“How did it happen?” and “why me?” were the angry questions racing through my mind, “and why now at this crucial time in my training programme”?
Injuries shouldn’t happen to me. After nearly 40 years of running I should have enough experience to avoid all injuries.
My mind raced over the details. Earlier that afternoon I had raced our club time trial.
I chose an old pair of running shoes because the roads were muddy and full of puddles. My foot started to ache as I started the last kilometre of the time trial. I should have stopped immediately, but I was running 10 seconds ahead of my club-mate Mark and the competitive juices were flowing. Ignoring the pain I charged off to the finish.
Only afterwards did I realise how foolish I had been. I could barely limp, let alone run.
I went to bed hoping the injury was just a niggle. All night long my little test let me know that my problem was far more than a small niggle. Worse still, this injury threatened to disrupt my training at exactly the time that I believed I needed to be training as hard as I could.
At dawn I faced myself in the mirror and admitted: “I’m injured.”
That admission was the first sensible thing I had done since racing that last kilometre.
Every runner faces the grim reality of an injury from time to time. It is how we deal with the injury that determines how quickly we will return to normal training.
The fact that I had understood that I was injured was the first step on the road to my recovery. Too many of us spend too long in denial.
“It’s just a little niggle”, we tell ourselves. “I’ll take a day off and the problem will disappear.”
Sadly, the problem hardly ever disappears. As soon as we are mature enough to admit we have a problem, we can start taking the next few steps towards recovery. We have to accept that our carefully planned training schedule is going to be compromised.
That long Sunday run is going to have to be scrapped, that speed session abandoned.
We can take some comfort from the knowledge that not even the best runners have trouble-free training weeks.
I’ll bet that even Claude Moshiywa and Elena Nurgalieva sometimes have to struggle with injuries and missed training sessions.
Next we have to seek professional help. We need to seek out the best physiotherapist, biokineticist, or doctor we know and get treatment. Apart from the treatment, it is also important to listen to a wise head.
We should start cross training as soon as possible. These last few days I have been in the pool and I have spent a few hours on my mountain bike.
I’ve even walked around my neighbourhood acting the model citizen by picking up litter.
For me, and I am sure for most runners, nothing quite replaces running. But at least cross training makes us feel that we are not losing too much fitness and that we are doing something.
Finally, we need to learn from the experience. We can all get injured, but to get the same injury twice is the height of foolishness. No matter how muddy and puddle-filled the roads are the next time I race a time trial, I will not wear old running shoes and I will stop the moment I feel there is a problem.
I thought I knew everything about our wonderful sport, but I’ve realised that after nearly 40 years of running I’m still learning.