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Slight return

March 2, 2013

When you’ve typically been running 50-mile weeks, and then find yourself forced to rest through injury, you find yourself with a lot of extra time in your week. 6 hours or so, which would normally have been spent running, sit there yawning out in front of you.

I’ve been cycling a lot more recently, which has kept me from going stir crazy. The commute through rush-hour traffic along mercilessly pot-holed roads to and from work isn’t the most relaxing of rides, but if you embrace the traffic lights it can become a high-intensity training session. But over recent weekends I’ve been able to explore routes I’d been planning to run in my marathon training – having set out to Ware and back, I have also taken a slightly different route along a quieter (and nicer) stretch of river to the other side of Harlow and back.

But for me, running hits the spot other forms of exercise can’t. After 3 hours of continuous riding I was only just beginning to feel the same level of tiredness I might expect to feel from a 2-hour run, and most of that was caused by seat-based discomfort. Cycling’s hard work on the quads, but it completely neglects the rest of your body because you are, essentially, just sitting down… Albeit on a very invasive seat.

Each evening this week (with only one exception) I have been diligently stretching. This is something I should probably have been doing sooner, but stretching for stretching’s sake is a bit dull. But no matter, I’ve been downward dogging, dusting off my warrior pose, and several other poses that bear some resemblance to yoga but help tug at my tendons and muscles. Remarkably, the most pain I’ve had in doing this has been from my hamstrings where cycling has made them reluctant to stretch.

After the prolonged stretching build up, I set off for a short easy run today. About once a fortnight recently I’ve had a four-mile saunter to see how things are feeling. In past runs, I’ve found my ankle’s weakness noticeable and then had to suffer for a day or two as my tendon cramps up and refuses to stretch. Today’s run felt different.

I set off at a sensible pace, making sure I wasn’t stretching out too much and keeping control of my footfall. Having passed through the first mile without remark (unless you count seeing a man urinating in someone’s doorway at 2 in the afternoon just off a main road as remarkable), I headed out down the Lea Valley and felt a distinct temptation to elongate the run. But I didn’t want to hinder the recovery unnecessarily, so stuck to my four-mile plan, although the pace may have crept up in a few places.

Arriving back home, the run had been completely pain free. I’d been conscious of my ankle, but there weren’t any real twinges. I stretched out as I made myself some lunch, and where previously my foot would have seized up, it remained pretty much as flexible and pain-free as it had before the run. We’ll see how I’m feeling tomorrow morning (tendonitis is always worst first thing), but this feels like a significant improvement.

Assuming all goes well, I’ll be able to start building up to three short easy runs a week soon – just in time for the lighter evenings. Things are looking up.

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