Fitness Files: To run with shin splints or not to run?

"You're not going to like it, but here's what you should do," said my husband. "Don't hike Monday, don't run the rest of the week, don't race."

I'd just returned from my Saturday morning run to tell him, "Catherine kicked me off the trail when I said the words 'shin splints.'"

Earlier that morning, runners met in Corona del Mar, exchanged hellos and took off. I lagged behind, way behind. My friend Catherine looked back, stopped, waited. As she joined my snail-like gait, I confessed that the reason for my 12-minute-mile pace was shin splints.

"Go home, Carrie," she commanded, "Years ago, I raced with shin splints, got a stress fracture and a broken tibia. Don't race Sunday."

Daily Pilot readers lived through my year of preparation for the LA Marathon on March 9. I took first place among females 70 to 74 years old. Weeks of 50-mile pounding left my legs a bit bedraggled.

However, our own OCMarathon/Half Marathon is this Sunday, and I've paid a nonrefundable $128 to race. The big investment's one reason to show up.

Are shin splints a reason to stay home?

And if I show up race day but dawdle, protecting my shins, why would I care about a slow finish time?

According to the Mayo Clinic, shin splints are "pain along the tibia, the large bone in the front of your leg."

WebMD tells it like this: "Shin splints are very common. Runners might get them after ramping up their workout intensity."

Both sites advise rest, ice, arch supports, occasional use of anti-inflammatories, range of motion exercises and physical therapy.

That's web research. Here's how friends weigh in.

Gino, a former speedster: "Relax, race at a slow pace. I remember saying, 'The day I run a four-hour marathon, I'll quit.' After the auto accident where I smashed my leg, I adjusted. I'm happy with four-hour marathons."

My friend, Geoff, a doctor: "Don't race injured."

Annie, a hiker, biker and golfer: "Race the half-marathon and then rest after."

I've listened to friends. Now it's up to me.

Following WebMD and Mayo, I wear orthotics, do physical therapy exercises and have cut back mileage and started taking ibuprofen.

In my opinion, this shin splint injury falls in a gray area.

When I'm really injured, I stop. Hardly able to walk, I postponed Boston 2007 for a year. I missed Marine Corps Marathon 2009 when I couldn't straighten my leg. Both times, I took months off and healed.

Shin splints allow me to power hike, walk and run at a leisurely pace — all without pain.

But horrors — a slow finish time? I regularly finish half-marathons in around two hours. What if I come in at two hours, 40 minutes, protecting my shins?

Odd to begin worrying about athletic performance at 70.

Before writing about the LA Marathon in the Daily Pilot over the past year, I felt that race results were inconsequential. Now, I feel as though I have a reputation to uphold.

Maybe I'll listen to my husband and stay home.

And maybe I won't.

Newport Beach resident CARRIE LUGER SLAYBACK is a retired teacher who ran the Los Angeles Marathon at age 70, winning first place in her age group. Her blog is

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