Confession: I'm nervous for this weekend's half marathon in Eugene. I usually love half marathons, it's a good distance to work hard but to recover quickly. I have a big goal this year to run one in under 2 hours, and overall my speed work and training has been going well. Except for one big thing: this side cramp that won't quit bothering me.

For those who haven't heard me whine about this yet (which is likely no one because I whine about it a lot), I started having the issue last June at the Seattle RnR marathon. It comes back consistently, worse when it's warm outside and better when it's colder. When it flares up, I end up running through as much as I can but ultimately walking some of the race. After the race, it stays sore for days or even weeks depending on how severe it was. I'm nervous because my last half marathon in Oakland was pretty miserable and I just don't want to feel that bad again. It's one thing to be in pain because you are pushing hard and working for it, but it's another thing to be dealing with 'bad' pain like this. Even more, I have NO idea how I'll ever meet a time goal if I can't even push myself during a race. I'm discouraged.

I've been hoping to run well in Eugene, especially because I know lots of people going to the race and it'll be a big Oiselle team meet up. I also feel ready to go for the PR because I've been working hard during training. But I'm scared this race will turn out like the last couple, side cramped and way off my PR pace. I can't say I know how it'll turn out, but I'm trying to keep the negative thoughts away and to focus on how much fun the Eugene trip will be instead.

The one thing that gives me hope is how Physical Therapy has been going. Because the side cramp isn't the usual location and doesn't go away when I stop running, my doctor ran a bunch of tests and imaging to see if it was an organ. When they found nothing, they attributed the pain to muscle. A few weeks ago I started PT to figure out the cause and to (hopefully) make it go away for good.

PT suggests this is an intercostal muscle strain in my right side rib cage. Two of my ribs were super close together - basically no space - and that is radiating pain through the whole muscle and down into my center abdomen when my rib cage tries to expand (i.e. to work harder when running). I thought I was crazy saying it is worse with heat, but she said it really could be because of how the muscles and body react and expand in heat versus cold weather. She has been working on the tension via massage and exercises during PT sessions, and I'm doing additional daily exercises outside of sessions. Dare I say it's working...the ribs are more spaced out and the pain wasn't as bad this past weekend even though it was most definitely still there. Notably, the were again closer together after Sunday's side-cramped half marathon.

Hopefully PT will keep improving the issue and maybe, someday, I'll be able to go for the PR or even the sub-2 hour goal minus the side cramp. For now? I guess I keep doing those exercises, slow down when I have to, and hope for the best.


  1. Good luck this weekend! Try to think positive this week and not stress yourself out. Have fun meeting up with all the other Oiselle runners!

  2. Good luck! Go for your sub-2 and see what happens. Maybe the PT has been working enough to go for it, won't know until you try, right? Sending happy, healthy vibes.

  3. You should for sure try it, and see how it goes. The weather looks good, and I hear there's magic in Eugene :D

    Good luck this weekend, if I don't see you!!

    1. Mmmm magic, I could use that! Good luck to you too!

  4. We are going into this race with the exact same anxieties/goals! haha! I know I have a sub 2 in me, but I don't know if I can go for it after my hamstring rehab and my last 2 halfs where I bonked at the end and had to walk/run - I'm really nervous about it happening again. I'm just trying to remind myself that it's all in my head and I've learned from those last experiences :)

  5. I say relax. Your massive 5K PR on a very curvy and crowded course coupled with your previous half-marathon PR screams, "Duh... I've got a sub 2 HM in me."

    The stupid intercostal muscle strain may or may not be under control by Eugene, but you're on it, and it will get under control eventually. (Good on you, BTW, I fell down the stairs and ended up with an intercostal strain that drove me mad in yoga for 2 years before I finally went to a professional to get it addressed.)

    I bet you PR either way... Have a great race.

  6. Good luck! If there's one thing I know it's PT is magical! Remember to have fun too :)

  7. Good luck! If there's one thing I know it's PT is magical! Remember to have fun too :)

  8. Good luck! Either way, have fun!

  9. PT changed not just my running but fixed issues I've had since birth. So they are probably on to something here.

    Do you sleep on the same side mostly? Are there asymmetries in your flexibility? Great that you noticed that heat makes it worse.. (I love debugging computers and hardware but sometimes I wish I'd become a PT..8)

    It may take a while, but eventually you will crack this problem. And, as running problems go, while this one gives you pain, I don't think you are damaging anything.

    A lot of people have problems that are gradually damaging joints or tendons. They just push through rather than fixing the root cause and in 10 years they ain't running no more 8(

    So, it could be much worse. Patience!

    Meanwhile, be happy, go for it!.... and have a great time!

  10. Good luck this weekend! You can do it! I'm glad you are going to PT and found someone who can help you work on your cramping issues. Cramps are no fun, and I totally understand how they can derail an entire run. All your PT work will pay off. If not at this race, by the end of the year for sure!

    You got this!

  11. I hope this will finally be that breakthrough for you on the side ache. I'm heading down to Eugene Sunday morning! I'll be around mile 8 and probably the finish!


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