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Postponing the inevitable

April 6, 2013

2013 spring marathon PBs count double

It was mid-January when I realised I was probably best off taking a break from running to allow my Achilles tendon to heal, which meant coming to terms with my likely inability to run the 2013 Virgin London Marathon. Yet, little more than two weeks before the race, it’s only now that I’ve finally bitten the bullet and actually deferred my place.

After work this week, I was limbering up for a run in the (fleeting) sunshine. I stopped for a chat with one of the other runners, who’d heard a bit about my injury, and was pleased to see me back hitting the road again.

‘I need to get round to deferring my place,’ I said, manfully stretching my heel by pushing against a signpost outside the office.

‘You could probably still run it,’ he said, stretching his hamstring by balancing his foot on the wheel of a locked-up bike.

And so the seed was sewn. Could I still run the marathon? It was only a matter of weeks away, and the furthest I’d run in recent months was about six miles. I still had twinges of pain and my ankle was stiff in the mornings, but it’s not like you do any real running for three weeks after a marathon anyway…

The first working day of British Summer Time was sunny and bright – although cold and with a bitter wind – so I vowed to run a lap of Hyde Park. Just taking it easy, of course. Which was easier than expected at first as I trotted down the congested pavements of Shaftesbury Avenue and Piccadilly.

But then I was into the park, and headed up towards Speakers’ Corner. This was a route I knew well from running with the Serpentine group and from my first year’s marathon training in London. Heading towards Kensington Palace I felt good – I’d overtaken other runners, my footfall was neat and I was enjoying being out in the evening light. I mused over the idea of maybe just, you know, running the marathon for the experience.

Hyde Park has a few hills (not really hills – more lumps, really) and it was as I was running down one of these, neatly overtaking another runner, that I started to feel some niggles in my ankle. I kept going, but taking a bit more care with my push off to avoid over-straining, and carried on – I was just over half-way through, so my only option was to finish the run. There were no sharp pains, just the dull sensation that my ankle wasn’t quite right – or particularly pleased.

Although my pace back along Piccadilly and Shaftesbury Avenue was again moderated by swelling crowds of slow (and erratic) pedestrians (who would just stop, randomly side-step, decide to take a photo in the middle of the road – you know the type), the constant reminder that I should probably stop running soon coming from my ankle was wearying.

After an hour’s running, and with no real idea how much distance I’d covered (probably something like 7.5 miles), I was back at the office. A trip up and down the eight flights of stairs to collect my stuff and a 6-mile cycle home into a billowing headwind later and my ankle seemed to have calmed down. Some precautionary stretching in the evening followed, although I doubted I’d escape the scarecrow walk the following morning.

Surprisingly, though, the following morning my ankle was no worse than it normally is at the moment. That is to say, it’s quite flexible, but I can feel the tension in the tendon. However, if nothing else, it proved that running the marathon probably wouldn’t help my recovery.

Which brings me back to why I hadn’t deferred my place earlier. I know from Twitter that other runners who have been battling injuries over the winter are facing up to similar decisions as the spring marathon season starts.

Runners are optimists. After all, if you were a pessimist would you set out to run the distance required to kill a man? If you weren’t an optimist, why would you spend long hours at the weekend and in the dark winter evenings running in the miserable winter weather? Show me someone who continues to run after mile 18, when they know there’s another 8 miles to go, and I’ll show you an optimist.

So, while I’m sidelined this year, I’m on my way back. I’m up to three runs a week, with stretching every evening, and while I’m not running fast or far I know that I will be soon. In the meantime, I’m going to vicariously read about other people’s marathons and enjoy going through early April without even the slightest fretting about whether I’m coming down with a cold or not.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 6, 2013 3:25 pm

    Good luck with the recovery.

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