As a physical therapist I have worked with many individuals such as yourself. Keep in mind that a bulging disc isn't something that can be treated instantly. You may have already tried PT; however, I would suggest getting a second opinion if it hasn't worked for you. Like you mentioned, surgery is the last option! A discectomy or a spinal fusion could potentially keep you from running long distances without difficulty.
Some suggestions for the bulging disc: 1 - strengthen your "core" muscles. You always hear this term; however, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of strengthening your abs, back, hips and pelvis 2 - stretch, stretch, stretch...research shows that muscles should be stretched for 20 to 30 seconds to decrease the incidence of injury 3 - finally, I would suggest seeing an orthopedic specialist, preferably one who specializes in the spine.
Take it slow and good luck. Happy running!
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