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January 27, 2013

Being injured is a pain in the… well… Achilles in my case. Over the months of intermittent ankle stiffness and the odd stabbing pain, I’ve tried nearly everything – stretching, running slowly, different surfaces, different shoes – except resting. Finally, a couple of weeks ago, I made the decision that I needed to take a break and let my body heal, rather than exacerbate the injury and potentially force myself to take longer off in the long-run.

The decision to take a break wasn’t an easy one. For a start, a break is a bit open-ended – I don’t know when my ankle will be back to normal (although, hearteningly, it’s much improved) – and for another thing there’s a big race looming in April. Since drifting up to marathon running (from being a regular 10k runner, who then started dabbling in half-marathons), a 26.2 miler has been the chief focus of my running calendar. At London I had plans of cracking 2:50, and they weren’t looking too shabby based on a few 18-mile near-marathon-pace runs at the end of last year. But taking a break – admitting defeat – essentially meant coming to terms with the fact I might need to defer my place in the Virgin London Marathon until next year.

And, from this break, if I’m fully honest, it’s pretty unlikely I’ll be toeing the line come mid-April. I’m not far off being able to get back to running – perhaps in early February I’ll be pain-free – but in order to run the marathon I’d need to ramp up the distance and intensity in a way that would only guarantee another break from running as the injury returns.

With energy pent up, I’ve tended to be a little bit restless. Time out from running has involved catching up on films I missed at the cinema (despite the suggestion from LoveFilm that perhaps the film franchise had jumped the shark).

Missions that are not Impossible

I’ve been perfecting my pizza dough and assessing how best to char-grill peppers without having a griddle in the house.

Homemade pizza dough topped with char-grilled peppers

I’ve found steampunk sculptures hidden away on London’s South Bank.

A steampunk water feature on the South Bank

I’ve been getting my countryside fix from spying wildlife in the garden of a friend’s house.

Muntjac Deer

Running plays a big part in de-stressing me, so not being able to run has highlighted how much I need an outlet. A combination of snow and my bike needing some repairs put paid to simply cycling to and from work. So, for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been walking from the office in Holborn to Highbury and Islington tube station to get my fix of exercise. It’s not the most scenic of routes, but it could be worse, and it’s helped to keep my ankle mobile and rebuild strength.

However, today – the first day of the big thaw, and with the sun out for the first time in ages – I cycled down to a bike shop to get my bike seen to. The problem is that one of the handle-grip gear changers has come out of its socket and resolutely refuses to change gears. The bike has been hobbled from 18 gears to 3, and naturally the rear gear set are fixed on the highest gear ratio – making nimble road crossings and navigating the various bus stops on Stamford Hill less easy than would be ideal. So, now, it’s waiting to be fixed, and soon I’ll be able to cross train effectively (and be free of the tyranny of TfL’s extortion – £3.20 to stand in someone’s armpit for 20 minutes?! (this complaint is around the distance travelled, and the fact that the conditions of carriage are usually so poor, rather than wishing to secure more armpit-time for my money)), and will be able to do something about the encroaching feeling of London claustrophobia.

So, with temperatures raising, and a form of self-powered transport close to hand, I can make the most of this rest by planning cycle routes… Which, in truth, may look at lot like my normal running routes. But this way I’ll be able to scout out new areas for running once I’m back on my feet.

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