We asked Fluid Running partner, Mike Lambert, our VP and “tech guy”, who is working to make Fluid Running available around the world, about his recent marathon experience.– Jennifer Conroyd
By Mike Lambert
Five years ago, if you had asked me if I would run a marathon, I would answer no without hesitation. I wasn’t very good at it, and I had a bad knee and a bulging disk in my neck. I just wasn’t a runner. That’s why training for and completing the 2022 Chicago Marathon wasn’t necessarily a dream come true, but it was one of the best things I’ve ever done and one of my proudest moments.
Growing up, I was never much of a runner. In high school, I joined the wrestling team because my friends did. I also joined the Cross Country team to get in shape for the wrestling season. I dislocated my knee in my first match, dashing my hopes for a future career in wrestling. With ongoing knee pain, and occasional dislocations (I may not have done the necessary PT), I took up golf. I came out of running retirement to participate in the 2004 Chicago Nike Run Hit Wonder 5k, with a time in the 50+ minute range and lingering knee pain. Both were enough for me to give up running.
Inspiration to start running again
Fast forward seventeen years. On New Years’ Eve 2021, I experienced pain in my arm that I thought could be a stroke. I was diagnosed with a pinched nerve in my neck caused by a bulging disc. I spent much of the first two months of that year in PT and in extreme pain. My physical health took a back seat to everything else.
I knew I had to change, but the pain in my neck made walking difficult much less exercise. Jennifer recommended I get in the pool and Fluid Run, so I took the slow walk from the chair to the water, and when I got in, I felt great. I proceeded to do the 55-minute workout pain-free and even felt better after. I did this a few times when availability permitted, but not nearly enough.
When the discomfort from my bulging disk subsided, I decided to join a bike ride pub crawl to support my kids’ school. It was a long one, but I figured it was just riding a bike which I’ve done all my life. I was so out of shape I couldn’t even finish it and opted for a ride home when one was made available. Then and there, I decided I needed to get serious about my fitness.
I owned a pair of sneakers and a dusty treadmill, so I decided to start there. I learned about the Balke 15-minute run test, which evaluates how far someone can run in 15 minutes. I covered 1.18 miles in 15 minutes, which is a pace of 12:42 per mile. I was pretty happy with that, considering where I was physically. I then proceeded to Fluid Run (55-minute workouts) 2 days a week for the next four weeks resulting in another Balke test that had a 4-minute per mile improvement! Inspired by a Fluid Runner named Jennifer Govostis, who ran the Boston Marathon averaging only 3 miles a week on land and the rest in the water, I took a chance signing up for the Chicago Marathon, having only “land” run that initial 15 minutes on the treadmill.
I only told Jennifer Conroyd and my wife I had signed up to run the marathon. At this point, I didn’t know if my body could handle it or if I could mentally stick with it. Throughout the Spring, I incorporated some land running along with Fluid Running. I did 1 Fluid Run a week and a few days on land. I got up to 6 miles at an 11:30 pace, which was the most I had EVER run. Most importantly, I made it past that 2-mile barrier which always seemed to knock me off track in my efforts to start running again.
In June, 18 weeks before the start, I decided to train in earnest for the Marathon. Matt Fitzgerald’s 80/20 Running “Beginner – Level 0” plan, spoke to me as Matt says 80% of training should be in the lower heart rate zones. I decided to use his plan as, in my mind, 80% would be easy, and only 20% would be hard. Not exactly, but I liked the idea of my heart rate dictating my running rather than pace or effort. It also translated well for my Fluid Running runs in the water.
Sticking to the plan was challenging between summer travel and work/family obligations, but it certainly was easier with Fluid Running. I could get a long run in while my kids played in the pool. It also flushed out toxins and relieved the pain in my legs after long runs on land. Cautious about my bulging disk, I split up some of my long runs between land and water. I would drive to the pool and run nearby then change into my swimsuit and get in the water quickly. The Fluid Running coached workouts, especially the 10k and Runner’s High, motivated me throughout the pool runs. By this time, I had increased my mileage and improved my time. I stuck with the training and was ready for the marathon.
Toeing the line for the 2022 Chicago Marathon on a fantastic crisp day was exhilarating. There were people cheering and I got caught up in the beauty of running through the city. So much so that I forgot the plan I had made for myself to save energy and run a “smart” marathon. The first 20 miles were incredible, but I hit a wall for the last six. Nevertheless, I still finished and am extremely proud of my time. My training didn’t fail me; it’s what saved me.
I never thought I’d be in a position to run and complete a marathon, but I know it was Fluid Running that made it possible. It hurt to even walk when I started this journey. By incorporating Fluid Running, I relieved the grueling pressure of land running off my joints, I got stronger thanks to the resistance of the water, and it gave me the endurance to run long distances on land. When I run my next marathon (and I will run another one), I’ll change my day-of strategy, but I will never change my training.