This website is called “Running with Rock.” So who, exactly, is Rock?
That’s me. Brian Rock.
I’m a runner. I’m not the best or the fastest. I’m halfway decent, and I like to think I’m getting better.
But I’ve had a lot of ups and downs over my life with running, and I’m currently riding high on one of the “ups.” As I got back into running this year, I did so deliberately. I read up on the science of running, and I learned a lot about how things work.
Partially to help myself understand what I’ve learned, and partially to help others who might be facing similar issues, I created this website.
So let’s rewind the tape a bit, and see how I got to “here.” Where-ever “here” currently is.
Sports and Running as a Child
I was always an active kid growing up. Despite a penchant for video games and computers, I found plenty of time to play various sports and enjoy the outdoors.
I tried just about everything. There were one or two seasons of rec wrestling, and that didn’t go too well. I tried my hand at basketball for a couple years, and I never really caught the hang of it. I tried again in high school, and it didn’t get any better.
Throughout elementary school, I settled in on two sports – baseball and soccer. Baseball was great. I loved watching the Yankees. The problem was, I just wasn’t all that great at it. I could field well, but I had trouble connecting the bat with the ball. That kind of hand eye coordination just wasn’t my strength.
Eventually, I gave up on baseball and focused instead on soccer. I had a strong leg, and I could move around the field well. I played a lot of defense, because I was bigger than the other kids and my size could be imposing, and mid-field, cause I had the stamina to run up and down the field.
I really enjoyed playing soccer, but I never pursued it seriously. I was in a rec league, but I never tried out for a traveling team. I was in the marching band in high school, and it wasn’t possible to play a fall sport at the same time. So I didn’t bother trying out for the high school team.
But a few of my friends ran cross country and track. I enjoyed running when we did so in gym class, and one of them suggested I give track a try. I trained with them a bit, and I did one official season as a member of the team – the spring season of my sophomore year.
It was fun. I ran middle distance – 800m and 1600m. My times weren’t great, but if I’d had a chance to run consistently for a year or two I’m sure they would have gotten better. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. I couldn’t juggle my responsibilities with the jazz band, which met throughout the year, and the track team.
Faced with a choice, I chose band, and I hung up my running shoes for the time being.
Running Through College and My Twenties
Although I didn’t stick it out with the track team, I didn’t completely give up on running.
By senior year, I’d become a bit of a gym rat. What can I say, my best friend played football, and that’s just what guys do… right? Going to the gym kept me interested in fitness generally, and I still ran periodically.
When I left for Rutgers, I kept up with these habits. I went to the gym occasionally, lifting some weights and doing some cardio. I’d run now and then, but I never had any kind of plan. Running a few miles seemed like a good idea, and that’s about as much as I thought about it.
This kept up through my 20’s. It would usually come and go in spurts, with me getting more serious for a few weeks or months and then dropping off. I’d generally work up to three or four runs a week, with most runs at 3 miles and a longer run at 5 or 6.
I enjoyed running for the sake of it, but I hadn’t raced at all. I didn’t have any specific goals, and this usually meant that the bug bit me for a while and then went away. I just couldn’t keep it up with any consistency.
My First Half Marathon and My Bum Knee
That changed in 2014.
Years before this, I had been chatting with a friend of mine about running. She was an actual athlete, running through high school and going to college on a scholarship.
But I mentioned wanting to run a half marathon at some point. She encouraged me to do so, and she even said that she’d run it with me when the time came. I thought, “Sure, that’s nice. Some day in the future.”
Well in 2014, that day finally came. She called me out on the challenge, so to speak, and we picked a date for the Jersey Shore Half Marathon at Sandy Hook. For the first time in my life, I had a race on my calendar and a goal to train towards.
The race was in October. In the spring, it still seemed far away, and I didn’t train as consistently as I should have. I finally got a bit more serious about things once summer arrived, but through July I was still only running three or four times a week.
In August, I picked things up and started running five or six days per week. My long runs weren’t where they should have been, but by September I finally hit 10 miles – once. I took it easy the following week, and then I showed up the morning of the half marathon just hoping I could finish without embarrassing myself.
I felt surprisingly good that morning. I warmed up and got on the starting line. I had a goal of 2 hours that I wasn’t sure I could beat. I started out a little fast, given the adrenaline, but I eased into a 9 min/mile pace… and I even managed to speed up in the last four miles.
I finished – well below my goal, at 1:54:30!
Alas, my success was to be short lived. I was riding high, and I thought I was finally going to get in good shape and keep running. I took a few days off after that, but I started running again too hard, too soon. Or maybe I just hadn’t been ready, and the half marathon itself was too much for me.
But within two weeks, I went for a mid-week run and something didn’t feel good. My knee hurt. I’d had knee instability issues before, but they hadn’t reared their head yet this year. I was able to rest up a little bit and run a little more that year. I finished a 5k in December. But after that, I was out of commission for a while.
I rested up, thinking that all would be well after a month or two. In March, I started running again. I was a little more deliberate this time, knowing more about how to train. I was able to stay somewhat consistent through September. But eventually, my knee caught up with me, and the issue came back.
I tried resting, rehabbing, and running a few times since then. But each attempt was short-lived, and each time ended with the same outcome – a painful, sometimes swollen knee.
In my mind, I’d always run again. But I just wasn’t sure when.
36 and Back Running Again
In the fall of 2019, I wasn’t running. I was doing some hiking and walking. But I guess I was doing way too much, and my knee was pained and swollen. By the wintertime, it really didn’t feel good and I had some back pain as well.
My wife finally convinced me to go see a chiropractor – who’d she’d also been seeing for a back issue – and I’m glad I did. He diagnosed some issues with my hips and my back that were connected to my knee. He sent me home with some rehab exercises and started treating me with stim therapy, massage therapy, and chiropractic adjustments.
I don’t know which one did the trick, or if it was some magical combination of all of them. The pain started to subside in January, and I slowly started walking regularly. I thought, if I can just get to the point where I can run pain-free, I’ll take it easy and slowly build up to being in great shape. I missed running, and I didn’t want to get sidelined again.
I was starting to feel good by March, and I took a few tentative first strides. One week, I went for a short jog to start off my walk a couple times. I must have done too much, because the knee pain came back. I took it easy for a week and tried again.
Over the course of three weeks, I was able to go from running a mile or so to finishing a solid three. Throughout April, I did 3 miles, 3 times a week. Things progressed well, and by the end of May I’d added a fourth day of running and worked by long run up to 5 miles.
I kept building a base over the summer. By the end of the summer, I finally let myself start thinking about goals. I incorporated some easy workouts in my routine, and I set out to do a series of time trials at increasing distances.
First, a 5k time trial in August. Then a 10k in September. I capped it all off with a half marathon in October. The half wasn’t quite as fast as I wanted, since I ended up going out a bit too fast. But overall I was thrilled with my progress.
I’d managed to run consistently, and put in more miles than I ever had in a year. I’d avoided injury, and I was running farther and faster than I had previously. I had goals for the coming year.
And that’s about where this blog starts – at the end of October 2020. I plan to run a full marathon next year, and I plan to train throughout the winter. I’ll write about a bunch of this, and I’ll probably add some detail about how I got here.
I hope my story can inspire someone else out there. Your best days aren’t behind you. They’re definitely ahead of you. So let’s get runnin’.