Such a melodramatic title for a subject that’s probably small potatoes to most runners but nonetheless, it’s stopped me in my tracks (and running shoes). Whilst I joyfully reached the halfway point of my C25K programme, I also hit upon another, much less popular, milestone – an injury.
As I completed one of the five minute non-stop runs of that day’s programme, I felt a stiff ache in my left hip. I ignored it – I have weird sensations in my hips all of the time, thanks to having SPD in each of my pregnancies. The left side in particular will do things like pop in and out of the socket all of the time. It doesn’t cause any pain or problems elsewhere and I just carry on doing whatever it is I was doing. Which is what I did during this run. I expected it to ease off as usual but this time it stopped abruptly as soon as I felt a cramping pain in my left calf, as though the stiff ache had transferred from my hip to my calf.
Although it was sore, it wasn’t painful – I stopped for a few minutes to stretch it out and then continued on my run. Admittedly the ache was enough to slow me down and give me a hobbling sort of gait but I could still run and walk, which was a relief as it meant that it wasn’t a calf tear or a higher grade calf strain. I’ve torn a calf muscle before (the same one) it was a *completely* different experience – much more painful, unable to even walk, trip to A&E required and using crutches afterwards.
I finished my run and got back home. Naturally I immediately looked at the stats for my run and compared them to the previous one, which had been my best so far (this is a sign of my burgeoning running obsession, I think!) and felt so disappointed. I had covered less distance, falling below 4k again, and my split times were slower. You can see from the picture above – on the left is my ‘best run’ and on the right is my ‘injury run’. Now ignore how rubbish the stats are! I know that they are going to look ridiculous in comparison to the stats of experienced runners with higher levels of fitness, strength, and endurance – but they are *my* stats and I’m proud of them! They improve every time I run and they are better than the stats of every person who’s still sitting on their couch….remember, don’t let anything dim your shine!
Once back home, I looked up all the information I could about what was happening to my calf. I’d already ruled out a significant strain or tear, and I was also able to rule out sciatica. I was looking at a calf strain, and a fairly minor grade 1 strain too. I was so relieved as I researched stretches and treatments for calf strains UNTIL I read that even a minor grade 1 strain could take 7-10 days to heal, and that running should not be undertaken again until the strain had fully healed. Not a bit better, or better enough to run slowly, but FULLY healed.
Now I know that it could have been a lot worse and that many, many people have injuries that require extensive rehabilitation and lengthy periods of resting but I still reacted like a big baby. “I wanna do my runs! It’s not fair! I was just starting to like it! Wah wah wah!” Luckily, my adult inner self appeared and reasoned that okay, this is bad luck and sucky timing *but* if you want the injury to go away completely, you have to let it heal completely before you run again. Attempting to run again too soon will either land you right back at square one or make the injury significantly worse. And you’ll be out of those running shoes for a lot longer than 10 days, missus!
So here I am, moping at home, doing my stretches and taking ibuprofen, and using heat lotion, and digging out compression bandages for later. It does suck but it’s the right thing to do. After a few days and once my calf had improved noticeably, I tasked myself with another activity; it would get me out and about, raise my heart rate, keep me active, and is quite important to me. I volunteered to deliver campaign leaflets for the Labour Party in my local area. We have a local election on 4th May ahead of the general election in June and as a dues paying Party member, I wanted to do my bit. So check me out below – I’ve put my favourite trainers on and I’m ready to hit the streets! I’ve clocked up three hours of walking so far, up many many hills and steep driveways. My calf isn’t complaining at all so I’m hopeful that it will have healed completely by ten days. Which will be on Monday. Monday 1st May. Not that I’m counting the days on the calendar or anything.
So then, what have I learned from this experience?
- patience really is a virtue, especially where injuries are concerned. As frustrating as the short term may be, think long term – what’s going to be much better for you usually involves a bit of a wait.
- don’t let anything dim your shine (again)! Your achievements are yours to be celebrated by you, no matter how they compare to other people’s performances or even your own performance previously – today you went out there and you did the thing. YOU DID IT.
- I might be becoming obsessed with running. Just a bit.