Running has been my therapy for longer than I can remember, I have ran in rain, sleet and snow to combat the pain of grief, sadness, anxiety but also to intensify the feeling of happiness, success and independence. Now my injury is forcing me to sit yet another race out and watch it go by. Before I even realised, running had become intrinsically woven throughout my day to day without me even consciously being aware of it, now it’s not in my life at all, I am all too aware of the fact that I don’t run. I’ve been fighting off tendinitis/tendinopathy on and off for the last 10 months and I write this account as I realise my complacency and impatience is doing nothing but slowing down my progress in achieving the goals and sporting challenges I have set my heart on.
In January last year, I entered in for the Bristol to Bath Marathon, by July, I realised something wasn’t right. By August, I was seeing a physiotherapist called Andy who told me I had tendinopathy in the back of my knee, while he said I could try and start running again I knew it was too close to the marathon for me to run it and to smash it. On the day of the Bristol to Bath marathon I supported runners in the race but never once saw myself running the race, infact, I was happy and relieved not to be running it. Somehow, between the months of January and October last year I had completely and utterly lost a love of something I’ve always loved. Why did this happen?
Being in denial for so long meant that I was still trying to run at the same speed I used to, I was running an uphill battle and more importantly, I was running it blind. I was convinced that I was over-worked and under-training as a runner, seeking excuses in my lifestyle to make up for the deteriorating performance. Seeing Andy gave me the confirmation which I needed to hear, I needed to know there was a name for it. Tendinopathy is also known as tendinitis, it starts off as a small tiny tear in the tendon and if it’s constantly used for exercise it becomes strained and, over time, it weakens. The ripple effects of this upsets the rest of the body’s biomechanics and other muscles get involved to help the tendon out, this can lead to one leg being stronger than the other and a whole host of messed up muscle groups which do and don’t get used during movement. The result can lead to a dull, aching feeling which can be pretty persistent and at worse, pain which forces you to knock back some ibruprofen and brace through the pain. There were days when I had to limp down stairs and across the office, deflated to feel the pain again.
The peaks and troughs
I continued to see Andy over the Autumn/Winter months, the inner-personal trainer within me began to ask constructive questions to support my rehabilitation, so I asked Andy questions about alternative sports and potential stretches. At the top of the list of approved sports were cycling and swimming. By December, I had purchased a beaut of a bike through my work’s cycle to work scheme and began cycling in January when the weather evened out (fair weather cyclist right here). At first, I was crippled by cycling and terrified of falling off but after months of practice on quiet roads I’m now at a point where I find a ride relaxing more than an ordeal. Read about how I built up my confidence again on the old two wheels.
This wasn’t the plan…
The plan was to get back into running after being in injury rehab mode throughout Winter and to conquer the challenge of multiple-stage competitions such as duathlons (run, bike, run) and triathlons (swim, bike, run). Running was progressing nicely in the early months of 2016 until I had to cut short a run due to pain returning in my knee, bam, that was it. The pain was back. It was almost as if I did one run too far. After all that resting, stretching and mending, I was forced to sit back and reconsider the great plan of 2016, just like I had to re-plan 2015.
A recent check in with Andy confirmed the worse, the race to ease me back into running again at the end of May, the Ful-on Duathlon, is unrealistic. Yet again, I need to stop running and go back to the resistance bands, stretches and strengthening exercises, my right knee is so much weaker than my left knee that there is alot of hours I’ve got pack in to be okay again. I have now devised a 6-8 week training plan which incorporates a set number of different strengthening exercises, the exercises are measurable and will be able to determine if my leg is stronger by the time I next see Andy.
Back to the drawing board
Nevertheless I am taking comfort in the fact that cycling and swimming are still okay, I can still aspire for triathlon success this Summer knowing I’m training for 2/3 of the race and I still get the cardio fix without the pain or fear of the pain. I now plan to set my next challenge as a cycling challenge, to prove that I am still capable of achieving great things without having to pound the pavements on a run and that I am still versatile as an athlete to move onto other sports whole-heartedly. Gradually over the last few months, cycling has taken me on some amazing adventures from country to country (Wales to England!), on some mad routes around Somerset and into the depths of the South Coast to the point where I rely more heavily on my bike than my running trainers to take care of the problems that running once did.
So there we have it, this is proof that yes, runners are absolutely ridiculous when it comes to handling injury but a little realisation, a method to the rehabilitation and a whole load of commitment will get you back into the body of an aspiring and capable athlete. As I write this, I don’t know if I’m quite capable of it myself just yet, but here goes nothing. Don’t become a one trick pony and consider other sports which can diversify your sporting achievements as well as distract you from the fact that you can’t do one particular sport. I hope this post helps other people in a similar position.