So the Chicago Marathon is but three weeks away. By this point I had imagined myself gliding through 22 mile runs with the ease of Mo Farah running for the bus. But instead I’m in the middle of the longest break from running I’ve had since I took it up nearly two years ago.
Yes, I’m injured. After a July and early August full of distractions, some fun (holidays, weddings, and Olympics) and some not so fun (12 day work weeks and multiple late nights in the office), I had lost some of the form and fitness I had built up in June. Towards the end of August, I stepped my training back up, and two Saturdays ago embarked on a 21 mile run.
For the first 15 or 16 miles I felt fine, but towards mile 17, I started crashing badly. My left hip flexor and quad had started seizing up, and I had to give myself a very harsh pep talk to force myself to keep going. It didn’t help that I had been to the Paralympic wheelchair basketball the night before and was so inspired by athletes overcoming severe adversity that I felt that in my young(ish), fit(ish) and healthy state with four fully functioning limbs, I had no excuse not to keep pushing forward. So in the manner of the world’s meanest PE teacher (and believe me, I had a few in my time), I yelled at myself (internally) to stop whinging, and put one foot in front of the other, and repeat until I got home. Which I did, and got back at 3 hours 51 feeling better than I had done on my last attempt at this sort of distance (i.e. I was still capable of standing in the shower afterwards, rather than having to sit on the floor in a broken heap).
The following day, I realised that walking was a struggle, and my foot hurt in a weird scary non-muscular way every time I took a step. Over the next four days, I was stuck in Spain on a work trip and despite clearing the shelves of Nurofen and support bandages at the airport Boots, the pain didn’t show any signs of subsiding, and I started frantically googling stress fracture recovery time (don’t do this if you have a marathon in five weeks’ time – the results are gloomy).
The GP was predictably dismissive when I got back, saying she couldn’t see anything wrong (i.e. there was no bone poking out of my foot), offering the helpful suggestion to “wait and see how it goes over the next three weeks” – umm, not when I have a marathon on 7th October – so I found a proper sports doctor, who sent me for an MRI, gave me crutches, a giant inflatable ski boot, and a prescription for antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, and made me feel very thankful that I’d bought the highest tier health insurance after being so royally fobbed off by the NHS (lucky I am insured, since he charges £210 per half hour. I clearly chose the wrong career). Fast forward five days, and I had my diagnosis – peroneal tendinitis – a build-up of fluid on my tendon due to overuse. My sports doctor is also team doctor for the England Rugby 7s, so is used to dealing with elite athletes (ahem) looking for a speedy recovery, and he is very much working to get me fit for Chicago. I had a cortisone injection on Friday, which is about as enjoyable having a sharp bit of metal stabbed into your connective tissue sounds, but if it acts as a magic bullet to cure my tendon, then it will be worth it. Who knows, as a steroid, perhaps it will even enhance my performance!
So for now, I’m sitting tight, wearing the ludicrous ski boot (including to a black tie event last week, which looked a picture of elegance with my evening dress), drinking green tea by the gallon (on doctor’s orders – he told me to drink 8+ cups per day as floods the area with antioxidants), and doing loads of Pilates to keep my core strong for when I’m allowed to start training again.
I haven’t at this point even considered not running the race – I’m just focused on recovery, but the timing is a total bugger, and it’s certainly going to be a challenge to get my fitness back in time. In the meantime, I’m just off to have another cup of green tea…