms (so, deep breath in/arms up and then strong exhale/swing arms down).  In most cases, this works for me after I do it a few times.  For especially bad stitches, I will actually vocalize the exhale to make it more intense – sounds kind of like I’m loudly sighing.  If I still can’t shake it, it might be time to walk home and try again tomorrow.

Tip #4.5:  DON’T eat a heavy meal immediately before a run, but DO eat before you run.
Of course, another frequent contributor to side stitches is too much eating or drinking too close to your workout.  Personally, I try not to eat anything for at least one hour before I run.  (Yes, this means you have to wake up even earlier for your pre-run meals) (Stop whining) (I mean it!)

Eating a small meal prior to my run was something that I had to get used to, but it definitely makes a difference – especially for a long run.  When I have fuel in my system that I can quickly tap into, I feel much better.  Just don’t overdo it!  Not the time for a proper English breakfast.  Instead, try to pair a whole grain with a bit of protein.  My favorite pre-run meal is a slice of whole wheat bread (or half a whole wheat bagel) with raw almond butter and a big glass of water.  MaraNatha makes a great raw almond butter, with nothing funky in it.  No salt, no sugar, no coloring, no preservatives, no egg protein – just almonds.  And when you think about it, isn’t that all you need in a nut butter, really?  You can find all sorts of MaraNatha products at Whole Foods.

Happy running!

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