I made my motto for 2019; “Do what you can’t”. The battle cry I needed whenever the trial of training for Marathon des Sables seemed too much. But now I couldn’t even do that which I used to find easy.
Having conquered marathons and ultramarathons I now can’t run 5km without being in hot, gnarling pain. In the dark recesses of my mind I wonder if this is where my running life ended, not old and grey but young(ish) and in pain. The roads and races I still dreamed of running would be left unfulfilled. It might sound dramatic but if you have something that you are passionate about, something that lights up your life and now imagine no longer being able to have that in your life anymore and you will understand how I was feeling. My identity is intrinsically linked with running and without it I felt like I had lost a part of me, like I was worth less than before.
Running helps me quiet the world’s clash and clatter. The relentlessness of it all can get on top of me but running makes the world small and manageable. No Brexit, no bills or burdens, just the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other. It’s pure and primeval and as such lets the rest of the world fall away in its sweat inducing simplicity.
Two weeks after Hackney Half I tried to go out for a run thinking it would be different but ten minutes in the pain sparked into a forest fire. I fell to my knees as the pain became too much and in a foolish silent prayer to a god I had long since given up on I begged to have my body back.
I felt weakened not just in body but in mind too for the first time in years. That has been the hardest part of the recovery which I will talk about in most of my future posts this year but the mental strength I relied on so heavily through Marathon des Sables and every race prior was now suddenly just crumbled remains of what was; I no longer believed in myself.
I have seen three different physios since my injury, each having differing opinions as to what was causing the targeted and sharp pain. However, the general consensus was that it was caused by having weak/ misaligned glute muscles which leads to my knee having to take all the loading through it rather than through my glute when I take a step. I had a name for the pain now; patella tenonitus, and a load of stretches to get back to pain free. This was back in June and as most of you will know I am not back to my full fitness or being pain free almost six months on.
The races I had planned for the rest of the year went out the window pretty fast after I came to terms with my injury. As planned, I walked Race to the Tower over two days with my partner, as walking doesn’t stress my knee. This was just what I needed and we clocked up the 53 miles in endless chatter and bright coloured sunglasses (photo below!). The route past through a lot of memories for myself and my partner and we both felt like we knew each other a little better once we reached Broadway Tower that signalled the end of our adventure. I would run just one lap of Endure24 (after planning to do 6) which my amazing team were more than supportive about, beyond lucky to have this little family to rely on. And I pulled out of Race to the King and a few smaller races. This hit me hard, as I had to admit that I simply wasn’t strong enough to fight all the battles I had put in front of myself at the start of the year.
However, Race to the Stones was an impasse, a step too far. After having to drop Race to the King, I couldn’t bring myself to cancelling another of these amazing races I had been looking forward to running since last year. I was not going to let this one fall by the wayside too. Luckily my fellow injured runner and Brooks team mate; Charlie, was also in a similar mindset. So we decided to drop from the 100km and run the 50km until our bodies cried halt and we’d walk the rest. Just like at the London Marathon we whiled away the miles by laughing like toddlers and I felt gloriously pain free. That was until just over halfway in when my body came to a painful halt and I knew I had pushed my body too far. Charlie kindly stayed with me through the slow miles to come and we crossed the finish line in a stumbling sprint. While I was happy to have finished the race, the pain that showed no sign of dissipating coloured that happiness in sorrowful sepia.
Following that race I would only do three runs in the whole of July and August with the longest being a 10K. I wouldn’t run properly until September 7th for the Jungfrau Marathon, aka the toughest marathon in Europe. This race would herald the start of my true attempt at a comeback and it was also a race that nearly destroyed me.