I selected three small arrowroots from the white container and warmed them. I need some energy for today’s run. I thought as I began munching them a few minutes later. It was Monday 27 July, 2.45 AM. I wanted to avoid previous problems of eating too close to a run and ending up belching too frequently during the run.
I had rested well the previous day on Sunday, so I was all set for the run. After finalizing my day’s target of the ‘Fallen Tree’ book that I was writing, I retreated back to bed for a brief rest before the run.
At 4.20AM, I sank into the reed armchair in my corridor, slipped into my Nile Tulips running shoes and walked out of the house. The cold breeze extracted from me an instant smile.
When I started running a few minutes later, I was not too happy with my pace. It was rather slow. Even when I hastened it after a 10-second break, I still felt that I was running too slowly. I was even expecting that I would end up covering this first kilometer in some lousy time of 5:40 seconds and above. But to my surprise, I managed a much better time of 5:19 seconds.
The target for the second kilometer was sub-5:30. I broke into an easy run until Moi Drive then increased my pace. My right hip creaked in protest so I slowed down a bit. Thankfully, the resultant pace of 5:27 minutes was well within my target. On to the third kilometer.
At the Umoja 2 matatu terminus, Owino, a newspaper vendor-turned-matatu-tout was already shouting for people to board the next matatu.
“Hamsini beba, hamsini beba!” Fifty shillings! Fifty shillings! He shouted in his deep, loud voice.
I half expected two other matatu conductors there to throw at me some cheeky remarks about running this early but thankfully, they minded their own business. I will not pause midway this third kilometer to rest. I decided and ran on, finishing the kilometer in 5:25 minutes. On to the fourth kilometer.
Things began to unravel one minute into the fourth kilometer. My right hip wasn’t behaving. It’s as if it needed some greasing. But I soldiered on, hopeful that maybe it just needed some more warming up. But just before I reached Mama junction, after the midway point of the fourth kilometer, sharp pain in my right hip brought me to a halt. I paused the running app, stopped it altogether and sighed in disappointment. This run was over. There would be no new record today; no sweat gathering on my forehead and chest as the soles of my shoes kept smashing into the ground.
But I didn’t want to turn back, so I decided to translate the morning run into a morning walk.
If someone had taken a photo of me as I walked alongside Kangundo Road at 4.50AM, that photo would have been used to showcase despondency. I just couldn’t believe that instead of racing down this road with a grin in my heart, I was half-limping in dejection. I tried to run again but only lasted for a few steps. My right hip was on strike.
Am I paying the price for Saturday’s fast run? I wondered. In a sense, yes. That fast run had strained my hip flexors muscles. It was therefore important for me to strengthen and stretch these muscles through regular, relevant muscles.
According to webMD, hip flexors are a ‘group of muscles near the top of your thighs that are key players in moving your lower body. They let you to walk, kick, bend, and swivel your hips. But if your muscles are too tight or if you make a sudden movement, your hip flexors can stretch or tear.’ In addition, overuse or overreach of these muscles can result in the pain and discomfort like the one that transformed my run that Monday morning into a dejected walk.
The good news is that I now know what to do in order to strengthen my hip flexors and enhance their flexibility. Strength and flexibility are the two ingredients that make for healthy muscles. That’s how later that Monday, I found myself doing the bridge pose.
This yoga pose entails lying on the back with knees bent and hands and feet on the mat. Once you have done that, lift your lower back off the ground as high as possible (but don’t overdo it!) and hold on for about 10 - 60 seconds.
Such workouts that strengthen and stretch the hip flexors should become a staple of your exercises.
Let’s go running, walking or dancing now! (or simply engage in any physical activity that will break some sweat). And let’s not forget the words of Bwak the Bantu Poet, “open the door to more health by wiping some sweat from your forehead regularly.”