Brrrr, it’s cold out this morning. I’m wearing leggings, t shirt, windproof (well kinda) jacket and a buff and I’m still feeling the chill. It hurts to breathe which surprises me a little but I think it’s the combination of a bitter wind and my suffering, from a cold that are conspiring against me. I found that breathing was much easier when I was in the sun and then became so much more difficult when passing through the shade. I’m running slowly anyway but slow down even more to let my breathing recover.
I ran over the A10 and along Butt Lane toward Impington. A black squirrel runs out of the undergrowth to my left and gives me a hard look. My stomping along the pathway is obviously disturbing his Sunday morning peace and quiet. These black squirrels were once quite rare but seem to be becoming a much more common sight around Cambridge. This one has some light brown markings on its haunches, tipped with white. I wonder if eventually we will have tabby squirrels. Now there’s a sight I’d like to see.
Going through Impington I see something that looks like a particularly ugly cactus. I take a closer look and see that it’s entirely made up of what look like silver bells. Most peculiar.
I pass on along into Histon and turn down Station Road eventually arriving at the busway. The sun is shining here and I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. It feels great to be doing my Sunday runs again. I can’t run as far as I had previously done but I’m slowly working my way back there
The last year has been a sorry tale of injury upon injury and definitely not enough running. I’ve also changed job and need to use a car to get to this one. This means my bicycle gets very little use and so my waist has expanded. This also is not helping my running. However, it is not all woe. Recently the injuries seem to have abated and I’m getting the running shoes out on a more regular basis.
Talking of running shoes I see that mine are a little past their best. I look around on the Internet and find out that, of course Saucony no longer make my favourite shoes, Saucony Triumph ISO 2. There is an ISO 3 that may be a good replacement but it feels a bit of a risk to move to a different model.
I arrive safely home, mentally checking through the various muscles and everything seems fine. I’ve managed another run without injury.
We had a wonderful night on New Year’s Eve at the Carlton Hotel in Prestwick.
There was much eating, drinking and dancing and it all culminated in a jolly late night. This was all well and good at the time but I was firmly committed to run the Eglinton parkrun in the morning. Carrie had also promised to come along to watch and so we both staggered out into a freezing cold morning to join the running fun.
We arrived just in time to hear the pre run briefing. Unfortunately the accent was a little too broad for my untrained English ears (or I hadn’t yet managed to get the ears to wake up) and I couldn’t make out a single word he was saying. I figured though that if I followed everyone else then I wouldn’t go far wrong.
Eglinton is a truly beautiful course. It seems to do a lot of winding around and about but it is all among the trees, over wooden bridges and around a very picturesque tower thing. There are marshalls everywhere, keeping a careful eye on the runners (very much needed today on an extremely icy course) and advising us to be careful over the many and varied obstacles. It was a pretty tough course with a fine combination of mud, tree roots and slippery paths. This made it a great test and I very much enjoyed the challenge.
The route has been cunningly arranged so that it is unlikely that the fast runners and the slower ones will become entangled with each other. However it is possible to see the leaders on their last section as you’re still doing the larger loop. It looked quite an exciting battle and looking at the results later I see the first two, Scott Martin and Paul Lafferty finished within a second of each other.
Last time I was at Eglinton was a year ago when I ran the Christmas parkrun in a rhino suit. I finished quicker this time around but not by a great deal. I reckon I was a good deal fitter last year as I was training for the London Marathon. That was before all my various injuries began to gang up on me.
I had a good time and it worked wonderfully well as a cure for New Year’s Day hangover blues. Many thanks to all the Eglinton volunteers and the 98 other runners for making it happen.
Well, it’s Christmas again and we are doing the tour of mothers.
First mum stop this year is my mum, in Leeds for Christmas and, of course I am looking to do a bit of parkrun tourism while I’m here. This is one that I haven’t done before. It’s in a place called Dewsbury which is in between Leeds and Huddersfield. It is in a park and, as with everything else in this area, it is on a hill.
The wind has been making a nuisance of itself and has blown debris all over the paths on which we intended to run. One of the pieces of debris is a tree and the decision is taken that it is probably a bit too big to just brush off to the side of the path. The parkrun volunteers take the decision to use emergency course which involves going around the small loop section a mighty six times. Our race director tries to explain this and gets into a frightful tangle when she adds extra detail to try and make it easier to understand. You will pass this monument 6 times she says. Ahem say the assembled masses. Seeing as the finish line is just back there won’t it be 5 times. Oh yes, well erm, yes ignore everything I’ve just said.
Unfortunately my wife has taken the six times bit of data and possibly hasn’t heard the correction (you are cheating here Jim – you are speaking from the future so you know that is what happened – well yes – and so you shouldn’t go around sounding all superior saying this or that probably happened when you’ve already been to the future and so know full well what happened – harumph, my blog, my rules, if I want to pretend omniscience then I shall).
Off we go around the monument and down the hill. I’m feeling great and really enjoying it.
The fast folk have already vanished around the bend at the bottom of the hill. I am skipping along happily until I reach the bottom of the hill and have to climb upwards again. It is a long slow hill but I see the finish line for the first time and this gives me cheer until I remember that it I must pass here another 5 times, or is it 6 or 4 or…
I pass Carrie at the top of the hill near the monument. She is wearing antlers and so fairly easy to spot. She hold up one finger doing her Sesame Street impression of the Count saying “one lap, ah ah ah”
Next time around the leaders have already caught me up. Gosh that’s a bit demoralising thinks I. Carrie is waiting for me again, “two laps, ah ah ah”. Around and around we go. I must have slowed down as people are passing me. There are a wide variety of costumes. Santas, reindeer and all kinds of Christmassy things.
“Three laps ah ah ah”.
“Four laps ah ah ah”
The leaders are passing me again on their way to the finish line. One goes speeding by and I hear a voice shout, “get yourself moving, we’re catching you.” The leader grins and steps up a gear.
“Five laps ah ah ah.”
I shout back to Carrie to say that I will see her at the finish line next time around. I look back as I run down the hill and she hasn’t moved at all. I wonder whether she didn’t hear me or didn’t believe me.
A chap looks behind and sees me approaching. “Go one he says, lap me now while you’ve got the chance.” I do as he says and do manage to pick up my pace a little toward the end. My time is still much slower than I expected but I reached the end injury free so am happy with that. I am handed a tag as I finish and then there is a long long windey funnel. This seems most peculiar until I realise that they are doing scanning at the end of the funnel. This makes absolute sense now as it means that there is plenty of room for the people to come through the finish line and then queue for scanning.
I am pounced on after the scanning and offered chocolates. I think if anyone is going to pounce on me then it is favourable if the aim of this manoeuvre is to offer me chocolates.
Carrie catches up with me and admits that there was a bit of confusion as regards 5 or 6 times around the monument.
It was a fun parkrun. It was fairly small (in terms of numbers, there were 119 people there on 25th December) and a very strange course going around and around so many times. I would like to try it again when they do the regular route.
Well done to Joe Sagar who finished more than a minute in front of anyone else and also many thanks to all the volunteers for putting on this extra Christmas Day parkrun.
The Book of my London Marathon run for Save The Rhino
Hurrah, it is finally done.
For all those of you who have a London Marathon place this year, I have just the book for you. I ran the marathon this year to raise money for Save The Rhino and found it bloody difficult but a tremendous experience. I’ve crunched all the fun and frivolity of the months of blood, sweat and tears and then the slog around London into a bright and breezy ebook called ‘From Parkrun To London Marathon’. Buy it on Amazon UK, Amazon USA and all those other Amazons all over the world . They will take their cut from the sales but every penny they hand over to me will be donated directly to Save The Rhino.
I’ve put my various stories together into a narrative that tells the tale from when I started running to my decision to run the London Marathon for Save the Rhino. I’ve then continued on to talk about raising money for the charity and extending my distance so I had some chance of reaching the finish of the London Marathon and claiming my medal.
The bulk of the book covers my experience on the day as I dragged my tired and unfit body around the streets of London. Trust me, it’s a lot more fun than it sounds from the description there.
There are lots of giggles along the way and hopefully some insights that will help people that are thinking of taking on the challenge themselves.
The paperback version is now available and the links above will lead you to the ebook and paperback versions of the book. Please buy as many copies as you can afford and disseminate them widely. Hopefully they will inspire other people to run the London Marathon and possibly even help push them toward running for Save The Rhino.
Remember all money I receive from sales of this book will go directly to Save The Rhino
Grantchester is just a ridiculously beautiful little village. If you take the phrase ‘picture postcard village’ and then feed that description into an amplifier and crank it up to 11, then you’re somewhere near being able to give an impression of what it feels like to be wandering through Grantchester. Driving through the village prior to the run I bask in the glow of village loveliness arraying itself neatly alongside the winding lanes. I glance to the right and see the church grounds all covered in snow.
This is October, it’s about 12 degrees Celsius, there shouldn’t be snow.
Maybe it wasn’t snow. Could it have been a huge amount of some kind of white blossom? My mind is zipping back and forth, performing somersaults and triple back flips as it struggles to comprehend what it’s just witnessed. Fortunately moments later we see a large studio lighting truck and I realise that the church has probably been decorated for the TV series, Grantchester.
We park up and all gather in a large field. There is a large inflatable that says start on one side and finish on the other. My mighty brain reaches the conclusion that this may be where we begin the run.
The ankle injury is still a long way from being healed so I’m not expecting a good time today. I began near the back of the pack aiming to finish in around 63 minutes. I often start these races near the back and I’m not entirely sure this is the right thing to do. I always spend the first few kilometres jammed in among the masses. I feel that I should be moving on but there’s nowhere to go until the field starts to thin out a little. This sounds like I should be starting further forward but then there is the possibility that I may set off too fast and then have nothing left in the tank for the finish. Alternatively am I being too careful and not really putting in as much effort as I could do?
Eventually a few gaps appear and I am able to start passing people. We cross the M11 and start meandering around across fields, through clumps of trees and then eventually back over the M11 several kilometres later. It is at around the 8 kilometre marker that I encounter a Mr motivation type guy. He is running just in front of a woman that I assumed was his partner. He was holding his hand out at around thigh height while looking back at her and making encouraging type noises. This looked such an odd thing to do that I hung back a little so that I could watch. What was she supposed to do with this hand that he was waving in front of her. It was a good kicking height. I wonder if she was tempted. “C’mon”, he was saying, “you can do this”. Over and over again he exhorted her to run a little faster, to push, to work to try harder etc etc. Surprisingly I never heard her swear at him or even try to kick that hand that he was waving in front of her. Eventually I decided to pass them and this seemed to turn up the dial on his motivational outbursts. “Look, you’re being passed”, he said. “He’s going right past you. You’ve really dropped off the pace. You’ve got to pick it up if you’re going to get in under an hour.” Still she said not a word but I think she started to run very slightly slower. Either his motivation was breaking her spirit or this was her form of rebellion. I left them behind but could still hear him shouting about how slow she was going long after I had reached the edge of the field and was heading toward the 9K marker.
I speeded up a little after 9K and was surprised that I still seemed to have plenty of energy. Maybe that answers the question I asked earlier. Possibly I am being too conservative and should try to push myself more from the start. I sprinted for the finish inflatable and crossed in a time of 57:51. Much faster than I had expected but possibly I could have finished quicker than that.
I wonder if the motivation couple managed to get to the end in less than an hour. Maybe if she looked like she was going to finish under the hour, she would have stopped and walked just to irritate him. I suspect motivation guy would have exploded in a mushroom cloud of anger and frustration if she had finished in 61 minutes. Twould have been quite a sight.
I was too busy queuing up for bacon sandwich and coffee to see who came in after me. I much approve of races providing bacon and coffee. I have far too many running t shirts now. I would much prefer bacon.
The medal looks quite classy. It has a blue background with a picture of a clock with the hands at 10 to 3. This is in homage to the poet Rupert Brooke who lived at the Old Vicarage in Grantchester and wrote a poem called ‘The Old Vicarage’ which ends with the words:
Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?
Southwold is a lovely little seaside town on the East coast of England. It’s full of beach huts, old folks, fish and chips, Adnams beer and genteel jollity. Of course I also hoped it would have some kind of timed run.
I scanned the parkrun pages for a run local to Southwold but the nearest was Lowestoft. This is only about 30 minutes drive from Southwold but I was on holiday with my wife and felt it might be a bit unfair if I went off up the coast without her. I then searched just for runs in the area and found that Adnams (the brewer) did a 10K run but that was a once a year thing in November. I did however spot in the list of hits something called ‘Great Run Local’. I clicked on the page and saw that it mentioned something called Wythenshawe Park and Salford Quays. I scrolled down and saw a map centred on Manchester. How odd, I thought. I shouldn’t have got that in my search. I was just about to click away when I decided to try a Ctrl F page search for Southwold. Sure enough there it was, just a little below the cut,
Run’s start at 9:30am from the Water Tower on the Common every Sunday (please arrive for 9:20am).
Being a bit dim sometimes, my first thought here was that 3 metres and 1 metre isn’t very far to run. I did however manage to figure out that it was more likely to be miles.
The run was on a Sunday morning at 0930 so I popped out earlier to do a little warm up run. I felt terribly creaky and was breathing quite heavily after only a few yards. My physio has given me strict instructions to keep to very short distances and allow 2 clear days between every run. She also told me to try other ways of keeping fit such as swimming or resistance training. I haven’t really been doing these things so my fitness has dipped quite a bit. The ankle injury is giving me fewer problems though so cutting back on running along with the icing and stretching does seem to be helping. My breathing levelled out after a while and I started to move a little easier. I ran up to the common to find out where the run started and then ran back again.
I spotted a useful sign while I was there that told me ‘You Are here’ and then presented me with a blank sheet of metal. I returned to our rented cottage and my wife told me that she wished to come along to watch me run.
There was a lovely warm welcome waiting for us on the Common where they explained where we would be going and handed us a nice glossy piece of paper that told us a little more about the Southwold Great Run Local. It seems that this is a movement quite similar to parkruns but with a little more flexibility on when they do their timed runs. They also do 2 runs at the same time. One of the runs is 3 miles and the other 1 mile. This seems to be an exceptionally good idea as the one mile run serves as a great introductory run to the longer 3 miles. They even managed to convince my wife, Carrie to try the one mile run. Carrie keeps fit with all manner of fitness classes but an inherent weakness in her knees means that she has come to dislike running quite intensely. I was more than a little surprised when she agreed to run the mile.
There were 15 of us on the out and back 3 mile course. We were sent on our way and then the 1 mile runners started moments later on the same course but turning around much sooner than us.
I set off at a decent pace and was a little surprised to find myself among the leading group of runners. This never usually happens. I started to wonder whether I should slow down a little so that I would have enough energy in the bank to finish the run. I had just backed off a little when a little worry started to nag at me. I had no idea how well the course would be marshalled so there was a distinct possibility that I might get lost. I glanced behind me and the next person was quite a way away. I looked forward and could see the line of runners snaking away in a line. I should really try to stay in contact with these people so they could show me the way. I surged a little and locked in behind the runner in front. My thinking was that if I could get to half way then we would turn around and come back the same way. Then I shouldn’t get lost and could maybe slow a little. The running felt quite easy now as we passed along bramble covered hedgerows, then over the River Blyth where I was left gasping at the sheer beauty of it all.
The 1 and a half mile marker was a cheery marshall who was happy to be a runner roundabout as we circled around him and pushed back toward the Common. It was lovely to see the other runners as we retraced our steps and we were all able to offer greetings and encouragement to each other as we passed. We ran back along the long straight course (I don’t think I would have been able to get lost if I tried) and at the end the marshall waved us to the right to go back onto the Common. I was fighting for breath as I struggled up the very slight uphill toward the finish line but pushed on and staggered across to collapse onto the ground. Jane Samkin was there with her phone prodding at the screen as I crossed the line. I think the way it would usually work is for her to scan wristbands using the Near Field Communication built into most smartphones. I had registered on the web site but unfortunately my wristband hadn’t arrived by the time I set off on holiday. It was waiting for me when I got home.
I crossed the finish line in 5th place in a time of 24.54 which pleased me immensely. My parkrun best for 5k is 25.54 so the time equates to something very similar, being a slightly shorter distance. This was completely unexpected coming off the back of so little recent running and gives me a lot of hope that I might be able to improve my time when my ankle heals and I can start to run more often.
Carrie also completed the one mile run (in ordinary shoes as she wasn’t intending to run) and now has a PB of either 12.14 or 12.35 to aim at when we get the chance to do another Great Run Local.
I really enjoyed this run. It had beautiful scenery, was well marshalled and had a really friendly atmosphere. I also liked there being the 1 mile option so that Carrie could run too.
I am grateful to all the people who gave their time and energy to make it happen.
Needles, she said. I’m going to stick some needles into your leg. What foul quackery is this thought I. My ankle hurts and she wants to hurt it some more by sticking a bunch of needles into it.
I lay down on the bench and put my head through the hole. I’ve always hated needles. Dentistry has poisoned my mind against such barbaric instruments. However, the physio seems to know what she’s doing, so I steel myself to whatever is to come. She assures me that it won’t hurt but I squeal pathetically every time she introduces a new needle. She assures me that the latest one hasn’t yet pierced the skin. “That’s just the tube” she says. I am baffled. That really hurt. I would be rubbish at tattoos. She goes into the next room to get something and I look around at my ankle. There are several small spikes sticking out of it. It looks extremely alarming. I look away and she returns to remove the needles and massage the tendon. Surprisingly it seems that she can now touch that achilles tendon without me squealing and leaping into the air. The needles thing seems to have eased the pain a little. I suspect the relief is only temporary but it feels good nevertheless. Apparently its purpose is to increase blood flow into the tendon. These tendon thingies don’t get so much blood and it seems that if you’re trying to fix them then blood is just the thing that their little tendon selves desperately need.
I’ve been seeing a physiotherapist for a few months now. It started with my hamstring problems just before the London Marathon. Then there was a debilitating knee problem after the marathon and now I have achilles tendon pains. It seems that I am receiving a crash course in runners injuries.
The knee pains were absolutely dreadful. It was they that put paid to my Edinburgh Marathon at mile 16. Michelle (the physio) explained to me that it was an imbalance in the muscles that had pulled the knee out of alignment. This caused the knee to scrape on things it shouldn’t be scraping on and therefore inflicted loadsa pain. She is very realistic and realises that runners are ridiculously stupid creatures and will still attempt to run whatever the injury. She therefore taped up the leg to try hold the muscles in place and stop any more inflammation. Unfortunately this doesn’t last long as the tape tends to work loose after a few days. I am, however, learning (albeit very slowly) that I really should cut back on the running and take up other forms of exercise until my injuries heal. Even when they have healed then it seems to make sense to look after the other muscles that work together with the leg muscles. She is trying to talk me into Pilates classes but I’m not overly attracted by the idea. I am however doing the exercises she has given me to pull that knee back into place. There are bum exercises and some more to strengthen the inside of my knee and these exercises seem to have worked. I have had no more pain from that knee. I have had pain from my achilles tendon though.
It’s an overuse injury she says. My heart sinks when I hear this.I know that the only real answer to an overuse injury is to stop using it. I take a look on the Internet and everywhere I see the answer, it’s an overuse injury.
The physio has me standing on steps and pushing my heels down over the edge. I have to do 30 of these quite slowly every day. I also have to do calf stretches, ice the tendon, heat the tendon and then still maintain all those knee exercises. This fixing my legs business is becoming a full time activity. I am also under strict instructions to attend the gym, do some swimming and lots of bicycle rides. Frankly all I want to do is the thing that I enjoy; just to run. I must be patient though. My time will come once this tendon is mended.
I love doing a bit of parkrun tourism. It is fascinating going to different places to see how they do their parkruns and to experience so many of the beautiful places in which these runs take place.
My home parkrun in Cambridge was taking a short break for a couple of weeks so that Milton Country Park could do some work on the paths. Richard and I discussed the alternatives and decided to go slightly further afield to try out one that we’d never been to before.
The Bury St Edmunds parkrun is held in a beautiful park full of fine mature trees and splendidly springy grass to run upon.
The run has a wide start so that no one is far from the start line even with the 259 runners there were today. We set off like a charging barbarian horde going uphill across the grass. There is much shuffling for position but as we turn the corner to run back downhill, everyone is beginning to spread out a little.
We curved around to the right keeping the trees on our right hand side and then back down another slope eventually arriving at a large clump of trees and a narrow path through the middle. This is very welcome for the shade the leaf cover gives us from the sun but it is a bit of a bottleneck and we must tread carefully to avoid the many tree roots strewn across our path. Having survived the deadly obstacles we emerged back into the sun to skirt around the enclosed football courts and then up the hill back to the start so that we can begin our second lap.
I’m hurting quite a bit now from the ankle injury and reckon that I’m beginning to slow a little. I huff and puff a little up the hill. Richard is running at the side of me and I reckon he’s a little bit alarmed by the noises I’m making. He suggests that maybe I could slow down if I wish. We turn to go down the hill and my breathing eases a little but as we turn right I’m hurting again and I can tell that my speed has dropped,, as people are beginning to go past. I’m trying to ignore the pain from my ankle and just keep my legs turning over. It’s damn hot and sweat is running into my eyes causing them to sting. The trees are a welcome relief but as we run through this section Richard trips on a tree root and goes down onto the floor. Fortunately he manages to put his hands out and roll so doesn’t get hurt too badly. He gets up and we carry on.
We burst out from the trees again and curve around the fenced football pitches. I put on an extra bit of speed up the hill and am incredibly relieved to see the finish funnel this time and take my token.
This was a lovely course and it must be delightful to see how it changes with the seasons. I should imagine parts of it become fantastically muddy during the winter months. Of course that kind of weather was a long way away today and both Richard and I suffered from the heat and the humidity of that glorious summer Saturday morning. We grabbed a couple of cold drinks from the shop and made our way back to the car. We both really enjoyed our visit to Bury St Edmunds parkun and thank all the volunteers for making it happen and helping to give us such a fine running experience.
I got a time of 27:03 which wasn’t amazing but I was reasonably happy with it.
I really had almost no idea where I was going or how long I was going out for but just wanted to get outside and do some running.
It’s been quite a while since my knee gave way at mile sixteen on the Edinburgh Marathon. I have been resting and then attempting to build up my running nice and slow. This has, of course been massively frustrating and I have managed to acquire a whole new injury on my right ankle that I shall ask the physio about on Monday.
The physio (Michelle from Vinery Studios here in Cambridge) gave me a whole bunch of exercises to try and build up my glutes (bum muscles) and the muscles that run by the inside of my knee. They are designed to strengthen those muscles and that should pull my kneecap back to where it should be and it will stop becoming inflamed when I run. It seems to be working and I am tentatively running a little bit further every week. With this in mind I felt it might be time to attempt a Sunday long run. I was however quite nervous about it. Will it be too much, too soon? Are my legs ready for it? I decided that I would aim to go over 10 kilometres but not too far over. I’ll run up to Histon and see how I’m feeling then.
Through Histon I ran and was feeling fine although very hot. A little bit of water in my mouth and more tipped over my head. Very nice. I probably should have put some sun screen on. I have a small bald patch on the top of my head on which the sun tends to burn with a ferocious intensity. The heat burrows into my brain and I can get all groggy and wobbly with it. No sir, I haven’t touched a drop. It was the sun wot done it, honest.
I ran through Histon and found myself on a path leading down to the busway. On the other side of the busway was a path going to Girton. That’s decided it for me then, I thought. I shall go to Girton and play on the fitness equipment.
Across the fields I ran and emerged on to a football pitch in Girton. All around the edge of the field were various pieces of equipment. I tried them all, looked mighty foolish and failed mightily with any that required even a modicum of arm strength.
So, that was a lot of fun and I realise I do need to do some more varied exercise. Just running is great but a muscle imbalance such as the one that pulled my kneecap out of alignment is one I very much want to avoid in the future. I ran back and did just over 17 kilometres altogether. I stopped off at the Sycamores recreation ground in Milton Village on the way back and quickly did a few reps on each machine.
So, 17 kilometres seems fine. Hopefully I can push back up to half marathon distance and then eventually back up to Marathon distance. To do that I will have to try and stay uninjured for as long as possible.
I am running alongside the sea, heading out of Edinburgh and everything seems to be going well. There is some pain in the knee but it has dissolved into a background ache rather than the grinding hurt I had felt before. I was enjoying the course and I felt pretty good. Despite all my fears it seemed that this, my second marathon was going to go much smoother than I expected.
So why was I so fearful about this run?
Well, it had all begun a few weeks ago. I had run the London Marathon 4 weeks previously and even though I had emerged aching and hurting I had suffered no injury. I rested for a week afterwards and then settled back into my usual running routine. All the next week was fine until Friday when I popped out for a nice gentle 10k around the park and down the busway. Near the end of this run I felt a bit of a twinge in the knee. Hmmm, slightly worrying thinks I but I’m sure that it’s nothing to worry about. A couple of hours later I am finding it quite painful to walk. Every time I bent the knee, the back of the kneecap felt as if it was scraping backwards and forwards over jagged glass. I went to parkrun the following day and only managed the first kilometre before I limped sadly from the course. With the Edinburgh marathon only 2 weeks away, drastic action was called for. I rang around and booked an appointment with a physiotherapist.
The physiotherapist that I chose was from Vinery Studios in Cambridge. Darryl from the local running shop, ‘Up and Running’ told me that they had been doing some work with Vinery Studios so I thought I would give it a go. I booked an hour session with Michelle for Tuesday very much hoping that she would be able to help.
Michelle looked at my leg, asked me some questions and did a bit of prodding. She then got me to lay down and do various leg raises in different positions. “I am going to push down on your leg and I want you to resist as hard as you can.” I resisted and the leg was pushed down as easily as you might slide a glass along a polished table. She readjusted me and instructed me to resist again. The sliding glass on polished table thing repeated itself all too easily. Michelle made her diagnosis. My quads, it seems are reasonably strong. Apparently this is often the case with runners. It’s one of the muscles that we very much rely upon. Michelle tells me the strong muscle interacting with the weak muscles will have pulled the knee out of alignment. This causes it to scrape against things that it shouldn’t be scraping against. She gave me a bunch of exercises to do and I went home and set to, in the hope that I could whip these muscles into shape before the Edinburgh marathon.
I tried out out my knee the following weekend and although it was fairly painful it didn’t feel too bad. I ran 16 kilometres and my confidence soared. Running the Edinburgh marathon now looked like something that I might be able to do. I saw the physio again the following Tuesday and she seemed pleased with progress. I could do all those fancy clever things like walking up and down stairs. “Do you think I might be able to run the Edinburgh Marathon” I asked hopefully. Michelle thought it might be possible but advised me to stop if it began to hurt. I floated away in a sea of happy complacency until I came to do a gentle run two days before the marathon. The pain was back and it continued after I had stopped running, inflicting all sorts of hideous discomfort upon me. I checked the website to see whether it would be possible to get a refund or a deferral if I pulled out of the Edinburgh marathon but it assured me that they didn’t hold truck with any of that sort of thing. I resolved to run but knew that having to quit during the race was a distinct possibility.
So I’m running along and thinking that maybe things are going to be OK. The course is nice although it maybe seems a little disingenuous calling it the Edinburgh Marathon when so little of it is in Edinburgh. Maybe something such as East Lothian Marathon or Musselburgh Marathon might be more appropriate, or possibly they could get really cocky and call it The Scottish Marathon. This latter suggestion might possibly upset all those other people who run marathon events in Scotland.
We run around a few streets in Edinburgh and then head out to the coast. There is mile after mile of sea and sand on our left hand side and a lovely cooling breeze coming off the sea. Everyone is now settling down to their regular pace after the hustle and bustle of the first 7 or 8 kilometres. A chap called Steve runs alongside me and begins to chat. He’s from Woking and is telling me how much marathons terrify him. He sounds as if he is faster and more experienced than I at this thing but the marathon still frightens him every time. We compare training and talk about all those runner type things such as intervals, long runs, hydration etc. All those topics that we can put non runners to sleep with at dinner parties. Steve is also worried about injury problems and feels that he hasn’t had the training that he would like to have had. We compare trials and tribulations but also look to chat about the good things such as the scenery and that astoundingly welcome sea breeze.
Musselburgh eventually hoves into view and is a welcome sight. Even though we are only a third of the way through we know that next time we come into Musselburgh the race will be done. We make progress.
I am enjoying the interaction with the spectators although am acutely aware of the vast difference between this event and the London Marathon. In London the levels of craziness just seem to go higher and higher. People are screaming and shouting and encouraging each other to become massively excited about the whole experience. The crowds infect the runners with their excitement and the runners respond so encouraging the crowds even more. In Edinburgh there is support but it is more at the level I am accustomed to in the smaller races that I have taken part in around Cambridge. There are some people shouting out especially as I am wearing a London Marathon, Save The Rhino shirt with my name emblazoned across the front. I make sure that I acknowledge every shout. I feel obliged to do so but don’t feel that this is a bad thing. Obligations can often feel like a burden but this one feels an absolute joy.
Looking across the road we see the leaders start to come through. The winner was a chap called Kiprono.I hadn’t heard of him before this.
I was imagining myself coming back this way and really looking forward to it. It was a gentle downhill and the breeze would be behind me urging me onwards.
At around 15 miles Steve asked me for his Lucozade bottle. I dig around in his back pack and hand it to him. My leg is hurting so I cadged some ibuprofen gel from him. His tendons were hurting and he asked me to rub some gel on his knee also.
Steve ran on, I stepped out to try and catch up and found the knee pain had increased dramatically. I gritted my teeth and tried to carry on and then suddenly discovered that I could no longer put any weight on my left leg without it buckling from the pain. I staggered over to the side of the road and found a tree to prop myself upon with one leg held in the air. A marshall came to help, asked if I needed medical assistance and I said yes.
While we were waiting I heard various exchanges on his radio. Not everyone was as willing to stop and receive assistance. Someone else apparently was weaving all over the road in considerable distress, bumping into other runners. Marshalls had asked him to stop but he didn’t seem to hear them and carried on. Someone was shouting over the radio, “stand in front of him, it’s the only way to stop them when they are like this.” I had no such problems stopping myself running. Putting any weight on that leg at all sent huge rolling waves of agony flashing out sharply from my knee. I wasn’t keen on the notion of letting that foot touch the ground anytime soon. The doctor appeared a few minutes later and offered me several tablets. I swallowed them down and then he asked me what I was going to do. I was a bit nonplussed by the question as I didn’t feel that I had much in the way of options. I decided that telling him that I was just going to stand here on one leg and whimper probably wasn’t an answer that anyone wanted to hear. Instead I suggested that maybe I would try to find my wife who had said that she would try and connect up with me at mile sixteen. I reckoned that I was past mile 15 but wasn’t entirely sure. The doctor and the marshall didn’t know where we were other than we were in their sector thirteen. I reckoned that I needed to get moving and put left foot down to try walking. I howled in pain and stopped again. I called Carrie and told her the news. She said that she was in a taxi trying to find the course and asked where I was. I couldn’t really give her any specific information. I tried to walk again and found that if I kept the knee very straight indeed that it could bear a little weight. I limped forward. People were asking me all the time whether they could help but there wasn’t much that anyone could do. What I needed was transport to the end to collect my baggage but no one was in a position to offer me that. Some kind people did give me a bottle of orange though and that was very welcome indeed.
The doctor caught me up again and pointed across the other side of the road. There was a footpath there going up to a village. He reckoned that might be a good way to connect up with my wife. I concurred and attempted to cross the road. There was a constant stream of runners but eventually I saw a gap and with the speed of a snail attempting to slide across dry sand hauled myself over to the other side. I reached the footpath and began the long slow walk over the golf course. People were passing to and fro asking if they could assist me at all. I obviously looked in a very bad way indeed. I thanked them for their concern, managed to find out where I was (Longniddry) and told them that I was meeting my wife. That was the plan anyway although phone reception had become increasingly patchy so I wasn’t entirely sure how much she had heard of my description of the current location.
On and on I walked. It seemed like forever but I was learning a technique that minimised the pain a little. I found that if I could keep my left leg very straight when I put my foot on the ground then it didn’t hurt too much. If my knee bent laterally at all then there was huge amounts of pain. Avoid that I thought. It took massive amounts of concentration to keep that leg straight and I could only take very tiny steps as I had to stop the knee attempting to bend at all.
My journey across the golf course was a very long trek indeed. At the other end I emerged on to another footpath and began limping up that one. Over a hedge I saw someone running. Carrie was there looking quite frantic. I yelled out that I was here and she did a kind of mad muppet flailing with her arms thing and whirled around to find her way back to the path that I was on. A couple of minutes later she found me and flung herself into my arms. It was very good to be reunited again.
Carrie pointed me at the train station and we began our long slow walk up the hill. A very tall man appeared from nowhere and asked if we wanted a lift up to the train station. “Yes, absolutely!” yells I, “that would be brilliant”. He vanishes for several minutes and then reappears in a car and drives us to the train station. I think he must have seen us from his living room window and made the decision to help. Just a downright wonderful thing to do. Thank you tall man from Longniddry. You are a damn fine chap.
The trains from Longniddry are only once every hour so I had plenty of time to sit in the station feeling sorry for myself. Despite wanting to hide away I still needed to make my way to the finish. I had put some warm clothes into a bag at the start and that bag was now waiting for me at the finish line in Musselburgh. We boarded the train and arrived in Musselburgh to find that the train station was nearly two miles away from Musselburgh. How bizarre. Fortunately there was a bus and that took me within about a half mile of the finish. Carrie and I limped along the high street but I was moving very slowly indeed. She decided to stash me in a Subway (where I bought a sandwich), take my number and go on to collect my bag. She also collected a friend of ours called Lynn who had arranged to meet us at the finish line. They came back for me and we all went back to find another bus at my micro slow limping speed. Back in Edinburgh there was a long slow trudge to Waverley station. At Waverley we caught a train to Ian and Elaine’s house in Linlithgow. Then it was time to relax with ice on knee, raised foot and beer. The physio hadn’t mentioned anything about beer in her recommendations but I’m sure that was just an oversight.
A poor broken marathon runner am I.
There may be rather fewer races in my immediate future than I had planned. This knee is very painful indeed.