It has been over a year since I managed to injure myself, and if I knew that I would still be in running limbo this far along when I first limped to the finish line of Crathes half marathon last year, I would have been inconsolable. Now, I didn’t initially embrace the changes I have had to make to my training, but because I allowed myself to be hopeful, I could press on when I was feeling down, and throw myself into new experiences. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a difficult 12 months, and it doesn’t mean I haven’t grieved the loss of something I find important.
It’s nothing a few days of taking it easy at the gym won’t sort out, I told myself after my disastrous experience at Crathes in September, 2014. After all, it has been over a week since Glenmore 12, and I had done a fairly decent week’s training at the gym with no ill-effects since, so why should I be worried about not completing Loch Ness marathon, or Amsterdam, or Pisa in a couple of months? Crathes was an isolated incident. Everything is going to be fine. I just had an off day.
OK, so I’ll drop down to the 5k at Loch Ness, and if I have to I’ll speed walk Amsterdam. No problem.
OK, so the 5k did not go to plan, and I had thoughts of kicking a small child en route (see the next stage), but maybe I just got overexcited and set off too quickly. Amsterdam will be fine. Everything is fine.
OK, so I’ll give Amsterdam a miss just to make sure I’m fully recovered by Pisa. After all, Pisa is my goal race. Everything. Is. Fine.
Everything is not fine.
I don’t know how long each stage is meant to last, but I have a feeling that this was where I spent the majority of the first few months. Throw a handful of jealousy in the mix and season with a dash of wishing-ill-upon-anyone-with-a-fully-functional-set-of-legs, and you’re getting a clearer idea of my state of mind. Oh, you had a great race and took twenty minutes off your PB? That’s terrific. Fuck you. Of course, that was merely a representation of my internal monologue. Externally, I was more like this:
I can tell you with certainty that when you’re injured it is impossible to experience other peoples’ success without feeling a little bit of anger towards them. There is also a 100% chance that every asshole and his dog decide to go for a run whenever the weather is nice. Which, for some reason, is frequently.
In this particular scenario, ‘bargaining’ became more like, “please take my money and fix me.” I had sports massage (which I would have normally, but I focused on the muscles around my knee), I had physio, I did all of the exercises, I foam rolled, I did yoga classes (not my forte, for sure), I allowed a woman to stab me in the leg and butt with long needles and run a freaking electric current through them. I would have considered, should it have been made easily available to me, voodoo, witchcraft, and/or hypnosis. Hell, I considered the restorative effects of aromatherapy. That’s when I knew I’d hit rock bottom, and the fourth stage of grief.
I give up on life. What’s the point in even trying? Running is dead to me. I want to become a hermit. I don’t want to communicate with anyone. I don’t want to enjoy myself. Oh, some kid on the news has terminal cancer? They don’t understand real misery. Somebody please, just put me down.
This is pretty much the point where I threw myself a pity party. Every day. For weeks. I was not a lot of fun to be around, but that was OK, because I didn’t really make much of an effort to socialize. I basically lived in tracksuit bottoms and a hoody, and my diet consisted of beer and bread.
The last (running) race that I had already signed up to before my knee crapped out on me was Berlin marathon. It was going to be my A race. Every time I made any type of running progress over the past year, it has all been for Berlin. But every time I faced another setback, I could sense that dream slowly slipping away.
Berlin came and went, and I stayed in Scotland. With no scheduled runs for the foreseeable future, there is no added pressure on me to rush back into long distances. Instead, I have accepted that progress will be restrained, and realized the importance of having other things in my life to keep me going.
Over the past 12 months I have accomplished several things I have always told myself I’d get around to “later” because it clashed with some running adventure or another. With that obstacle out of the way, I could commit to completing my Exercise to Music, Gym Instructor, Spinning, and – most recently – Body Pump training. I’ve started teaching fitness classes before school (which is disgustingly early, I should add), and I’m working on a Sport and Exercise Psychology course in my free time. I’ve even completed my first (and second, and third) cycle sportive, and my first ultra-length open water swim.
I’ve also started running again – but only very short distances. For the next couple of months I’m going to focus on 5k, and if everything goes well, I’ll work up to 10k by January/February. After two rounds earlier this year of quickly working up to 9 miles before getting over-zealous and trying for too much, too soon, I’m being very strict with myself to ensure I have the best chance of making a gradual but steady return to running, and taking up my goodwill place at Berlin, 2016.
Here’s to relentless forward progress.