About 8 weeks ago today I pulled out of a training run with a friend because I was in pain. I have run through all sorts of twinges while running but intuitively I knew this was different. I was limping just walking. I was distraught and terrified. And that was at the prospect of not running for what, maybe 2 days – oh if only I knew.
I was at week 10 of an 18-week marathon-training programme. I spent hours worrying about the impact of missing a threshold and a long run on that goal. Little did I know back then that the injury would see me out of that race and thereafter seemingly indefinitely (until this week).
Anyway, today, 8 weeks from that first missed run, I ran again confidently and in a way that intuitively told me the worst was over. I think only in this position of returning to running can I look back at these enforced 8 weeks off with positivity.
Here are 7 reasons why:
I’ve never been a reluctant runner and in recent years have been definitely more reluctant not to. OK, on a rainy cold day getting out the door is a little bit harder than a sunny one, but mostly if I’m running I’m glad about it (see any given Strava selfie). I’m not sure if before though I was truly grateful for the ability to go out and run. Now I will be cherishing every step.
On most marathon training plans you will have recommended cross training days. Me and my running friends would often say things along the lines of … yeah I know I should but… The truth is, when you love running, its devotion. You don’t need anything else. When you CAN’T run though, you desperately need something else. In my 8 weeks, I’ve spun, sat for hours on a static bike playing with my heart rate to try and simulate running. I’ve done tabata, weights, hot yoga, cold yoga, core training. I’m a runner. I’m always going to want to run, but I can now definitely see cross training in my running future.
From the bench, I realised that in over 25 years of running, I’d rarely just gone out to cheer runners on. Here, I had to pull out of 2 races I’d paid for and trained in pursuit of with other friends. Despite feeling jealousy I’m not proud of but can’t deny, I decided to go out and cheer my friends on. This was the best thing I think I could have done for 4 reasons:
- Perspective: As a spectator you get to see the leaders, you get to see pursuit in action, you see the people at your pace and just a little bit faster. You can see what the pace you want looks like. You can see form in action. You learn things.
- Emotions (1): You get to face into how much not running upsets you. Quite unexpectedly and uncontrollably, stood at mile 11 of the Xenia half marathon (one I intended to PB), I burst into tears. I was stood on my own, so I just let them come. It was like washing something away. It felt good. I felt better.
- Emotions (2): Shortly after the above outburst, I saw the first of my friends approaching. She looked on point. I knew that she was on for a PB and I was so genuinely happy for her. I cried again, but this time because I was truly happy. The friends kept coming, I kept crying. It was awesome.
- Payback: Standing on the side of the road, towards the end of the Flying Pig half and full marathons, I think I got to see all my friends run by. Sometimes I saw them coming before they saw me, I got to see grimaces turn to smiles – even if they had to force it. I got awesome hugs. I was truly proud of what they were achieving and for the honour of running with and knowing them. Cheering the runners you love is a privilege.
When you get injured you google every word, phrase and body part that might be associated with what hurts. Then you ask your friends, then you go to the doctors and then you repeat the cycle. I did all that and ordered 3 books from Amazon. I now know the difference between peroneal and perineum (useful). I know how long stress fractures take to heal. I know that there is no blood flow to tendons. I know that “itis” means inflammation, but that “hurty” tendons may well not be inflamed. I still will never know exactly what I did that caused it or which of the remedies I used helped solve it, but knowledge-wise, I’m in the game.
I used to truly believe I was invincible and immune to running injuries. I wasn’t. None of us are. Through this injury I’ve learned to respect all kind of things. The privilege it is to be able to run, the advice you get from people who tell you the importance of recovery, respect for pain and what it means and respect for my poor tendons who had just, momentarily (I hope) had enough of me.
In the few tentative runs since the start of this I’ve had to take notice of everything. I’m concentrating on form and foot strike. I’ve been forced to think of quality, sloppiness hurts. I believe I will be a better runner because of this.
This is just the certainty that I am a runner. I guess an injury is a get out of jail free card if you want it to be. Noooooo! For me, this just utterly substantiated how much I love and want to run for as long as I can ever be in control of.
In that film, Indecent Proposal, there’s that line, if you love someone, set them free, if they come back they’re yours. If they don’t they never were. Well, running set me free and I’m back!
Running. I’m yours, please don’t set me free again.