Saturday, 26 April 2008

The Runner's Fear of Injury

First of all an apology. In my list of recent Welsh sporting triumphs I omitted to mention my old sparring partner Joe Calzaghe whose latest victories include being noticed by the English press after years of being the greatest British boxer. Pound for pound you're the man, Joe.

I'm back running, and have probably notched up a respectable 50 miles this past week. I'm not committed enough to find time to plug my Garmin in and find out how much I've actually run, but it's about 50 miles, including two hour-long runs with Mercury (on which more anon). And of course I went out yesterday morning and coming home felt some pain around my right ankle. A combination of stiffness and shooting pain as it rotated. A couple of cycle rides later (a few miles -- practical transport rather than fun) it was still hurting. So this morning I'm going to rest, of course. Of course not: I'm going to notch up some more miles.

Why do all runners do this? I've given so much advice about the importance of resting niggles to novice runners ... and I have shared the same advice mutually with non-novitiates, as you all probably have (ohhh ... I don't know ...). We know what the dangers are, we know what we should do, and we don't. So why?

Here's a theory: because it feels good. Not the machismo of putting your body right on the edge of self-harm, though there's probably something in that. But one of the joys of running is that grey area between comfortable training and fierce unholy excess. That's where the spiritual release and the endorphins lie. On the edge of injury the body finds itself. This is built into the practicalities of marathon training, which is always about doing more and doing more faster until the event, and then getting back on the road as soon as possible. For non-marathoners it's just a temptation. It's because being there feels good that we do it.

So where are my shoes?


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