As I write this blog post, it is 19 days until away from the Bristol Half Marathon which will be on the 15th of September. Around the streets of Bristol, runners are pounding the streets from the break of dawn until dusk. Run Bristol have finished their series of talks and arranged training sessions – each session, the number of weeks until race day slowly dwindling away.
Last week’s Q&A session with Nick Anderson, Chrissie Wellington (MBE – 4 times Iron Man Triathlon champion) and Steve Brace (long distance runner and former Olympian) was the last of the sessions with many questions circulating around the topic of preparation prior to race day and injury. At this time on Wednesday evening, I sat (occasionally fidgeting) aware that my knee had felt a little bit stiff after the run with the local club, but still I listened to other people asking questions about injury and thought myself lucky I wasn’t in the same boat (or should I say ‘ship’ due to the sheer scale of runners who encounter injury). Chrissie at one point said the ‘first battle for athletes is getting them to accept they are injured’ which ended up haunting me the next day as I left the talk, ran home and woke up the next day with a pain in my knee that left me limping for the next 5 days.
Before Thursday morning, where I woke up stifled by pain – I was running on average 35 miles a week, I was doing a long 10-13 miler, recovery runs, interval and tempo runs and at increasingly quicker paces. The training was working and I was riding high on the results coming through on my GPS tracked runs. I was getting out into the country in 30 degree heat, suffering heat exhaustion (I actually started shivering in boiling heat once), I was getting drowned into continuous downfall on a 13 mile run, I had run along Southend Pier into 15-20mph winds and I bombed up hills I used to stop halfway on. On this Thursday morning, I didn’t fully realise the consequences of the injury until a few days later on Sunday when I had just finished on the elliptical trying to cross train, my knee felt tense and seized up again. Right there and then the frustration, emotion and (being a girl) the tears all flooded out as I stood infront of the mirror feeling helpless and hopeless, here I was, unable to run with less than 3 weeks to go until the race.
That day was yesterday, today you will be pleased to know I have not gone near the gym, and I continue to befriend the bag of peas in my freezer. The friendly people at Easy Runner were fantastic when I wondered in cautiously yesterday – but seriously, I did not think they were going to be open on a Sunday! Runners are hard workers! I was only after a physio referral – but instead, one of the guys asked me to do a series of stretches to help diagnose the pain – not my hamstring, back of my knee. It helped alot getting some sort of recognition of what was going on, and triggered a call to a local physio to book an appointment (which I should have done on Friday – again…this is a steep learning curve!).
Today, the exercise-control freak voice has finally chilled out and I realise I’m not going to get better unless I just rest! It’s hard to let go though of constantly achieving great miles and to stop the endorphins flowing for a while..I realised there are probably a number of dedicated runners in a similar situation to me – so I wanted to help the psychological feeling of crappiness that you are inevitably feeling.
1) Get some frozen peas, buy a roller, and bands – and check into your personal injury rehabilitation centre.
2) Quieten the voices
That motivating voice that told you “that you can always make time for a run” and “there are always runners out there racking the miles” needs to be hushed. It’s all about thinking of the world as a non-runner for a while – or as my friends describe it, being NORMAL. You have to learn to mentally step back from the physical drive that gets you running and to think of other forms of activity while you have to rest. This Bank Holiday weekend I took to walking and dancing – alot of dancing, but no crazy dipping down to the floor AND with knee support on.
3) Missing out on a week of training will not undo months of work.
This sounds like a really straight forward concept but it’s taken me days to realise this.
4) If you want to be able to run on race day, REST now or forever regret it.
I spent the weekend in the gym cross training, I’d read and heard about the perks of doing it when injured but really you need to listen to your body. I was doing standing knee bends (a conditioning exercise) directly after being on the eliptical and it was near to impossible – this was a sign I needed to stop doing it. I’m now going to yoga tomorrow instead.
5) Don’t turn to food to answer your problems.
Just because you’re unhappy about not exercising don’t drown your sorrows in eating terribly. Okay, so I may have demolished a bar of Galaxy on Saturday evening but I haven’t done it everyday since I was injured and I still managed to burn some of those amazing calories in the gym the next day (before the breakdown!). Also you need to make sure you’re not eating as many calories as if you are training – you want to facilitate your body when you get back on the run, and it probably won’t help with a couple of extra pounds!
6) Read about running – buy books/magazines.
View the recovery period as a long spell in between runs, you need to keep your mind somewhat engaged in why you run, for me, I’m trying to engage with how I’ll feel on my first run when I’m injury-free so I wanted to be as focused as possible – I am JUST about to order ‘Running like a girl‘ after hearing about the emotional as well as physical challenges Alexandra Hemingsley faces.
So here I am with a pack of frozen peas tied to my knee thinking about the week ahead, so far – all social running club plans are cancelled (Tuesday night..Thursday night..Friday morning..) and training will revolve around my recovery. This is written proof that you can mentally get through being injured. I don’t know when I can run normally, I don’t know what the conclusions are for my race time but I know I have finally gotten a bit of perspective on it all.
I went on to run the Bristol Half in 2:02, I found it incredibly hard from the 10th mile onwards but after the kind support of the people around me, runners and spectators, all of the hard work paid off. Even runner friends on Twitter asked me how I got on, I was overwhelmed by all of the support on Twitter. I raised over £1000 for Cancer Research UK after hearing some difficult news of a close family member. This one challenging experience of a half marathon has not stopped me, I ran the Sarsen Trail (Half Marathon) in Salisbury in May a week after I ran the Bristol 10k and plan to run my 3rd Half Marathon in Bath at the end of September.