Monthly Archives: November 2012

Running, Snails and Whales.

If you’ve read this blog recently you will know that I’ve been trying to get over injury and illness. It’s been hard getting back into the routine of running. I have been frustrated by my fitness and my calf can be sore which means I haven’t yet been able to train on consecutive days. I’m only a club level runner, even if I’m that, but as a lot of runners will probably relate, I take myself seriously. Far too seriously. So in coming back from a long period of recovery I decided to try and just enjoy my runs.

During a recent run I discovered my calf felt ok and I was able to run a bit further. I turned off from the route home and headed out to cover a few more miles. I started to think about heading back down the track, charging my GPS watch back up, deciding on strength work I wanted to do. My mind was purely on serious running thoughts. As I reached the top of a bridge over a dual carriageway I happened to look up. A view that I have seen many times took my breath away. Beyond the houses and the local retail park, looking down on the world below were the beautiful hills of the Welsh valleys. A collage of autumn golds and reds glowing in the last ebbs of the evening light. At that moment I was felt like a tiny speck on the landscape and this line from one of my Julia Donaldson’s children’s’ book ‘The Snail and the Whale’ (a firm family favourite) popped into my head:

And she gazed at the sky, the sea, the land,

The waves and the caves and the golden sand,

She gazed and gazed, amazed by it all,

And she said to the whale, “I feel so small.”

Being a runner can be so intense sometimes. We can end up so concerned by race plans, GPS watches, minute miles and the intensity of our runs that we sometimes forget the pure joy of just running. As runners we are in a privileged position to see the world in a way not many other people do. We can cross terrain that a car will never venture through and we can experience the city and it’s twists and turns in a way that some would never dare to. It’s good to train for races and to prepare for challenges but it can be a shame that this can sometimes distract us from the simple joy of running and being out in the elements. So if anyone out there is having a running lull or questioning their love of running I suggest leaving the watch at home. Just run. Look at your surroundings, find things you might not have noticed before.  It doesn’t all have to be about the races and the personal bests. Feeling like a little running speck doesn’t have to feel bad.

Richmond Park 10k 2011


Injury Woes

When I was training for my marathon I accepted that a few sore body parts and some niggles were par for the course. During the four months I trained for the Edinburgh Marathon I sustained a niggling hip injury. My approach to this was sensible. Rest, stretch, strengthen and gradual return. This ensured that I didn’t miss much of my vital training. I also learnt to recognise in my runs a ‘nothing’ pain and a pain that I should take more seriously. My marathon journey had given me a mental toughness where injury was concerned. Or so I thought.

About two months ago I developed a calf niggle.  It didn’t believe it was a strain and put it down to some activities I had been doing at CrossFit: skipping, box jumps, pushing the ‘prowler. All activities that stress the calf region.

It was painful on stairs. It was painful when I pushed my foot down on the clutch pedal. It seemed to ease when I warmed up. So I, the physiotherapist (yes I know) continued to train on an existing injury.

What is ridiculous is that my running persona and my physiotherapist persona (which should be useful to a runner) seem to act completely independently of each other. You’d think my job would benefit my running and make dealing with injury easier. Other than access to the ultrasound machine my job is almost to my running detriment. I can’t be objective and I become paranoid that things are worse than they are. Ignorance can sometimes be bliss.

I think there were a few reasons why I insisted on training over my injury. If I don’t run or exercise it affects my mood. I’m not sure if I’m actually addicted to exercise but I am thankful that endorphins are my ‘drug of choice’ over say alcohol. So yes, I insisted on trying to run to maintain my own sanity.

The next reason I carried on is because I have started training with an athletics coach again. I’ve been training at a track with an experienced coach for the first time in over eight years. And I love it. And I’m thrilled that the coach has taken me on. And I didn’t want to miss a session or appear flaky. And I wanted to start cross country season again. Ok that’s lots more reasons but you can see I was torturing myself a bit.

The biggest reason of all that I continued to knacker myself is that I’m worried I’m running (ahem) out of time. Every training session missed weighs on my mind. The fact that I’m 32 makes me worry that I’m too old to return to athletics and it stresses me that my little jaunt back to the track might be over before it’s even started.

And maybe running a marathon gave me a sense of invincibility that I didn’t have after all.

A few weeks after giving into my injury I became really quite unwell. Weirdly illness helped my injury heal. I had a vomiting bug and a horrid case of flu which had me laid up and good for nothing. I was unable to stretch my calf, test it, try a few exercises to see if it was ok. If you run and you’ve been injured you know you do it too. But for once rest wasn’t a dirty word. I succumbed to the fatigue and did absolutely nothing.

Weeks and weeks down the line illness is behind me. My calf is feeling virtually pain free and I have felt able to venture out on a few gentle three milers. I feel pathetic and I want to run further but I’m conscious of pushing my luck. My calf is a bit tight after these runs and there is some residual soreness although nothing like it was.

Lessons learnt? I’m not infallible to injury despite running a marathon. Being a physiotherapist hasn’t made me immune either. I should be less paranoid about my age and I need to identify what it was in training that led me to be injured. I had gone from road to track and I had been pushing myself harder in my gym sessions. What I need to do is embrace the mental toughness from the marathon and hang on in there. I’m sure I can get back to training properly soon and join in with the cross country races at some point this season. And not forgetting being sensible. Listen to my body and rest when I need to. Training over an injury doesn’t make me hard core, it makes me rather silly.