Friday, 4 November 2016

Coping with injury

It's a long time since I wrote a blog of any description.  My last blog on here was over six years ago, and I only stopped because I was approached by RunnersLife to start blogging for their website.

For those of you who remember RunnersLife, this was an absolutely brilliant website with interesting articles, race videos, guest interviews and resident bloggers.  Unfortunately, the owner of the site decided to call time on RunnersLife, and I never continued my blogging anywhere else.  I look back on RunnersLife with a great degree of fondness.  Blogging was probably at it's peak popularity at the time (this was in the days before Strava so it was the only way of gaining an insight into what other runners were doing) and this was the most popular part of the website, but the site was brilliant all round and I don't think there's been anything as good as it since.

A lot has changed since I last blogged.   Not only has the blogging world changed and Strava has really come to prominence, but my own running has changed a little.  I'm the first to admit I had been very lucky with serious injuries over the years having never had more than 10 consecutive days off in 25 years of running, and I know that my consistency of training over the years had resulted in a consistently solid level of performance.  I picked up my first ever serious injury this year, being diagnosed with a stress fracture of the Femur resulting in six weeks of completely no running.

For somebody who had never had more than 10 consecutive days off in 25 years of running, this was a shock to the system.  Running is such a big part of my life, that I knew it would leave me with a massive hole in my life and daily routine.  But I was surprised how well I coped with it all, especially when I think about some niggles I'd had in previous years resulting in 2 or 3 days off and feeling like it was the end of the world!  There are two reasons I think I coped so well.  Firstly, I'd had a few niggles that weren't going away and hadn't been running as well as a result, so in some ways this time off felt like it was needed and was almost a relief.  Secondly, as soon as I knew I would be having six weeks of no running, I decided I needed a 'coping strategy'.

My 'coping strategy' was based entirely around using cycling as a method of maintaining some form of exercise.  I'd actually booked 2 weeks warm weather training in Portugal in June and this coincided with the start of my time off, so my period of cycling started with me hiring a bike out there and accompanying the group on their easy and steady runs.  The guys were very appreciative as I was the only one familiar with the running routes there so I was essentially a pacemaker and tour guide for them!  Although I wasn't running, I didn't feel I was missing out at all.  Mentally, I was covering the same ground as the group, at the same pace and sharing the same conversation I would have been if I'd been running.

I continued to cycle on my return home, only this time it was alone.  With two weeks down, and knowing the healing period was six weeks, I told myself I just had to get through another two lots of what I'd just done.  I would often cycle somewhere with a purpose - I would cycle to the track where I would usually train.  I would see my coach and training partners, and feel like I was staying in touch with what was going on and staying motivated.  I also set up a facebook page called 'RunningLive', which streamed live coverage of race events.  I set this up as I knew this would get me cycling out to running events, which would force me to get the rides in when it was tempting to sit on the sofa after work.  Like cycling to training, it also kept me in touch with what was going on and broke up the monotony of just cycling from home after work each day.  Like seeing my training partners, going to these events kept me motivated to keep working on the rehabiliation programme I'd be given and do anything else I could to speed up my return to running.

The other thing that really kept me sane during this period was the support of Saucony.  I was approached by Saucony not long before my injury to become a brand ambassador promoting all the positive things about our sport.  I was fortunate enough to receive some of their brilliant range of running footwear and clothing and was very concerned that would be the first and last drop of kit I would receive.  Saucony have been absolutely brilliant in their support, and encouraged me to stay positive and focus my return to blogging on how I've coped with injury, my return to running and my future ambitions.

Short term, my ambitions are to build my training back up to what I was doing when I was running at my best.  I have started doing some races and am using these  to track my progress.

Longer term all depends on whether my body is able to handle the training load it used to be able to.  I'd love to get back to marathon racing, and some of the niggles I had prior to my stress fracture that prevented me doing longer runs have cleared.  My last three marathons have been a 2:20 win, a 2:23 and a 2:19 and I still feel I have things I can achieve over the distance if the body allows!  Cross Country has always been my first love and the Northern and National are races close to my heart.  Going into a Northern expecting to finish in the first 10 and a National expecting to finish in the first 30 was the norm year after year, and if the body is willing, I'd love to get my fitness back to that sort of level.  But thats a big if!

One of the great things about our sport is whatever level we're at, we can set ourselves goals, and if we achieve these goals, then we can set ourselves more ambitious goals.  If we achieve our goals, it's a great feeling as we know exactly what has gone into it.  And it's even sweeter when you've achieved them after injury.

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