Virgin London Marathon training: Week 10
There were points this week when I thought that my hopes for the 2012 Virgin London Marathon were smashed. I started thinking about what I would have to do to defer my place and whether I’d be ready to treat Edinburgh as my sole A race.
The stiffness in my neck that started over the weekend wasn’t getting better. I was snatching hours of sleep and working my way through a stockpile of ibuprofen. That ever-reliable source of self-diagnosis the internet had convinced me I had a neck sprain, and the best advice was to just keep going and it’d sort itself out eventually. Not able to turn my head properly and incapable of looking up, for some reason I thought it would be fine to go to Oxford on Monday as originally planned.
Meetings were full of me sinisterly turning my body to face whoever was talking, a bit like a bad B-movie mannequin. At intermittent points, I stretched my neck, making little progress. Then, at the end of the day, things seized up again in response to the stretching and all motion was banished.
The next day, after a fitful night’s sleep, I went to the doctor. The prescribed anti-inflammatory pills and strong painkillers, as well as continued neck exercises. Left to rest, the neck just seizes up even further and it can take weeks of physiotherapy to work out.
The pills made me drowsy but also refused to let me sleep. I’d get to bed, fresh from an evening’s dose of painkillers to find my sleepy head racing with stupid thoughts. I’d eventually find a position that wasn’t too painful to sleep in, doze off and immediately jolt awake again. At one stage – to my horror – I had a One Direction song looping through my head at 4am. I can’t sum up the tedium, boredom and frustration of lying awake in fear of moving for the agony desperately needing to sleep but unable to.
After two days off work I’d regained most of the sideways motion in my neck, but looking up was a challenge.
On Thursday, I was back at work in the office. I’d had five days off running and decided that an easy run home might help loosen my shoulders and neck and help slow the decline of my fitness. Although my neck felt a little weak at times, running home was broadly fine. Slow, conservative, but fine.
On Friday, I felt much better. Again, I’d not slept well, but the previous day’s run seemed to have shaken out some of the stiffness in the vertical motion of my neck. I decided to run at lunchtime. As irony would have it, I’d actually woken in sheer bloody agony on Friday having stretched up my left leg and got an almighty cramp in my calf. Fortunately, a bit of stretching and time on my legs sorted this out. The run on Friday was an extremely slow five miles, tentatively stretching out my calf and still feeling a little weak of the neck.
Saturday afternoon was gorgeous, so I set out for an easy run. This ended up being a bit faster than I’d planned, but I was feeling fairly good. It felt harder work than it should have been, but I wondered how much that was down to psychological factors rather than actually being weakened.
And then Sunday, I took my long run. With no particular goals, other than running a decent distance, I took off down the Lee Valley. The first ten miles passed well, but then I started to slow as the strong, cold wind and driving rain chipped away at my morale. At 15 miles I stopped to stretch out, take a black cherry yoghurt-flavour Torq Gel (genuinely tasty) and then got back on it. However, the stop had made my legs leaden, I wasn’t getting any warmer or drier, and the trudge to a total of 22 miles was far harder than it should have been. My neck felt fine, though.
So I got lucky. What could have been a nasty injury cleared up after five days and my recovery is coming on well. However, in those dark days of pain and insomnia I was staring into a very different scenario, and it’s going to take time to get that out of the recesses of my mind.
I’m racing at Silverstone Half-Marathon next weekend, so I need to get speed back into my legs. I can either approach this as a tentative come-back race, or I can follow my original plan of trying to go all-out to secure a confidence-boosting finish time. I think I’ll decide during the week as my legs get used to running and the neck injury slips further into the past. What matters, though, is that I’m back from the brink and that there are 7 weeks until the Virgin London Marathon – which firmly remains my A race.