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 last 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 regularly.
I don’t know what exactly did the trick, or if it was some magical combination of things. 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’.