Tuesday, 21 July 2009

On inhabiting that liminal space between not yet being able to say 'I used to run' but being able to say 'I used to be a runner'

Or, why I hate Scotland (ii) ...

Seven weeks without running left me grimacing, but I knew that leaving it so long, without even trying a short one, was doing me good. When I put my shoes on again I would be ready to start training for the Berlin Marathon in September. I would come back refreshed, determined and therefore focussed.

So on Saturday I looked out of the window at a bright dawn, put my shoes on, adjusted the orthotics, and headed out along the Cam.
kilometre 1: I am slow to the point of stretching my own credulity. I hope that no one will see me. I knew, however, that it was going to be tough to start with. I have to remember how to run, how to pick my feet up, how to stay relaxed.
kilometer 2: still very slow, slower than 5'00" per kilometre, or 8 minute miling. I find the physical movement unfamiliar. I really have forgotten how to run.
kilometre 3: I'm stiff, but am I loosening up a little. I look at the watch and see that I'm running at 4'30" a kilometre, which is a bit more like it. I slow down almost immediately upon apprehending this.
kilometre 4: back to slow again. I think about turning around and heading back, having at least made a start. But I'm almost at the half-way point. It's nice along the river bank. My lungs feel ok, though my heart rate is probably a little high. Be still my heart.
kilometre 5-9: gradually I realise that my legs aren't going to loosen up. In fact the left is beginning to feel the same stiffness it felt in Edinburgh, a dull referred pain spreading along the leg. No stabbing or burning pain, but an immobile woodenness.
kilometre 10: in desperation I try to run faster. Perhaps I can just run through this. I can't. A rowing crew catch up with me as I lollop homewards.
kilometre 11: I really don't feel very good about this. I've made a start on the road to recovery, but it isn't going to be like it's been in the past, when I've been able to pick things up very quickly, and build mileage back to normal levels within a few weeks.

I walk the last few hundred metres. It's hard to walk. I stretch as best I can.

And then everything goes really pear-shaped. That afternoon I find it hard to walk. The next day the pain is real, stabbing, aching, undermining, just like it was after the ruin of Edinburgh. It hurts to sit. There's deep pain with movement, but also surface pain. I go for a cycle, but even that is hurting now. The injury hasn't gone away after all, despite 7 weeks of real rest.

Yesterday I went to see my GP. He uses words like "chronic" and "months", "physiotherapy" and "just one mile with walking". He draws some pictures to suggest the kinds of tearing I might have caused. Berlin in September? Not a chance. I am no longer a runner, and it's not clear that I ever will be again.



  1. Do you think running might have given *you* up? I hope not, obviously, since you were so very good at it, but maybe it's time to devote yourself to tango? But then, what would this blog be called? X

  2. Oh so very sad. Someone very close to me who loved to run was also forced to stop against his will and it nearly broke his heart. We heard many mutterings about how much he loathed swimming (boring), biking (dreadful unless one had actually to go somewhere) the gym (looks of withering disgust) and then, when his soul had healed a bit, he started to find other ways to exercise. But I daresay it was never quite the same.
    I am a dancer and I live in dread of the day when I will wrench something and they take the music away from my body.
    My sympathies.
    I know, though, that it will not stop the words from running through your fingers.

  3. Joad, it seems bad, no let me correct myself it is bad, I would say keep your chin up. Remember Sean put on 4 stone in weight and still managed a come back - you will also but patience is required.
    Would you like me to run in Berlin for you?
    Ian Chant.