This is the long and cautionary tale of why it’s important to focus not just on the running side of running but resting and strengthening both your body and mind.
I felt like I was running on a pure unending high after Marathon des Sables. I had raced the London Marathon and set a huge personal best time. Two weeks later I went on to smash a goal I had been trying to break for two years in the 10K, going sub 50 minutes. I felt invincible as every race distance began to feel relatively easy, like I was born to run and run. But that all came effortlessly crashing down, pride built me up and my lack of focus tore me down.
On the morning of the Hackney Half I knew something wasn’t right. My body felt jagged and jarred somehow and yet I ignored that silent scream of doubt, we had driven too far and paid too much not to run at this point. If only I could go back to that May day and drag myself away from that race.
As soon as I crossed the start line and began to run I felt it; that painful twang beneath my knee that has now become my unwanted running companion. The pain was far more potent than I had felt in previous runs, it was so bad that I debated quitting after the very first step. I naively put it down to pre-race nerves and after a few steps the pain lessened. I packed the thoughts of quitting away and enjoyed running my first ever race with my partner.
It wasn’t until mile eight that the pain came back with bludgeoning vengeance and I realised that something was now seriously wrong.
My partner stopped for a loo break and so I walked on ahead telling her to catch me up. When she did I moved from a walk into a run and that’s when the sheering pain erupted from below my knee. It was so bad that I had to hobble awkwardly as my muscles warmed up enough for me to run without razorblades twisting below kneecap.
Finishing that race was a real struggle, I don’t like quitting anything but in those cruel agonising steps I thought of little else. I take no joy in saying that I hated that race with every fibre of my being. The only joyful takeaway is that I got to run it with my partner, even though both of us had a horrendous time.
After the race I tried to run but the pain was simply unbearable. There was no two ways about it; I was injured and it was not something I could stubbornly run through. I was out of running. Looking back I know what caused the injury and I hope my story is a cautionary tale to any other runs like me. It is all down to not focussing on the importance of rest following the completion of Marathon Des Sables.
I had trained harder than I ever thought I could in the lead up to the desert but as soon as I got back I did not stop and rest. I carried on running, like a snowball barrelling down a mountain, accumulating more and more stress on my body. The Hackney Half was breaking point but if I had stopped pushing my limits and appreciated that my body had gone through the real trauma of attempting to stay alive in the Sahara while completing the toughest footrace on the planet I would have been fine. If I had pressed the reset button; rested and then began to train properly again I would have run three more marathons by now along with two more ultramarathons. I can’t help but look back at my arrogant self who believed he was invincible and laugh at my own stupidity.
Part 2 coming next week…