I have been trying to put a brave face on my calf injury for several weeks now. My attempts to convince everyone else were really an attempt to convince myself that everything was OK. But I knew deep down that it wasn’t. There was something wrong with my calf and I needed to take a break to let it mend. But I wasn’t willing to do that. I had a half marathon to run and I became a bit too single-minded for my own good.
Today I went for a run and after about two miles my calf was in enough pain that I had to stop running. This was the third or fourth “final” chance to prove to myself that I was fit enough to run a half marathon. But I was relying on luck rather than anything and in one respect I did get lucky – lucky that my body continued to tell me that there was a problem and it wasn’t taking no for an answer. Not for the first time in the last few months, like a man who had missed the last train, I faced a long disconsolate walk home.
The God of running injuries knows what he is doing when it comes to the timing of an injury on a run. He ensures that the damage happens as far away from the start of your run as he can. There is a reason for that – it is so you have plenty of time during your walk home to reflect on what an arse you have been for running when your body is telling you not to. By the time I arrived home I had acknowledged that wholeheartedly.
But the walk of shame also allowed me to ask some honest questions and reach some difficult conclusions. First and foremost I decided that there was no question of continuing to kid myself that I had the slightest chance of running the Bath Half marathon in 9 days time. Just seeing those words in black and white makes me realise how much I have ceased to think logically about this. I haven’t run properly for the last five weeks and haven’t put in a fraction of the mileage necessary to run a half-marathon safely and yet I was still harbouring some feint hope that I could line up at the start a week on Sunday. Knock knock, MacFly!!!
Most important, I also concluded that I have done one too many of these walks of shame over the last three or four months, limping through our village with a long face. Nearly all of them have been calf pain or injuries. So this time, rather than fix the injury, I want to get to the root cause and fix that. My usual impatient way of operating is to focus on the first possible date that I can run again rather than letting my body tell me when it is ready. This time I am going to take as long as I need to get it right – even if it means not running for the next month. I am not going to look at the calendar or count the number of days since I last ran. I have plenty of time – my next event is not for three and a half months so I am going to wait until it is right. And to hold me to account I am going to let that decision be made by my excellent physio Joe.
It is strange, because having released myself from the pressure of making a race start-line and the demands of a fast comeback I felt quite liberated. And I found that deciding I was now going to take whatever time it took to get it properly treated, fixed and rehabbed was quite cathartic. Normally under these circumstances my mood on arriving home would be a cross between the sensitivity of Saddam Hussein and the charm of Frank Doberman. But today I felt genuinely upbeat by the time I got home.
This all led to the extraordinary scene of me walking into the kitchen of our house limping. Cate has seen this movie before! She looked at me with a worried expression and asked anxiously:
“How did the run go darling?”
“Fantastic” I said “My calf went again – but it’s great news” All with a big smile on my face!
Cate has never really understood the whole running thing, but now she is completely confused!